Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sunday Smile II


Couldn't resist this one..

Sunday smile


Its a beautiful sunny Sunday morning where I am so we're just headed out for a stroll around Windsor great park! But before I go here's a cartoon that will bring smile's to the syntax pedants among us.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Fox fury


Came across this on the inter-webs today; the colour of the foxes fur reminded me of the Donald and the incessant screeching reminded me of his approach to the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, although the foxes almost certainly have a better reason to be fighting each other.

Bells


Ring any (alarm) bells with anyone? (cartoon created in 1977, how did he know?)

Friday Smirk


Excellent observation (as usual) from J&M; sometimes it feels good to get things off your chest by saying what you really think, even if it's only in your own head!

Monkeys in shoes

What with the two freak-haired, blob-men screeching at each other like demented alley-cats, hurricanes and earthquakes ravaging the Caribbean and Mexico, not to mention the on-going atrocities and genocides being inflicted on the people of Syria and Iraq in the name of invisible harbingers of death, it would be easy to believe that things are going to hell in a hand-cart. But, fear not, it's just another day on planet Earth! This is exactly what you'd expect when the dominant species is only a handful of genes removed from a chimpanzee! (and it shows)

Doomsday (again)


Apparently a planet is going to crash into the Earth tomorrow! This latest doomsday prediction is brought to you by a bunch of people that believe the universe is controlled by a cabal of invisible Jewish super-humans, some good, some bad and that these avengers can induce the suspension of natural laws in order to intervene in Human affairs, but only when there's no one around to record it! So, no need to pay any attention other than to laugh and point (as usual).

Tomorrow would be terribly inconvenient for the end of the world anyway, for a start off, Berry Brothers (wine shop) have a sale on! I predict that this prediction is just one in a long history of failed predictions, it's a fairly safe bet that planet sized objects don't just creep up on us without NASA (or someone) seeing them years in advance. When I post a message on Sunday, perhaps we can all agree that non-scientific (religiously inspired) doomsday predictions are complete bollocks?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Religion & Politics


Politicised religiosity these days seems impoverished to the point of simply trying to stop everyone else doing things that are man-made (i.e. invented) prohibitions in the tradition from where the demand comes. Typically, most of these prohibited acts have zero impact on the actual people making the demands. Fortunately, in this day and age, the majority of us can see though this complete lack of substance and integrity to the thinly veiled attempt at coercion beneath.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Good cop, bad cop?


Interesting philosophical argument made by (philosopher) Stephen Law, is the "God" (as believed in by most modern religious people) good or evil and how could you tell?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Hobby coders


I recognise this problem in a lot of young programmers these days, they will use an inferior solution just because it's more recent. Evaluating which tools and methods are best suited to solving a particular problem involves more dimensions than just version numbers in GitHub. Enlightenment lies in realizing that the people who pay for software care much more about what it looks like and what it does than how it works. At the end of the day if people aren't paying for your software then you don't have a product or a livelihood, you just have a hobby.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Love for London


I feel this is appropriate this week, in fact, any week..

Friday, September 15, 2017

Cassini requiem


We say goodbye to spacecraft Cassini today. It plunged (by design) into the atmosphere of Saturn earlier and it's faint signal was lost. Cassini was running out of fuel and rather than allowing it to randomly crash into something like a moon or rings it was decided to use the last remnants of propellant to steer it into Saturn itself, burning up in the outer layers its atmosphere. The picture above was taken from Cassini, it shows Saturn and it's rings with planet Earth highlighted as a faint dot in the background, if this doesn't make you feel totally and utterly insignificant then you're deluded. The final moments of the mission were captured in a video (see below)


It must have been a moving moment for the engineers and scientists in Pasadena who have dedicated a large chunk of their lives to this mission, but there is something deeply satisfying about uttering or hearing the words "Mission Complete", for this team it means success beyond all expectation and most importantly it means it's time for a new mission!

Handy guide for the true European..



How to order a beer in 13 different European cities! It is FRIDAY after all...

One thing


I came across this little question today...

Name one positive thing that only religion can bring to our lives...

Architecture?
Art?
Charity?
Morals?
Solidarity?
Ethics?
Music?
Kindness?
Hope?
Comfort?
Money?
Purpose?

No, all of these things can just as easily be acquired by people of any religion or none at all. 

No, the only positive thing that religion can bring to our lives is..... Atheism :)

(clearly Atheist propaganda, but still, I thought it was quite amusing in a philosophical kind of way)

Friday smirk...


A Friday smirk from the wonderful xkcd. Apple launched their next generation iPhone this week to an underwhelming response from technical people (who the hell needs face tracking emojis??)  and a lukewarm response from accountants. The assertion that this phone represents the "biggest leap forward since the original iPhone" may just as well be talking about the price as much the technology! 

They used to be cool but Apple launches have become really processional these days, far too many unwarranted and ridiculously emotional adjectives, but then again, I'm not one of the "faithful".

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Prostate concerts


Went to see Dave Gilmour strut his stuff last night at the cinema and splendid he was too! I can't fault the concert or the musicianship on show but there were a couple of aspects of showing this kind of thing at the cinema that caught my eye and (I think) are worthy of exploration.

The cinema itself was full for this showing, not an empty seat in the house, a good start you might think and with a quick gaze around the audience before the lights dimmed, I noticed that the average age must have been around 55-60 which I suppose made sense bearing in mind the sweet-spot of Pink Floyd was the 70s and early 80s. The problem with the audience demographic became apparent after a few minutes into the 2nd or 3rd song, and then every minute or so after that. Literally every sixty or so seconds the silhouette of a balding fat man waddled across the screen toward the exit and then a minute or two later would reappear crossing paths with the next one on their way out! I wouldn't want to be sexist here either, there were a quite few women in the mix too, and many of them took what seemed like eternity to crab their way through the sea of legs in their row to get to an exit, casting a similarly significant silhouette as they went.

This continual tidal migration was somewhat distracting, I began to wonder what might be causing it? Several hypothesis came to mind. I pondered the faint whiff of mulled wine and real-ale in the air and thought that perhaps many of these good people had had a few cheeky snifters before coming into the show and now needed to release the obvious tension accrued? Then I thought about prostate glands, could this be an omen for my future? Is this lack of bladder control an unavoidable attribute of getting older, an unpleasant thought. Then there was the observation that the silhouettes seemed so large (and so bald)? Was this a weird optical effect of the new 4K projection technology or simply one too many dominoes pizzas and discount haircuts for bus-pass owners?

Luckily, whatever the reasons, this seemingly constant back and forth did only slightly mar my enjoyment of the concert. I suppose that along with people continually checking their mobile phones, this demographic has habits that don't sit too well (or too long) with a 2 hour cinema show. Maybe there's a demand for some kind of new drug that makes you forget about twitter, stem the urge to pee and sit still for a couple of hours, you could even market it to the over 50s as the little blue "comfortably numb" pill.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Time-pressed


Handy guide for blog and twitter readers..

Parrot phone


Shopkeeper: Your phone is sleeping..

Customer: Not it's not...

It's run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible
It's off it's twig,
It's metabolic processes are now history!
It's kicked the bucket
It's shuffled off it's mortal coil!
It's bid adieu to life and went up to meet St. Steve
All of these statements are valid to the effect of the current status of this here phone

THIS IS AN X iPhone!!

boom, boom..

Monday, September 11, 2017

Think about it...


I had the misfortune to catch the Presidents "prayer meeting" for hurricane Harvey on the inter-web this morning (one of those auto-playing videos)  A more nauseating, mind-numbing and intelligence insulting 120 seconds you will struggle to find; two minutes that I will never be able to erase from my memory. Apparently there was also a "national" day of prayer for Harvey too, clearly these events achieve absolutely nothing since Irma was already brewing in the Atlantic and swept in a few days later, difficult to understand how grown adults believe such delusion, and the biggest delusion of all is believing that Trump himself believes it!

Fizzy snakes


Brilliant take-down of the nauseating position on abortion of Christian MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg. Nothing worse than the hypocrisy of a "cafeteria-Christian", especially ones that have had serious money spent on their education (I'd be asking for a refund if I were the parents).

Remembering the past


16 years ago my first child was born; two days later this happened, talk about the highs and lows of life! Impossible to forget either event.

"Feedback"


It always tickles me that some people seem genetically predisposed to being a troll. Whatever field of human endeavour or pastime you pick, you will always find some set of people that will rail against it for no other reason than what appears to be hyper-insecurity. 

This kind of reaction is particularly prevalent around activities involving cash and subjectivity, where trolls hide any attack behind "opinion" allied with appeals to incredulity about "value for money" (itself a subjective measure). It's essentially the difference between cynicism and skepticism; positions that are often confused, but easily distinguished. Skepticism is more often than not a simple request for (more) evidence before believing something is true, whereas cynicism is most effective without reference to evidence at all. A true skeptic will be neutral, retaining an open mind to changing their position should good evidence be forthcoming, but a true cynic will almost invariably have a closed mind and hold an opinion regardless of evidence. Also the cynic will often revert to irrationally attacking the people involved rather than the idea itself, cynics are often very solipsistic in their approach, they are often astounded that people can hold views on things that counter their own but usually seem unable to justify their own position.

I'm sure we all know people that scoff at the idea of experimentation when it comes to what they eat and drink, they know what they like and good for them! I envy them, their lives must be so simple. However, many of us are not wired that way and enjoy paying more to experience different and new tastes, and boy does it upset them. I came across a great example of this recently (see image above) Brew Dog (a Scottish craft-brewery) have created a set of tee shirts that showcases some examples at the more "troll-like" end of their customer feed-back spectrum. I think this is a really good idea, trolls hate it when you make fun of them so getting it all out into the open in a humorous way like this is the perfect antidote to the negative vibe created by the cynics among us, now all we need to do is convince them to come up with a decent argument or keep their "opinions" to themselves.

White caps


Looking down into the eye of Hurricane Jose from the Sentinel 2 satellite; stunning detail, you can even see the white crests of waves if you look closely enough at the blue bits.

Refreshing


Interesting article in Time last week. It outlines the views of one of the top Muslim scholars in Indonesia (the most populous Islamic country in the world) In the article he debunks the ridiculous idea that Islamist terrorism and violence have nothing to do with Islam and pours scorn on certain "progressive" attitudes in the West regarding the criticism of Islam (as a set of ideas) and the silencing of moderate views by labelling them "racist" or "Islamophobic". I particularly like the following quote,

"Western politicians should stop pretending that extremism and terrorism have nothing to do with Islam. There is a clear relationship between fundamentalism, terrorism, and the basic assumptions of Islamic orthodoxy. So long as we lack consensus regarding this matter, we cannot gain victory over fundamentalist violence within Islam."

It clarifies the problem that such attitudes create, i.e. critically it prevents moderates within the faith from countering the literalists and the fundamentalists, i.e. exactly the opposite of what most people in the multi-cultural West actually desire, i.e. a tolerant and peaceful approach to normalising our differences. Another comment that struck me as accurate was an articulation of which particular traditions within Islam are problematic, he says,

"The relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, the relationship of Muslims with the state, and Muslims’ relationship to the prevailing legal system wherever they live … Within the classical tradition, the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is assumed to be one of segregation and enmity."

"Too many Muslims view civilisation, and the peaceful co-existence of people of different faiths, as something they must combat. Many Europeans can sense this attitude among Muslims."

This guy should be invited on a speaking tour of Europe IMO; particularly focusing on left-leaning University campuses, councils and the Labour party, maybe get him on question-time to counter the ludicrous positions of people like Corbyn and Abbott. It would be fun to watch them squirm with cognitive dissonance as they attempt to label an Islamic scholar, Islamophobic, for simply pointing out the bleeding obvious.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sunday digest


Watching events in Florida this weekend with concern, hopefully the hurricane headed their way will diminish enough to not be too destructive when it hits land. I'm also hoping that certain people in Washington will be taking note and perhaps more seriously looking into why storms like this are getting progressively and gradually (on average) more violent as the temperature of the oceans they form over gradually rises.

Went out for a curry on Friday night to celebrate my son's 16th birthday. Nice meal and really friendly people, they said that since it was his birthday he could have any dessert he fancied "on the house" .. When we finished the main course and returned to the menu, we discovered that all the "good" ones had run out! Ended up just having a coffee, I was reminded of that song "Ironic" by Alanis Morissette, it figures.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Dreamers


Happy Friday :)

Friday smirk


I guess this is an old one, but I'd never seen it before, made me smile on a rainy Friday afternoon..

Thought for the day


Here's a photo of the plutonium core of the "fat-man" bomb being carried by scientist Harold Agnew and about to be sent off to be dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. We all know how that story ended but still, it's amazing and shocking to think that the atoms in that little box killed around 40,000 people in a single instant and another 40,000 later from horrific after-effects, even more incredible to realise that only a single gram (1/30th of an ounce) of the material in that box got converted into explosive energy, such is the power of truly understanding our material world.

The chain of events leading up to the detonation of this bomb was, to all intents and purposes, infinitely complex, involving the outcomes of billions of interactions between different Human Beings and the trillions of neurons connecting inside their brains. From the circumstances leading to the parents of Harry Truman having sex at the precise moment they did through to the discovery of nuclear fission by German scientists in the 30s, through to the invention of an aircraft that was capable of dropping it and the final irony that the primary target was obscured by cloud that day and so Nagasaki was selected instead (how random can it get!). This is the fundamental nature of our material reality, it defies simple explanations.

Our greatest challenge as a species however is that we prefer simple explanations. For example it would be easy for me (as an atheist) to assert that this weapon was developed, paid for and delivered by a CHRISTIAN president residing over a CHRISTIAN country, therefore CHRISTIANS should be blamed! See how identity politics (aka gross-over-simplification) works? Religion also seeks to simplify reality, a topical example of this would be the apparently inhuman views of Jacob Rees-Mogg who believes that abortion is wrong, even in cases of rape and incest. Why does he believe this? Because his "Christian" God says so - a huge (and laughable) oversimplification of the human experience if ever I heard one, fortunately not all Christians think this way. To blame all Christians for such egregious simplifications would of course be ridiculous, in exactly the same way it would be ridiculous to assert that atheism was the cause of the millions of deaths during Stalin's great purge, i.e. just because Stalin was an atheist. 

Sadly though many people these days seem content to play this game. We often hear that our current woes are the fault of "immigrants" or "black-people" or "nationalists" or "the EU"; such simplifications aren't useful unless, of course, you wish to exploit the gullible. Unfortunately many politicians and rabble-rousers (including religious leaders) leverage popular simplifications (like the insane simplification that "hurricanes are punishments from God") to further then own agendas even when such ideas work against the long-term interests, well-being and cohesion of the majority. Whatever the final facts of reality are, the denial of global warming and Brexit would be good examples of this kind of exploitation using simplifications, in fact you could probably argue that we are now in a golden age of over-simplification trumping reality (pun intended).

The only antidote to falling for this kind of over-simplification is reason and skepticism. Don't believe things just because they sound simple or come from authority or suit your wishes and/or biases. Of course this is easy to say and yet hard to do; often the right answer isn't the popular one or the one that people would most wish to be true. Whatever simple answer (i.e. supernatural being) you attribute surviving hurricane Harvey to, you have to also blame that same entity for causing the storm in the first place, i.e. you've explained precisely nothing! Far better we go to school, learn some science, learn some philosophy, work hard and hopefully someone will figure out how to build ever more precise climate models that can be tested against reality. Then, if the model-predictions match up with what we observe, you know we're making progress in explaining reality.


Thursday, September 07, 2017

Building walls


I disagree with many people who (fashionably) argue that we shouldn't be building more walls.. a few more walls of the kind in the picture above would lead to a lot more human well-being IMO.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Running out of ideas?


J&M on the money as usual; with the publication of a recent survey on religious attitudes (particularly of young people) in the UK the Churches are running out of ways of hooking people into their belief systems. Clearly the ideas themselves aren't compelling enough to hold people anymore (as if they ever were).

Wednesday on planet Earth


Apparently the odds being given for Jacob Rees-Mogg becoming the next PM of the UK are 40/1 - seems like a reasonable punt, just think, you could use the winnings to emigrate.

Meanwhile in America the Donald is tweeting about hurricane Irma which is tracking across the Caribbean right now and seemingly feeling quite pleased that it's the "largest ever recorded in the Atlantic", I guess in his head that's one up on Obama, he clearly hasn't realised that it's headed towards his bolt-hole hotel in Florida yet.

Meanwhile in Texas, the first truckloads of thoughts and prayers are arriving in Huston, I bet the displaced, homeless people over there are relieved.


Back in the UK we hear from farmers that our entire food-chain could be affected if the Government get's their UKIP'y little ways around being forced by law to employ low-skilled British over EU workers. The thought of empty supermarket shelves and food rotting in the fields should be enough to convince most of the "highly-qualified" EU workers whose skills we will apparently "still welcome" that this isn't the kind of place they want to work anyway. Labour shortages and corresponding lack of investment will certainly encourage most "highly-qualified" British people pack-up and ship off to the USA or Australia as soon as possible. 

Speaking of ex-colonial countries that we'd like to do business with, David Davis the "Brexit Secretary" and world record holder for smugness while contradicting himself has been outlining our trade-negotiation strategy with such countries following Brexit. Rather than a lengthy weasel worded political document, the entire thing has been condensed and simplified into one picture....

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

I'm tempted...


...to go in and ask.

Christian values?


Wonderful song-parody of the recent scandal involving Joel Osteen, the scam-artist televangelist in Houston who claimed that his 16,000 seat mega-church was flooded and therefore couldn't accommodate homeless people. Osteen was then caught out by some intrepid whistle-blowing reporters who took a video camera to the property and filmed it being suspiciously "un-flooded", which they subsequently posted on YouTube. Osteen then did the rounds of news programs, seemingly making up different excuses as time rolled on, all very embarrassing for him.

Most people don't care that this man has raked in a net-worth of around $60 Million over the years, most don't care that he's received this money from people who can probably least afford to give it, most people aren't particularly surprised that religious people are so incredibly gullible, most people probably even don't care if his church was closed, open or flooded at all! What really pisses people off is when slick operators like this claim to be one thing and then get caught out being something else people generally dislike hypocrites. Let's hope the social media storm surrounding this event marks the beginning of the end for Mr Osteen, his church and his like.

Tuesday titter


Well spotted sir!

Monday, September 04, 2017

Eccentric


Another day, another chart.. Here's one from the British Social Attitudes Survey. It clearly shows that the overwhelming majority of young people in our country today are not religious. Yet, our Government insists on (practically) compulsory "prayers" in every school, every day, my question is, how is this representative? 

The solution seems blindingly obvious to me, i.e. a properly secular state that gives a level playing field to all religions and none, particularly in schools. We are not a religious country anymore and should not be a Christian "state" either; the church of England should be disestablished. The days of having our own "made-up" religion founded on the moral principals of Henry VIII are long gone, it's yet one more thing that makes look more eccentric and less relevant on the world stage.

This life..


Happened across this little chart today; it shows the % of people reaching a certain age (before death) vs the distribution of ages when people die in England and Wales (I guess Scotland wasn't included?). The kicker is that there's separate lines plotted for different years at suitable intervals back to 1851 enabling direct comparisons between decades etc.

Essentially you can use this chart to show how our life expectancy has increased since the 1850s and the result is amazing. In 1851 around half of all people died before they reached the age of 50, today more than 50% of people reach the age of 95 and the trend is expected to continue (Trump and Kim permitting). Next time someone drones on about the "good old days" (especially if they're over 50!) just remind them of this stark set of data. PS. look at how infant mortality has improved as well, probably at a greater rate than even the average.

Silly talks


Listening to the reporting over the weekend about the various posturing going on around the EU and Brexit talks. I'm officially frustrated and annoyed (more so than most Monday mornings) that my nation has (so easily) been conned into doing something so obviously stupid, destructive and erroneous. No political, economic or social experiment on the scale of the EU will ever be perfect, but we're over a year into this fiasco and I still haven't heard a coherent, factual or pragmatic "pro-Brexit" argument yet... anyone?

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Faith..


"Faith is a gift. It allows you to believe, when everything points the other way."

Words spoken by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, former leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales who died age 85 this week. It's obviously sad for his family and people that knew him, and he seems like a man who achieved a lot in his life, but these are possibly the most stupid words ever uttered by any Human Being.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Elvis Juice


It's FRIDAY, yay! Time for a home-brew and a handful of peanuts!...
Tonight a pint of "Elvis Juice", a grapefruit infused IPA, "thang'u vry much"...

Friday Smirk


If you are offended by this cartoon then you don't understand satire (i.e. tough-luck, it's your problem!) - good to see CH back on the news-stands in France last week :)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Nice


The new J&M cartoon today is an homage to Kurt Vonnegut, who said (among many other things) "If God were alive today he'd have to be an Atheist" .. IMO a great author, Humanist and all-round cool-guy.

Queuing up?


I thought they were going to be "queuing up" to make trade deals with us?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The religious method


American politics these days, perhaps most politics, i.e. using the "religious method" of knowing stuff.

Blinkered leaders


Fixated on the wrong things



Looks like the people in Texas have had to re-organise their weather maps to accommodate the new levels of rainfall experienced around Houston over the last few days, this should be worrying for Governments and those that they represent around the world. But, as usual in Human affairs, we seem to be more fixated (via our media) on things like who won the fight at the weekend or sabre waving because an infantile dictator fired a rocket into the sea. Talk about fiddling while Rome burns.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Critters


I discovered this little beauty lurking in the undergrowth at the house we were staying in France last week. We were all perplexed about what species of spider it could be, no one having seen anything like it before. Turns out that it's a Wasp Spider (for obvious reasons) and lives in North African and Southern/Central Europe, it's also sometimes seen in the Southern parts of the UK. As our planet warms though it would seem likely that the range of this species will spread as higher average temperatures move Northwards.

The other noticeable critters that lived around the house were hornets, these large wasp-like creatures seemed to perform regular hunting raids at dusk (you could set your watch by it) when it sounded rather reminiscent of a squadron of Lancaster bombers flying in. Quite intimidating for the mammals eating cheese and drinking wine a few meters away, but after a few visits it became clear that these beasties weren't in the slightest interested in us, however, all the other moths and bugs gathering around the lights seemed to be just the ticket for a light "hornet-supper".

Special pleading


Special pleading as cartooned by J&M this week is something that almost all religious people I've ever met seem happy to do to varying degrees. Having strongly held beliefs based on "faith" rather than reason is almost guaranteed to lead to division and conflict, it's an obvious problem since there's no reliable mechanism to discover which side represents the truth!

French wine


Delightful wine discovery in France on Thursday evening, we went out for a meal with the friends we were staying with and I chose a wild-card from Corbieres I had never tried this before and had never thought that region particularly memorable but this wine was a real cracker. Very young and grippy, the tannin's particularly mouth puckering but the raw fruit, dense texture and purple colour of the wine utterly compelling with the regional French cuisine. Will need to see if I can find some for sale, it was not an expensive wine, only around 18 Euro's in the restaurant, so I expect this would be between 8 and 10 pounds a bottle retail here in the UK. Just goes to show, occasionally you have speculate to accumulate!

Pleasure


One of my favourite things in the whole world. Just back from a few days holiday with friends near Toulouse in France, I'm pleased to report that despite Brexit the weather, wine and cheese remain up to standard, although, for cheese aficionados out there the orange one nearest the camera is in fact Dutch and not French, I guess you can't have everything :) The wine pictured is from Bordeaux, Chateau Cantemerle and was outstanding for a relatively poor vintage (2012) I reckon this one would benefit from another 5 years in the bottle. Since there were a few of us present we quickly dispatched the claret and moved onto something much more local to where we were staying.

 

Probably one of the best examples of Madiran today; Chateau Montus, highly grippy, tannic red wine with a core of black fruits made from Tannat grapes and perhaps a little Cabernet or Merlot. The wine has certainly seen a lot of oak and is really "big" flavour-wise, nothing subtle here, suggesting that perhaps a little longer is required for things to mellow out in the bottle a bit. Very good now however, if you like this kind of punchy "Malbec'esc" style with food and good friends.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Satire


Charlie's back, and "a point" as usual