Monday, July 10, 2017

Proudly secular

Many people get confused about what a properly "secular" state should look like (the UK is not one BTW) It's not about promoting or establishing the religion of the majority, it's about promoting (or persecuting) NONE by maintaining a separation of state machinery and religions (or lack of) so that theocracy or atheistic totalitarianism becomes impossible.

An arm and a leg


Another great Brexit analogy I couldn't resist..

Enlightened


(only some people believe these things)

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Bluffing for beginners


Apparently God doesn't approve of gluten-free bread for use in Catholic rituals. According to official Catholic instruction, bread used to celebrate the Eucharist can be "low gluten" but must contain enough protein in the wheat to make it without additives. One wonders how the bronze age goat herds who wrote the scripture upon which their religion is based, knew about Gluten and wheat proteins sufficiently to under-pin Catholic dogma, but apparently, they did! Or at least the current day (scientifically educated) Catholics are sufficiently good bluffers to make it seem as though their prescriptions regarding the gluten content of communion bread are sufficient and credible enough to please the creator of the universe, and importantly, are in some way any more credible than mere random cherry-picking or as I like to put it, "making shit up as you go". 

The rest of us non-Catholic primates can see right though this nonsense of course. We know that the only truly holy bread substitute is brioche, with apricot jam and unsalted butter, ideally served with a nice Chianti or failing that, Cotes du Rhone, at a push.

Darwin awards


I'm put in mind of this famous quote whenever I hear about the "running of the bulls" in Pamplona, Spain - what is it about jocks and their fascination with male cows?

A real smoothie


In the spirit of supporting my local economy I bought a couple of bottles of the new beer from Siren Craft Brew (based just up the road from me in Finchampstead, Berks.) It's called "Comfortable Silence" and is made in a fruity, sweet style with tons of hops, lactose and with hardly any bitterness at all; it's a real fruit bomb of a beer. They also added peaches, apricots and sweet cherries to the mix giving a tremendous fruit smoothie feel to it; highly recommended.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Mr Angry of Mayfair..


Superb letter in the FT; surely one of the more astute commentaries on the whole Brexit fiasco.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Mid-week musings


If you follow the news these days I reckon you'd be quite justified in being seriously concerned about the health of certain Western governments, particularly in the US and the UK. It's like some cosmic force has slammed the bus we're all travelling in into reverse and is pressing down hard on the accelerator without once looking in the rear-view mirror.

In the UK we have Brexit, May and the DUP and to top all that, the revelation yesterday, that one of the main "vote leave" campaign leaders is now saying that leaving the EU might be a big mistake! At least we agree on that point. In America things aren't that much better, we have Trump narrating a barely coherent stream of narcissistic consciousness, mixed with highly sensitive international policy matters on social media platforms like Twitter! All rounded off by Syria and Putin with a dash of nuclear holocaust fancying Asian dictators with their pudgy little fingers on the big red button.

Ho hum..


Reasonable Doubt


I feel for Jesus in this J&M cartoon, it's like most conversations you have with Theists, i.e impermeable to reasonable doubt.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Progress

Friday, June 30, 2017

Friday smirk


This little cartoon reminds me so much of most sales and marketing meetings I've ever been in. Except, that the guy on the right is usually trying to justify a hunch with incomplete, fabricated and inaccurate data. I reckon I'd get a big chunk of my life back if we could have jumped straight to the true answer in the drawing, there's nothing inherently wrong with instinct and estimation, just don't try to dress it up as science.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Where there's smoke?



This is a subject I've blogged about before; it involves Cardinal George Pell (see above), a senior figure in the Roman Catholic Church who famously debated Dicky Dawkins a while ago on the Q&A TV program in Australia. Since then Pell also famously declined an invitation to return to his country of birth to be questioned by police regarding historical sexual abuse charges when he was a Bishop there, claiming he was "too ill".

As can be seen from this video Mr Pell is quite a "cocksure" person, some might even say arrogant. Whilst certainly not a crime, Pell shows himself to be woefully ignorant on topics of History, Science and basic Biology, although appears unaware of that ignorance, espousing many common scientific fallacies as facts. A surprising approach to take in such a debate with someone who is clearly more qualified in this field, which is perhaps more telling of his true authoritarian character than any depth of wisdom?

It would seem that now Mr Pell has been personally charged with multiple historical sexual offences and says he will return to Australia to face those charges, which he denies. Innocent or guilty, let's hope that justice is seen to be done in these cases. Far too many people in that organisation have gotten away with abuse for years and years on the basis of authority, cover-ups and special pleading.

Contradictions


J&M pointing out one of the many bleeding obvious and absurd contradictions within the Abrahamic faiths, this time around the subject of abortion.

I always enjoy watching proponents of these kinds of positions squirm when you ask them how, if their God is unknowable and outside of our material universe, they know what (in detail) he wants us to do in certain very "Earthly" circumstances like this, also why this same rule doesn't apply to animals (that we conveniently want to kill and eat). Ah well, "mysterious ways", and all that.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

How did we get here?


New Tory in-house magazine?

Deconstructed pint


So here (above) is a de-constructed Peking duck roll! It's basically a square of pancake (which you can just see bottom right) layered with plum sauce, spring onion and cucumber then the duck is the lovely roasted slice on top finished off with some caviar. Eaten at a posh Chinese restaurant in London at the weekend, it went down a treat! I can imagine actual Chinese people living in China being highly amused at a dish like this, and how it changes the further away from the source it gets (and how much we are prepared to pay for it here!).

Talking of food and drink that's well travelled. Below we have a pint of Siren Soundwave a craft brew from a brewery that's just up the road from my house (Finchampstead). Unfortunately I have to travel into central London to actually find it on draft (go figure!) Apparently the economics of the craft-brewing and mainstream pub industries mean that a fantastic beer like this one are that it's not economically viable to sell it to the people that live next door to where it's made. I suspect this is due to a number of factors, like, most of the pubs around here are tied to a large "industrial-scale" brewery and also that the prices charged for a pint (around £6) in London far outweigh the shagging hassle and expense of a small-scale local brewery trying to open their own pubs in their local area.


Whatever the reasons, IMO it's a crying shame the economics often don't work, somehow I feel that £50 return on the train every time I fancy a pint is a little excessive!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tuesday one-liner


When people annoy me and disrespect my ideas, I often have to check my temper and think... "wait, what would God do?" - then I drown them all.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Kiwi's cup (now)


Congratulations to New Zealand for winning the America's cup! 

Their competition the USA and a boat owned and run by Larry Ellison the Chairman (ex CEO) of the Oracle Corporation. Larry is a legendary alpha male, ego-maniac and billionaire, someone who hates to lose. Which, if I'm honest, makes the Kiwi victory even sweeter.

Brexit - simplified..

Nailed it!


Congratulations to SpaceX this weekend, two launches and two landings, one from Florida and the other from the West Coast. When you look at the scale of the craft (photo above) you begin to realise how amazing their engineering and software control systems are these days, that's a big vehicle to land on a raft bobbing around in the Pacific ocean, by remote control!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Secular religion


Original notes, story-boarding key parts of Pink Floyd's famous "wall" album (picture taken at the V&A "Their mortal remains" exhibition) - this is the closest thing I've seen to a secular version of "holy" scripture, who knows, give it 500 years and it could well become part of some religion (seems to be how that stuff works)

Lazy hazy days


I'm always up for trying a new beer and whilst in London enjoying a little R&R with my wife this weekend I popped into the Draft House (a craft beer bar) in Charlotte Street. There I found a beer from Cloudwater called NE DIPA Citra, which if you're not into beer probably sounds like gibberish. When decoded by the nearest hipster, we learn it stands for "New England Double India Pale Ale with Citra hops". The resulting beer is hazy and thick with a mango/citrus/peach laden flavour, and packs a heavy punch at around 9% ABV, the beer uses oats as well as barley to achieve the haze and copies a popular style from the North East of the USA (i.e. New England) I would imagine this isn't to everyone's taste, probably a bit of a "marmite" beer. I couldn't drink more than a half a pint in a sitting, but, like good wine, I found it had a strangely alluring finish that keeps you coming back for another (small) sip, intriguing.

Decent plonk


Decided to celebrate my 18th wedding anniversary with a decent bottle of plonk last night. 

So we cracked open a bottle I bought back in 2001. It was the second wine of a well known Bordeaux chateaux called Pichon-Baron in Pauillac. I visited this chateaux about 10 years ago, it's a beautiful place and a delicious wine, typically "Pauillac", bold, intense and full of the joys of cassis, spice and resinous dark fruits. Even though this wine was a "second wine" (i.e. made from the grapes left over after the main wine selection has been made) it has aged beautifully and (unlike me) will effortlessly improve for another 10 years. I think I paid around a tenner for this bottle but if you were to seek it out today it would be at least 4-5 times that; a real treat.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Back to the future


Saddened to see that Turkey took another step backwards into obscurity and ignorance recently. The government there voted to stop teaching the scientific facts of evolution in school; now Turkish children will be denied access to one of the most elegant, true, and wonderful scientific theories there is, child abuse by any other name.

Of course the culprit is the usual one, the politicized religion of Islam and it's childish insistence on teaching a plagiarised version of the Old Testament myth of Adam and Eve, a ridiculous and obviously allegorical tale of men being "magic'd" out of the dust by the Jewish sky god Yahweh. I feel sorry for Turkish children, a generation denied the magic of reality.

Floyd


Just spent an enjoyable couple of days in London having some "grown-up time" (kids both away) Even managed to visit the Pink Floyd exhibition at the V&A museum, highly recommended!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Send prayers


Luckily, Gene Roddenberry wasn't a religious man..

"Special" ideas


Even though you could argue that plurality and freedom of speech are just "ideas", I believe it's a slippery slope when you make one idea "special" and protect it through law or violence from scrutiny and criticism over all others; every dictatorship, theocracy and despot has started out that way.

Coz I said so..


The argument from authority, nicely summed up by J&M today..

Monday, June 19, 2017

Another day


It's another Monday morning and we're digesting another terror incident in our Capital, sadly, it seems like barbaric terror attacks are becoming part of the fabric of things, could we see a point when they're almost expected?

It's early days but I'd bet a lot of money on the motivation of this attack being some twisted notion of revenge for Manchester and Borough Market (and possibly other actions) My worry is that this kind of tit-for-tat killing will start to become a "thing", you kill one of ours and we'll kill one of yours. We've heard it all before in Northern Ireland, that little spat lead to over 30 years of terror attacks that created inconsolably deep divisions between communities based along religious and cultural fracture lines, it's easy to see how that kind of intractability and frustration could easily emerge from the current situation and would probably be far worse.

It's at times like this we look to our leaders to lead; unfortunately we seem to be in a deep trough of despair at the moment in terms of the quality of leadership we should expect. I can only hope that our Prime Minister doesn't go for the low hanging fruit of censorship in a futile attempt to shut down debate and criticism of religion so as not to "offend" the sensibilities of Muslims (or capitulation to violence as I would call it). I can already see some of the warning signs of this, that silly word-salad of  "Islamophobia" and "racism" is being liberally sprayed around the news today and no doubt we will hear lots of victim-hood speeches from "pop-up" Islamic apologists as the investigation continues.

The attributes and motivations of the murderers  in recent events were certainly different but from the perspective of how we should respond, and what laws and processes we use to do that, no distinction is needed.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Carpe diem


Cartoon in the Times today captures the moment perfectly..

Friday, June 16, 2017

Friday Smirk


Sad but true!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The evolution of Farron


I read today (with some surprise) that Tim Farron has quit the Liberal Democratic party. He left with a rather strange parting shot, "We are kidding ourselves if we think we live in a liberal and tolerant society,”. 

The underpinning of this comment, I think, comes from the idea that it's impossible to be a "Bible believing" Christian and a leader of a political party in today's UK. It's an interesting idea but is it true? I'm left wondering if the Liberals couldn't live with a Christian leader or whether they simply couldn't live with this particular Christian leader or even if this particular Christian leader couldn't sit comfortably in a secular society that is essentially"liberal"? It's not clear to me what specific aspects of Christianity Farron felt weren't compatible with being the leader of his political party, I wonder if it was the whole "is gay sex a sin" thing, probably, but then again no one was asking Farron to have gay sex (presumably?) so in what way does having a viewpoint on something that runs counter to the majority, or even just some other interest-group, count as a disqualification from holding high-office? 

The absence of detail is causing many in the media today to speculate on the "real" reason for this resignation. Some are saying that it's just a cover story for his failures to win more seats, whereas others are digging a bit deeper into the whole church-state separation issue. I have sympathies with both these points of view. I believe that it's quite right and proper for the public to be able to question, probe and criticise the personal beliefs of someone standing for public office, after all it's these beliefs that will understandably influence positions taken. Anyone in this position must understand that people are free to disagree, no one is telling Farron what to think but if he holds a view that runs seriously counter to most people then he needs to be prepared to defend it. Unfortunately defending a societal position based on the defence that "it's written in a 2000 year old magic-book" is only going to appeal to a small minority of the population. At what point does a belief in the Bible stop and theocracy begin? For example, I suspect that in this very picture he's wearing a tie made from multiple fabrics, should we be expected to hold Tim to his word?

No doubt we will find answers to these questions in his memoirs, available at fine bookshops everywhere of course! (I bet Karen Armstrong has cash-registers ringing in her ears right now)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Inconvenient truths


J&M on the money as usual, pointing out the facts of the matter as opposed to the cherry-picked delusions of the followers and lies of the apologists. This also illustrates nicely the position of many left-wing feminists who find it impossible to criticise Islam, better examples of cognitive dissonance you will struggle to find in this world.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Theresa's downfall


It was only a matter of time..

Refreshingly miserable


Listening to the new Roger Waters album (Is this the life we really want?) at the moment, it's an eclectic mix of simple guitar based songs with some rich synth/orchestral accompaniment and a kind of "Animals" vibe (lot's of contemporary TV/Radio dialogue in the background tracks, including a guest appearance by the Trump!) The main themes are his normal soap-box themes i.e. war, liberty, fighting "the-man", paranoia, fear, capitalism etc. It's good though, I particularly like the track "Deja Vue", a song that proposes an interesting thought experiment, "if I had been God".. I enjoyed the line, "If I had been God, I would have sired many sons and would not have suffered the Romans to kill even one of them".. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Minorities



So, next time you hear some apologist say "it's only a teeny, tiny minority of Muslims that support the nasty stuff in the Koran" point to Pakistan and ask them how many of the 180 million or so people who live there will be protesting against this execution? Even if many were opposed the death penalty for "thought-crime", how many would dare protest against a regime that kills you for what you think? 

Then remind them that Pakistan is supposed to be a fairly "moderate" Islamic country, a Western ally even, compared to say Iran or Somalia, where people still get executed for "witchcraft" and gay people are hanged from construction cranes in town squares. Perhaps even be so bold as to point out a recent pew poll that estimated 88% of Egyptians (some 70 million Muslims) would like to see the death penalty for apostasy, another form of thought-crime, then ask them again about that so called "minority" position.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Extremely tedious oncological platitudes


Top notes


I never wear trainers when brewing..

Saturday, June 10, 2017

What a cracker


Tried a new beer last night (needed something after the last few days!). Made by the Cloudwater brewery based in Manchester, this session IPA weighed in at around 4.5% ABV and was loaded to the gunnels with juicy Mosaic and Simcoe hops. The Simcoe contributed a decent amount of "dankness" and piney flavours, but the Mosaic sang pure grapefruit juice which was dominant. Great smooth mouth-feel and all in all a cracking drink, shame I only had one!

Friday, June 09, 2017

Balance of power


Meet our new political overlords! 

Funny, I can't remember seeing the homophobic, science-denying, creationists party option on my ballot paper, let alone ticking it?

I've blogged about these clowns before but the more you read about them the more incredulous you get. Common themes emerge around science-denial, creationism, religious zealotry and corruption that are more reminiscent of the deep-south than the hallowed halls of Westminster. Mind you, the Tory party has quite a few nutters (and more than it's fair share of crooks) too, maybe these guys will fit right in?

PS. In case you're wondering this mural has been "digitally enhanced" (i.e. altered with extreme prejudice) with photo-shop, oh well, fake news and all that..

Friday Smirk


Orangemen in number 10 and an orange man in the White House, coincidence?

The results are in..



Well, well, well. I bet there are some bruised ego's within Tory inner circles this morning, although I can't help thinking that the PM will stubbornly cling onto the last vestiges of power, like an unwelcome wasp in your pint glass.

A better outcome IMO would be that Theresa May (or TREsemmé as we like to call her) resigns and the Tories find someone to lead them that at least has some charisma (definitely not Boris) and is softer on Brexit. Ideally they would have an actual plan for it that's a little more substantive than standing on the cliffs of Dover waving two fingers in the air. Someone who can silence the loony right fringes in that party and someone who has the guts to push through more centralist (less austere) policies in order to carry a new mandate, i.e. call a new general election in the Autumn.

I fear this is unlikely though.

The only good thing to come out of this debacle so far is that hopefully this is the last we'll ever hear from UKIP! Can all media outlets take note, there's no good reason to ask the opinion of that scumbag Farage ever again!

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Voting


Got to the polling station early, normally I vote after work, this way was much more civilised, no queuing at all. I decided to vote tactically, picking the party that came second behind the Tories in this constituency last time around, although round here blood tends to run deep blue. 

Personally, I don't like the idea of TM having a big majority as I am pro-EU and not keen on a hard-Brexit (no deal better than bad-deal etc.), on the other hand I also wouldn't naturally vote for someone with the left of centre views of Corbyn, democracy in action, or "Hobson's choice" as I like to call our first past the post system.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Flawed logic

Came across this little cartoon on the inter-webs today, made me smile, it highlights the fundamental flaw in the recent WannaCry (ransom-ware) virus..

Gospel truth


J&M debating the truth of the Gospels, discovering the drawback of hindsight..

Suicidal pedantry


The problem with apologists for irrationality and relativism, in a nutshell..

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Bad news

For many years now I have been a big fan of Crispian Jago, fellow skeptic and atheist, Crispian has produced many wonderful and amusing cartoons on subjects such as "alternative medicine", religion and anti-scientific quackery of all stripes. His blog "The Reason Stick" has provided many fabulous images and inspirations for my own. I hadn't visited his site for quite a few months and for some random reason took a quick peek today. Unfortunately, I learn that Crispian has terminal cancer and to cap it all, in a strange cosmic coincidence, I also learned this week that the wife of a very good friend of mine also has a tumor on one of her kidneys and goes under the knife this Thursday, I can only imagine what feelings they must both be experiencing right now.

Crispian has decided to write a journal about his illness, it's brilliant, and can be accessed from his blog. I recommend you take a look, as is his inimitable style, it's really human, funny and irreverent.

I've decided that there are a few things I really dislike about getting older; mostly it's hearing about more and more talented people getting shitty diseases.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Dysfunction


Ha! Must be really difficult for some people working with the dysfunctional regime in the USA..

Finding a weakness


As I'm sure everyone knows by now we experienced another weekend of Islamist fun in London on Saturday evening. We learn today (again) that the criminals who perpetrated the attack on innocent people enjoying a Summer evening in Borough Market, were known to police. It will be interesting to see what kinds of Muslims this group were, obviously not the brightest of bunnies and clearly catastrophically gullible (as, by definition, all Islamist foot-soldiers are) but were they also petty criminal stoners and losers, as many of their predecessors have turned out to be? As many have suggested there is perhaps a correlation and possible weakness in this area that's well worth investigating.

It's crystal clear from eye-witnesses what was motivating these particular people, "this is for Allah" was being shouted as knives were plunged into the bodies of terrified and defenceless Women. It's also clear that we no longer have any use in our public discourse for religious and liberal apologists telling us that these crimes are nothing to do with Islam, they clearly have something to do with it. Even the Prime Minister acknowledges this fact (at long last!), although I'd prefer it if she'd had said not that this is a "perversion" of Islam, but that it's more of a "literal reading" of the scriptures of that religion. When you combine a tradition and celebration of martyrdom with a literal reading (brainwashing) of 7th century feudal mythology it isn't beyond reason that you will end up with at least some being lead to the kind of vengeful and irrational murderous acts that we now seem to have to endure on a monthly basis in Europe.

The big question of course is what we do now? You could argue that we were lucky on Saturday night, the police response was absolutely stunning, but that was this time, next time it might not be eight minutes and for those of us that frequent our capital city on a regular basis this thought is never far from our minds. "Enough is enough" say our leaders, but concrete actions appear as nebulous as ever. It would however seem clear that what we are fighting here are a set of ideas (an ideology). Religions (and literalist/political interpretations of them) are after all, just ideas. So how do we displace a set of ideas? There are two most likely routes, either you replace the ideas with better ones or you remove the ideas and/or people that hold them by killing the people and/or suppressing the ideas to an extent that they fade away. Many kings, popes, chancellors, dictators and generals have favoured the latter approach over the years but it seldom works well and more often than not, rebounds. So, where are the places that pre-existing closed/literalist thinking could possibly be challenged and/or replaced?

There are a number of areas that I think are worthy of looking at, my list would include,

-Speakers at Mosques and other religiously framed meetings/events
-Sources of funding for the spreading of literalist interpretations (Saudi-Arabia for example)
-Single faith schools that flout pluralistic standards
-Conditions of citizenship
-Restrictions on travel to and repatriation from certain places (like Syria)
-Support for moderate Muslim groups
-Coordination of approach across government departments
-Sharia courts
-Review enforcement of secular, anti-discrimination laws within Muslim communities
-Education (ensuring plurality) and especially in religious education
-Police and anti-extremism policy funding

There are also a number of areas that I think would be unfruitful,

-Censoring of social media or other internet resources
-Internment of any kind
-Overt banning of any religious practice (that doesn't conflict with existing laws)

Whatever happens in the coming days, weeks and months we can only hope that our security forces are at the top of their game and that our politicians start getting their act together; I can guess which is more probable.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Hellish eggs


Inspired by a recent Iberian trip and still watching my calorie intake I decided to attempt a typically Spanish kind of brunch I'd never tried before, it's basically tomatoes, garlic and red peppers with an egg poached in the middle of it and sprinkled with a little Parmesan and finished off under the grill, apparently it's called "eggs in purgatory" (being a "militant atheist" sort, I liked the cosmic irony of that) it looked so good I took a picture of it, tasted divine!

Friday, June 02, 2017

Well done Denmark


In an eminently sensible, pro-freedom of speech move the Danish government has decided to repeal an 150 year old blasphemy law. The country that is often voted into the top three "happiest places to live in the world" is now a tiny bit happier.. (and slightly more free from stultifying superstition)

Missing inaction..


One for the "political" geeks out there...