Editing websites for fun and profit

If you’ve been following the Labour leadership contest, you might have noticed this parody of Tony Blair’s Comment Is Free piece doing the rounds:

Blair Hague

You may think it’s photoshopped, but it’s very simple to make something like this, and I’m going to show you how to do it! Start by opening up Google Chrome (you can do this in other browsers but I find Chrome to be the easiest), then go to any site you choose. Find the text you want to change, then right click it and select “Inspect element”.

Step 1

When you click “Inspect element”, you will see some code at the bottom of the screen. Don’t be scared, it’s just HTML, the language patented by Sir Tim Berners of Lee back in 1662. With any luck, the text you want to change will be right in front of you, so just change it and you’re done!

Step 2

Once you know this simple trick, you can have all sorts of fun messing around with all kinds of sites! Have fun!



Sally Morgan

Health Ranger

By the way, I didn’t do anything to that last one, it’s a real post on Natural News.


Playing Deepak Chopra’s “Leela” on Wii

Now, I’ve had an interest in the work of one Deepak Chopra for some time now, having invented wisdomofchopra.com, a site that generates quotes in his own almost-inimitable style. So, imagine my sarcastic joy when my brother Ed presented me with a copy of Leela, Deepak’s very own Wii game! I had to try it out, so take a look at the video below:

The game is just a series of minigames, each one based on a “chakra”. As you can probably guess, it was filmed on my phone so the quality isn’t great and you can barely hear the game, but you get the gist of it. Also, we ran out of both recording time and battery life so we may never know what the final chakra minigame is like!

I wasn’t expecting much from it, but apart from being based on the evidence-free “chakra” explanation of how the body works, it’s surprisingly low on bullshit. I didn’t even hear an utterance of the word “quantum”! I can’t say I’d recommend going out of your way to get the game, but the navel chakra game is good fun. Cheers again to Ed for the game!

Raising money for the Liverpool Women’s Hospital with the Ignite Flag Challenge!

As you may know, our daughter Rosalind was born 10 weeks early on March 11th 2015. Everyone at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital did an absolutely fantastic job and she is now safely home. The least I can do is try and raise some money for the hospital, so to donate to my “Ignite Liverpool Flag Challenge” please follow the link below!

Ignite Liverpool Flag Challenge

Update: thanks to everyone who has donated so far. As some have already noted, 20 falgs would be a bit too easy so it’s been upped to 80, so I’ve got to identify one flag every 3.75 seconds!

Allow me to explain: I’m a passionate amateur vexillologist. I run a campaign to find a new flag for Liverpool, I’ve given a talk about the flags of the former Soviet Union to the Flag Institute, and I’ve done several talks on flags for Ignite Liverpool. So, for my next Ignite “talk” I will be given 5 minutes to identify 2080 flags of the world, and I’m being sponsored for each one I get right! If you want proof that I’ve completed the challenge there will be a live stream of the event, a YouTube video, or of course if you are in Liverpool you could turn up to Leaf on July 15th 2015 and watch it live!

You will be able to donate at any time before, during, or after the event, so please visit the Just Giving page and donate what you can! Thanks!

I think Rosalind will thank you for it! :)

happy rosalind

A drinking game for skeptics!

The other night a group of us went out in Liverpool to celebrate my immenent 30th birthday. I had a great time and I’d like to thank everyone who turned up! Andrew Johnston, the Merseyside Skeptics Society board member we affectionately refer to as “AJ” (pronounced “Adj”), came up with a skeptic-based drinking game that was great fun to play, so I thought I’d share the rules to it here so you can play it with skeptics where you are. I’ve tweaked the rules a little, simply because AJ’s rules were quite specific to myself, so here we go:

It’s a varient of the “name game”, where each person in turn has to say a name where the first letter of the first name starts with the first letter of the last name that the person before said. You have to think while you drink, and if you can’t think of a name you can pass but you have to drink. If someone says a name where the first and last name start with the same letter, the order changes. In our skeptics version, the names you can say are skeptics, scientists and anti-skeptics. Here’s the twist: if someone says a name and one of the players has been blocked by that person on Twitter, then everyone has to drink! So, here’s an example:

  • James Randi
  • Richard Dawkins
  • Dan Dennett (change order)
  • Dana Ullman (everyone drinks!)

We were getting a bit desperate at one point, allowing “Heinrich Himmler” as an anti-skeptic! Still, I had fun with this game, so why not give a go? Enjoy!


Wisdom of Chopra is looking for a designer!

wisdom of chopraIt’s been just over a month since I launched wisdomofchopra.com and my word has it been nuts! About six weeks ago I was told that I was going to be made redundant from my previous web development job, and for some reason I thought to myself “right then, I’ll make a website this weekend!”. Naturally, I went on Twitter looking for inspiration, and came across a tweet suggesting that the words of one Deepak Chopra were indistinguishable from a selection of profound words randomly thrown together (I think it was the New Humanist account, but I’m not sure). Having had experience with making rather crude random sentence generators I thought I could fairly easily make a website which took the words of Chopra and stuck them together. After just two nights of hard graft, wisdomofchopra.com was born.

I really wasn’t expecting much from it, but I am still amazed by the response it has generated. In that initial weekend, it got over 20,000 hits! It has been fairly extensively and positively blogged about (including by PZ Myers, so he’s not all bad! 😉 ) and even ended up being used on the SGU podcast! I extended the site, adding a quiz to see if people could tell the difference between real Deepak Chopra quotes and those generated by the website. I think my proudest moment in this whole episode was trying the quiz out on an Indian ex-colleague who has actually read some of Chopra’s books, he only managed three out of seven before angrily giving up! As I write this, there have so far been 28,578 responses to the quiz, of which 19,131 have been correct. That means that just 66.92% of the responses have been correct. If any statisticians are reading this, could you tell me if that is significant or not?

To take it to the next level, I really need a web designer to take a look at wisdomofchopra.com. Could you take the website and make it look really good? Although I’m quite good at programming (I got another web dev job pretty much straight away in case you are wondering) my design skills are rather lacking. I can’t offer that much in the way of pay (well, maybe something), but you’ll certainly be credited on the site and it will look good on your CV. So, if you are a web designer at any level, please get in touch!

Presenting the Dana Ullman Button!

Strangely for a skeptic blog, I’ve yet to write anything about one Dana Ullman. In case you haven’t come across him before, Dana is a homeopath whose misleading, catty and disingenuous remarks in defence of his profession on Twitter and various blogs are legendary. Such exchanges inspired Kimball Atwood over at Science Based Medicine to coin the Dulll-Man law:

In any discussion involving science or medicine, being Dana Ullman loses you the argument immediately…and gets you laughed out of the room.

Now you may think that’s a tad unfair, but believe me if you get into a conversation with Dana Ullman his contempt for both science and general discussion etiquette will either make you laugh or fly into a blind rage. I do miss my Twitter exchanges with the D’Ullman, but sadly he’s blocked me!

Anyway, as an extension to the Dull-Man law (and a test of my programming skills) I’ve come up with a little toy which you can use to automatically react to any piece of writing by Dana Ullman. Here is what I recommend. Open up his Twitter page, and every time you read a tweet, make sure you’ve got your sound turned up and click on the button below:

If you want to put this button on your site, you should (touch wood) be able to copy the HTML code below and paste it into your site:


CERN Comic Sans Rage Comic

The hunt for the elusive Higgs boson at CERN was slightly overshadowed by the fact that the presentation shown last week contained the infamous Comic Sans font. Twitter exploded in a cacophony of rage and bile, so I’ve made a little Rage comic (yes, I am obsessed with them) to parody the ridiculousness nature of the situation. Enjoy!

Comic Sans Rage

Inductivism versus empiricism in a Rage comic

Tomorrow, I’ll be in Hackney talking about the scientific method. A key development in the scientific method occurred during the 20th century when Karl Popper worked to show the benefits of empirical falsification over classical inductivism. I’ve tried to sum up the difference between the two positions in a Rage comic. And why not?

Inductivism versus  empiricism

If you like it, please vote for it!.

An unexpected guest at the Merseyside Skeptics Society: Jesus!

Last Thursday, John Walliss from Liverpool Hope University gave a very interesting talk on “end of the world” cults (although I’m pretty sure that’s the wrong word for them). However, the guest of honour was in fact not John, but none other than Jesus Christ himself! In a superb and blatantly obvious piece of pareidolia, the face of our Lord and Saviour appeared in the hair of MSS member Jo Fairburn! Check it out:

jesus on jo

Look on the left, who is that in Jo's hair?

Four Lions on Channel 4 tonight

Four lionsThis evening (Sunday September 4th) Four Lions, the début film from director Chris Morris, gets it first UK screening on Channel 4. The film, which tells the story of four bumbling Jihadists from Sheffield, caused controversy when it was first released in cinemas, and the Daily Mail thinks the screening will cause outrage because it’s so close to the tenth anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11th 2001.

So, what’s the film like? In my considered opinion, it’s excellent. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but the film presents us with five would-be terrorists who span a very wide character spectrum. The leader is Omar, a sharp, quick-witted yet flawed man who speaks fluent Urdu, who sees terrorism as an answer to the evils of Western capitalism. He persuades his brother Waj, who rivals Father Dougal for child-like stupidity, to join his cause, as well as the naive and shy Faisal, who specialises in training explosive crows to fly into buildings. They are backed up by the white convert Assam al-Britani (who everyone calls Barry), an angry hot-head and founder of the Islamic Republic of Tinsley. Later they are joined by the enthusiastic student Hassan, who’s more concerned with getting back on his media studies teacher than righting the wrongs of the world.

The first half of the film is a straight up comedy, with some great one-liners and comedy situations. However, the whole tone of the piece changes at the half way point. From then on, it is challenging for the viewer, who is fed comedy and thought-provoking tragedy in equal measure. No element of terrorism and counter-terrorism is left untouched by Morris, including the police, politicians and the intelligence services.

Sadly for the Daily Mail, the film isn’t nearly as controversial as they would like it to be. It does not make light of terrorism, it puts it in a very human context. The film has nothing specifically to do with 9/11, anyone who goes on the Mail website and complains about this clearly hasn’t seen it.

I think that the perspective on terrorism that Four Lions offers parallels with the huge amount of good that Morris’ Brass Eye paedophile special acheived. Back in 2001, the right wing tabloid press was awash with scare stories about paedophiles, whipping certain members of the population into a mad hysteria. Even innocent doctors weren’t immune from the baying mob, there was even a case of a paediatrician having “PAEDO” daubed on her house. Then the “Paedogeddon” Brass Eye special thundered onto our TV screens and changed all that. It made everyone take a step back, and the paedophile hysteria disappeared pretty much overnight.

One thing Four Lions does not do is glorify terrorism. Who knows, perhaps a would-be terrorist will see this film and be convinced that they are on the wrong path? Anyway, you can judge for yourselves at 9pm, Channel 4 tonight.