Posts

EVERYONE DRAW MUHAMMAD DAY

Image
May 20th is “Everyone Draw Muhammad Day.” (EDMD) The idea started showing up on the internet ,after an implied threat by a radical Islamic website, became public, targeting Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of the TV show “South Park.” Recently they had committed “blaspheme” by portraying the prophet Muhammad in their cartoon. To be clear,Trey and Matt did not show an image of Muhammad (which is strictly forbidden in Islamic law). Instead, they portrayed the prophet “disguised” in a bear suit, like a mascot at a sporting event. I have to hand it to them. Sometimes those guys are pure geniuses. The Radical Islamic website didn’t see it that way. They warned the “South Park Producers” that they would probably suffer the same fate as the filmmaker, Theo Van Gogh, who was murdered in 2004.
You probably have heard this story by now, but here are a couple of interesting takes on the whole thing. First, many of the news segments reporting this story include the video clip of the bear …

WHY, RATIONAL CRANK, WHY?

Image
Why is my blog called the Rational Crank? I admit that I can get quite cranky sometimes, especially since I wake up every morning to my cats butt in my face. “That’s because he loves his Dad,” my wife always says.

"That's why Daddy drinks." I respond

But my title does not refer to that kind of crank. I am using the definition of crank that means “crackpot.” You know, the guy with tinfoil on, not only the top of his head, but also tucked under his armpits for added protection; the guy who has named each of his fingernails; the guy who thinks that people from the department of education are breaking into his house while he’s away, and replace all of the forks in his kitchen with slightly shorter forks. I’m referring to myself as the kind of crank that is way out of the social norm, a misfit, an oddball, a fruitcake, a moon bat. And you know what? If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’re probably a crank too. (Oh, now that’s a good way to get more readers, Nick, insul…

FOR ALL MY NEW FRIENDS

I wrote the article below for the magazine The Humanist. It appeared in their July/August 2009 issue. I thought I would post it now because I have a lot of new visitors. You can all see how geeky I really am. I hope you enjoy it.

STAR TREK MADE ME AN ATHEIST

Image
Growing up, my parents were very strict. On Friday nights I had to be in bed by 10 pm. My mother would tuck me in, turn off the light, and close the door. I would lie under the covers until I heard her settled back into the living room. Then I would slide out of bed, tiptoe to the door, and quietly turn the lock. I knew what I was about to do was wrong and I was embarrassed and worried that my parents might walk in on me. Still, I couldn’t help myself. I snuck over to the other side of the room and switched on the black-and-white TV. So as not to be discovered I would turn the volume down as low as it would go and press my ear up to the tiny speaker. It was Friday evening in 1967, and I would tune in to NBC to watch my favorite television show, Star Trek.

[Warning: the following article is overflowing with geekiness. Further reading could result in unnaturally splayed fingers, pointed ears, or any manner of themed costuming.]

I was in line the other day waiting to see the new Star T…

Jor-El tries to save the planet

Image
Some things turn out to have much more meaning then ever originally intended. This came from TED Talks which is a collection of great lectures by really, really smart people.

ARE YOU A MARTIAN?

Image
While you look at these pictures of Mars and others from Presidia Creative think about the following: Liquid water and Methane have been detected on that planet. We all know why water is important but what’s so great about methane? With very few exceptions, methane is a byproduct of life. Granted it’s probably only bacterial but that’s still cool because life someplace else could answer a big question about life here.You see the funny thing about life here is that it’s all the same. That is to say, all life uses the same building blocks, the same proteins, the same DNA base pairs, etc. It doesn’t have to. It could have been anything, even that silicon pizza Horta from Star Trek. Who knows what bacteria on The Red Planet are like? Or stranger still, what if the bacteria on Mars has the same type of chemistry as everything here? That would mean that meteors caring life from Mars seeded this planet. We could all be Martians. Either way, we need to be sending more rovers to Mars

“Ok, then it’s agreed. We can build a rocket and all get the hell out of here before any of the problems start.”

Image
Each of the people in this picture has accomplished more for humanity then any of the guys in that other painting. From left to right they are:
Galileo Galilei – Physicist, Mathematician, Astronomer Extraordinaire, and Champion of the Copernican Theory, through which man gets a clear view of where he or she stands in the universe. Using observations of the moons of Jupiter and phases of Venus, Galileo offered evidence that the Earth revolved around the Sun. He was the first to observe sun spots, the rings of Saturn, and mountains on the moon. Steven Hawking said, "Galileo, perhaps more than any other single person, was responsible for the birth of modern science." It wasn’t until 1992 that Pope John Paul II admitted that the church’s ruling against Galileo might have been a mistake.
Marie Skłodowska Curie – Physicist, Chemist, she was the first person honored with 2 Nobel Prizes; one for her pioneering work in the field of radioactivity, the other in chemistry. She created the…

WHO IS SIMON SINGH AND WHY THE FUCK SHOULD YOU CARE

Image
First I’ll ask you to curb your language. This blog is read by the fairer sex. Now, I’ll tell you about Simon Singh, a science writer working in the UK. In 2008 he penned an article, which pointed out that on their websites many chiropractors advertise spine manipulation to treat ear infections in children. Since there are no legitimate studies showing manipulating a child’s back can cure ear infections, Singh called this treatment bogus. Because of that statement he is being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA). Libel laws in the UK are very different then they are here. Over there, if you are sued for libel, it is up to you to prove that you are right. To clarify, it is NOT up to the BCA to prove their claim that a back massage can cure infection. It is up to Singh to prove them wrong.

So why the fuck should you care? (Please, language. I hope you don’t kiss your mother with that mouth.) Here is the amazing thing. You don’t have to be a British citizen, or ev…

YOU GOTTA LOVE EVANGELICALS

These Christians are on a mission to save the world from…Klingonism…I guess?  Is this really a problem?

THE RATIONAL CRANK –V- THE GIPPER

Image
I’ve been feeling guilty lately for mentioning logical fallacies without explaining what they are. (This guilt, no doubt being the reason for my drinking) So, to relieve this crushing guilt and hopefully head off the inevitable slide into alcoholism, here is a short but pithy primer on logical fallacies.

A logical fallacy is an error of reasoning. It is different from a factual error in that the person making the logical fallacy may not be wrong about their facts but instead may be wrong because of the structure of their argument itself.

Recently, as part of the effort to be both far and balanced AND oppose President Obama in anyway they can, Fox News posted a 1961speech by Ronald Reagan concerning socialized medicine. (OH NO! THIS POST IS GOING TO BE ABOUT HEALTHCARE!) I’m sorry. This speech is just too perfect for the topic at hand. It offers three great examples of common logical fallacies. I promise not to get too wonky. I’ll mostly just rag on Fox News. They’re inherently evil , …

2012

Image
Here is something that won’t surprise you. Sometimes I get tired of the stupid. So I’m having a good time in Mexico, when I come upon the disturbing reminder that almost half the people in the world have a below average IQ. This disturbing reminder was in the gift shops, in the national parks and on the T-shirts and its number is “2012.” I saw it in the books made for tourists with titles like “the idiots guide to 2012.” I saw it in the eyes of the poor Mexican tour guide as we stood at the base of the great Mayan lighthouse in Tulum. He patiently tried to explain for the thousandth time how the calendar worked. “No, there was no significance to the end of the cycle. The Mayan calendar just turns over and starts again, like the odometer on a car. No, the Mayans did not write any prophesies of disaster. In fact, Mayan writing refers to dates after their calendar turns over. No, you can’t stand on top of the lighthouse to have your picture taken. You’ll break your neck.” (Ok, I admit i…

GAIA COMMITS SUICIDE

Image
Sorry, I haven’t written in a while. The wife and I just got back from our vacation in sunny Cancun. When I stepped off the plane in Orlando, I wondered if we had flown into the wrong airport. Had the plane been diverted to New York? Christ, its cold! This morning, there was frost on my car. FROST? In NY we keep a windshield scraper in the glove compartment for ice, (along with gloves imagine that). Do you know what I keep in my Florida glove compartment? Suntan lotion… also salt and lime in case I have to make an emergency margarita. I ended up scraping the ice off my windshield with a Cracker Barrel gift card that I found in my wallet. It worked out, because I certainly had no intention of ever eating at the Cracker Barrel.
This is the coldest winter I can remember, and I live in a state wear Hawaiian shirts are mandatory. I don't know how it works in other places but here in Orlando we are constantly being pulled over by the Florida Highway Patrol for shirt flower density chec…

HOW NEWS WORKS

Image
Image

ARE YOU A CRITICAL THINKER?

Image
Are you a critical thinker? I have a simple test for you. No, it is not a riddle involving a dead guy hanging in an empty room locked from the inside. (He was standing on a block of ice) The way to test whether you are a critical thinker is even easer then that. Have you ever heard of the following terms: a straw man argument, moving the goal posts, the Barnum effect, confirmation bias, Occam’s razor, false dichotomy, or an argument from final consequence?

If you have ever said you are a critical thinker and are not familiar with at least some of these terms, then the chances are, you are just talking out of your ass. (It’s ok. I do it all the time.) But to be clear, a person who calls himself a critical thinker and is not familiar with at least some of these terms is like a guy who calls himself a Christian but has never heard of that Jesus guy.

LEX LUTHOR'S REVENGE

Image
When someone says to me “You cannot prove there is no God,” I agree with him whole hardy. Why do I bring this up? Partially because I’m writing drunk again, but also, because someone wrote me and said my “Lex Luthor” post was a poor argument against the existence of God.

I am sorry the piece was unclear. It was not intended to disprove God. Believe me if I were setting my sights on God I wouldn’t bring up a comic book character. I might mention drowning children in tsunamis, but hey, I’m silly that way.

As brilliant as I imagine I am (usually directly correlated to how much wine I’ve consumed), I still would not be able to prove there is no God - because I cannot prove a negative. I cannot prove there are no blue polar bears, either.

In order to prove there are no blue polar bears, I would have to track down every polar bear in the world and hold a color chip up against his fur. Not only would this be logistically imposable (and dangerous), it still would not prove there were no blue…

MONKEYS EATING JELL-O

Image
Lets start off 2010 with something good -  Monkeys eating Jello-O.

HEAVEN?

Image
The following is the elegy I delivered at my sister, Angela’s funeral this year. It’s not original. I lifted a lot of the ideas from all those grumpy web sites I’m always reading. HEAVENIs there a Soul? Is there a heaven?I don’t know if there is a soul. I don’t think what is essentially us leaves our bodies when we die. I think that what is essentially us leaves our body at all times - while we are still alive. It’s always radiating out, into the universe, every time we interact with other people. It’s like raindrops in a pond - the ripples we make spread out in all directions and affect all the other drops, made by all the other people around us. These make little waves that come back and lap up against us, and those in turn are changed again by more of our ripples, and on and on. This is an old idea, call it karma. Call it the interconnectedness of all things. Call it, just being nice.I think the world is one giant soul-soup, in which we all make big and small ripples, and all the f…

PAREIDOLIA

Image
I found these and many more on Buzz Feed. They are a collection of Virgin Mary sightings for 2009. The phenomenon is called pareidolia, the act of seeing specific images in vague shapes or smudges. We all do this when we look at a cloud and imagine a dog or fire truck. We are also doing it when we look at a satellite image from mars and see a human face.And yes the one at the end is a condom. I am so sorry.

LEX LUTHOR - HUMANIST

Image
I remember watching this cartoon a while back where Lex Luthor built this super powerful mega intelligent robot to destroy Super Man. As with all super powerful mega intelligent robots, the machine became sentient. Lex could no longer control it, so to get it out of the way; he sent it to the other side of the galaxy. But, the robot fought its way back from the edge of space and headed straight for Earth.
Being a man of means, Lex, persuaded all the Earths space agencies to confront the machine. Lex even talked the Justice League into helping protect him from the Robot. After all, he argued, the Justice League had pledged to protect all humanity (even Lex.) But nothing could stop the robot. The machine smashed all the defenses Earth could muster. Even the Super Heroes themselves were no match for this juggernaut.
In desperation Lex barricaded himself in a cement and steel re-enforced bunker, deep under LuthorCorp. But the robot crashed through the walls, effortlessly. Stone and metal…