Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I know what you’ve been feeling. The president should do something about this oil spill. He should personally take charge of the capping effort. You imagine Barack Obama on a Naval destroyer. His one hand grasping the rigging, leaning past the bow of the ship, his other hand shading his eyes, as he scans the watery horizon for any sign of the source of the oil. When the ship finally arrives at the epicenter of the disaster, the President has already stripped down to a bathing suit, in preparation for what everyone knows he must do. Executing a perfect swan dive, he plunges into the thick black whirlpool, a large shark knife clenched between his teeth.

Ok, maybe that’s not what you are imagining. I don’t know. You are going to have to work out all that homoerotic fantasizing yourself. I can’t help you. Either way, you need to accept the idea that Barack Obama is not going to get involved with this emergency, and contrary to what you’re feeling, that’s probably a good thing.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


A lightning strike, recently, in by backyard, completely obliterated one of my cypress trees. Was this the act of an angry god, punishing me for being an Atheist? Was it like the time the almighty sent a hurricane to Orlando to punish us for Gay Days but missed Disney? What about the time he tried to punish New Orleans for their debauchery, but missed Bourbon Street? I’ll say one thing for God; he sure is a lousy shot.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Yesterday I was quietly sitting at my computer writing (ok surfing for pictures of woman in slave Princess Leia outfits) with my cat lounging innocently on my desk next to me when my wife burst into the office with a pair of scissors. “It’s time to take the stitches out of the cat,” She said ominously. It had been 14 days since our cat (Mr. Sneaches) had minor surgery to remove a large mole.

I was shocked at her statement. “I’ll make an appointment with the vet tomorrow,” I said.
“Then one of us will have to take off from work. Let’s just do it ourselves, right now!” she jeered while focusing the desk lamp on the unsuspecting victim.

“Are you insane? You’re not a Vet. You don’t know what you are doing,” I protested shielding the cat from her advance.

“Come on. It’s no big deal. You get under the knot and, snip, snip, snip.” I was convinced she was out of her mind. This delicate procedure could only be carried out in a modern sterile surgical arena and only by a team of highly trained professionals. At one point I was running through the house, cradling the poor animal while my crazed wife chased us both with rusty garden sheers. My wife informs me that this last part might be an exaggeration, but that’s what I remember.

After everyone calmed down (and the cat was temporarily given over to the custordy of the neighbors for its own safety), it was agreed that I would call my wife’s father (who really is a vet) and ask if it is alright for her to remove the stitches. He informed me that she had seen and assisted in this procedure dozens of times before. As long as she sterilizes the cuticle scissors (which she had already done) all would be fine.
Everything went off without a hitch and the cat didn’t even know what happened. I was completely wrong. Apparently this sort of postoperative surgery is so simple you can do it on a Latin American bus traveling up the side of a dusty mountain trail surrounded by livestock and malaria. (I am now being informed by my wife that this also might be incorrect)

The point is - it’s ok to be wrong. I am always learning and because of this, I am constantly adjusting my preconceived notions. I am happy and proud to admit that.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Texas School Board COLOR This week the Texas Board of Education adopted new teaching guidelines which include the following: deluding the rationale behind separation of church and state, removing Thomas Jefferson as an example of an influential political philosopher (because he was a secularist) and teaching that McCarthyism was justified. So you’re saying to yourself, “that’s Texas. They have the right to teach their kids whatever they want.” The problem is that national book publishers don’t usually make different school books for different states. The Texas market is so large the rest of the nation gets stuck with their school books.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I don’t want my blog to be about religion all the time (really) but:  Monday, attorneys for the Vatican will be defending themselves against a sexual abuse claim brought against them in a federal court.

“The Vatican is expected to assert that bishops aren't its employees because they aren't paid by Rome, don't act on Rome's behalf and aren't controlled day-to-day by the pope - factors courts use to determine whether employers are liable for the actions of their employees, (The Vatican's U.S. attorney, Jeffrey) Lena told the AP.
He said he would suggest to the court that it should avoid using the religious nature of the relationship between bishops and the pope as a basis for civil liability because it entangles the court in an analysis of religious doctrine that dates back to the apostles.” - Associated press


Saturday, May 15, 2010


Can you believe this video? Don’t they know that the American Heart Association put out a report, way back in 2008, recommending that people NOT use mouth-to-mouth while administering CPR. The AHA found that uninterrupted hands-only CPR (100 compressions a minute) works just as well as the standard CPR for adults experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. If you want accurate instructions for CPR, I suggest this website instead. It’s much better, with text only - no annoying pictures.

Monday, May 10, 2010


There is this episode of “All in the Family” where both Archie and Michael each tell their version of an event that had just occurred. It is quickly proven that Archie’s version of the story is a complete fabrication but then it is pointed out that Michael’s version is also wrong. Gloria says to Michael, “You’re as bad as my father.” At which point Archie bursts into laughter “Ha, hear that Meathead, you’re as bad as I am!” For those of you who are too young to know what “All in the Family” is (I hate you) the joke is this: Without knowing it, Archie just made fun of himself.

The conservative news outlets are saying this oil spill is Barack Obama’s Katrina. What does this mean?
Are conservatives saying Obama is handling this disaster as badly as President Bush handled Katrina? If that is the case, isn’t the conservative media admitting that it’s been lying by saying that the response to Katrina wasn’t George Bush’s fault; that contrary to what they have been saying, Bush actually DID do a crappy job. Doesn’t this means that the apologies Fox and their ilk have been peddling, for the last five years, in relation to Katrina, have all been lies?
Or is the conservative media saying that just like Bush, Barack Obama is doing the best he can with what is, admittedly, a bad situation and, like Bush, Obama is being unfairly criticized by main stream the media.
Conservatives, can you please clarify this for me.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Psychic Cows and the Squirrels of Dubious 9

Would you like to go on an extraordinary journey, to a fantastic planet; filled with incredible creatures, never before seen or even imagined by humans? You would? Then strap yourself in. Are you ready? Here we go…but first, I have to ask you a question. If ESP and telekinesis really does exist, why don’t we see these forces everywhere in nature? Proponents of the paranormal believe animals have more psychic abilities then humans. Do you think that’s true? I know that question seams off topic from a promised trip to another planet but as you’ll see, the answer to this question is the reason for the journey. So, let’s blast off. We’re traveling a thousand light years, to a fictional world, one in which nature uses all the benefits that ESP and telekinesis would offer, if those skills really did exist. Our space ship speeds across the galaxy in a blink of a eye. We have just arrived at the planet Dubious 9.
We feel a faint vibration as our vessel descends into the atmosphere. One of the unique characteristics we notice about the inhabitants of the planet Dubious is that, although ship sensors detect many species of animals on the planet’s surface, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of movement. On this planet, animals aren’t running around chasing each other. Why should they?  On earth, a cheetah expends a lot of calories running down a gazelle. These animals don’t have to go to all that trouble. On Dubious 9, as we will soon discover, it’s not about speed. It’s all about power. 

Saturday, May 1, 2010


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 – you know the one with Muhammad inside. (Shhh. It’s secretly ironic.)
The second observation is, that in a way, this media story helps us see what each news organization thinks about the subject of free speech. They either understand that this story is important or they don’t. I made a very, very informal survey to see which news media were covering the story and which were not. On April 28 2010, I simple went to each media outlet’s main web page and typed in “Everyone Draw Muhammad Day,” in the search bar. Here are the results along with my analysis. I freely acknowledge ,that my interpretations, more closely resemble me looking at a Rorschach Test then a legitimate analyst, but here it goes anyway.

ABC, CBS, CNN and USA today, returned no results, not even covering the original threat. I guess the issue of free speech is not as important as that story about “American Idol wannabees.” (Those kids are so spunky).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


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, insult them.) Before you click over to Facebook to check if someone has sent you vegetables in Farmville, let me explain why I think you’re probably a crank also. Here are some fun facts:

Only half of Americans know how long it takes the Earth to revolve around the sun. A third of Americans think evolution isn’t real. A majority of Americans think that the devil is real. A majority of Americans believe in guardian angels. A third of Americans believe in haunted houses. Most people don’t know that their federal taxes went down last year under the Obama administration. A full third of Americans think that the US government was involved with 9-11. And the scariest fact of all, “Avatar” has an 82% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

I’m going to paraphrase a quote that I once heard. “When the world is filled with crazy people the rational people are considered the nuts.” I remember hearing something like that or reading it someplace from someone really smart. Whoever that person is (or was), and contingent on whether they did indeed say that (or something similar) I would like to shake his or her hand. (If of course that is their real name)

What I am trying to say is this. WE ( you and I ) are the outsiders. We are the nuts. We are the space jockeys. We’re the cranks. And we’re outnumbered, you and I. The people who will believe anything and who refuse to analyze other people’s ideas let alone their own – they are everywhere. They are our politicians. They are reporting the news. They are teaching our kids. They are all around us, and they are getting louder. Fox News is the highest rated “news” channel in the US. Save us baby Jesus!

So if having basic knowledge of science is strange and embracing reason and logic over myth and superstition is weird then so be it. Be proud of your oddball-ness. The other side is way too vocal. It’s our turn to start being heard. The next time someone says something that you think is wrong like “all panda bears hate cake” question them. Don’t be shy. If someone offers a statistic that doesn’t sound right like, “Honduras produces three times more feral children than any other country,” ask him where he got that statistic. Be brave. Don’t let them get away with it. It’s more important than ever. The nonsense is enveloping us all. It’s up to you. The world needs us. Become a crank, like me, and be proud.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


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.


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 Trek movie and it got me thinking about the good old days of science fiction films. Back then special effects looked cheap, and it was always hit or miss as to whether they would work. More often than not a pie tin hanging from a string to simulate a flying saucer looked, well, like a pie tin hanging from a string. So the people who filmed science fiction (otherwise known as sci-fi or SF) couldn’t rely on computer-generated eye candy to keep audiences awake. Instead they had to rely on something completely different—good writing.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jor-El tries to save the planet

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.

Monday, April 5, 2010


mars 1 mars 2

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

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

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

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 Theory of Radioactivity, developed techniques for isolating isotopes, and discovered two new elements. During WWI Curie developed the innovation of X-rays to help surgeons locate and remove bullets on the battlefield. Even with all those accomplishments it’s hard to find a picture of her smiling.

Monday, March 22, 2010


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 even be talking about a British citizen, to be sued for libel in the UK. All that has to happen is that someone in the UK reads something that you write. It doesn’t have to be some snappy letter to the editor in the New York Times. It could be some offhand remark that you make on you blog, here, about your pets health, (my cats bowel movements looks like Dick Chaney) or some rant that you twitter to your girlfriend about that guy you went on a date with last night (I’m never going to dinner with Dick Chaney again. He’s an asshole.) All that has to happen, is that someone across the pond reads it. And BAM…you could be wearing a new libel suit.

So if you were to say - "Sarah Palin is a mentally challenged cheerleader whose supporters are all inbred hillbillies. They are only drawn to her through some S&M librarian fetish which they can’t fulfill because of an inability to master the internet to satisfy themselves." – You could be sued for libel.

Or if you were to say - "Rush Limbaugh’s recent outbursts in which he declared, on numerous of occasions, that he was not going to bend over, grab his ankles and happily take it from the Obama administration, was clearly an unconscious expression of a secret desire to be sodomized by a strong but gentle African American male." - You could be sued for libel.

Or if you were to say – "Bill O’Reilly was nothing more than an overbearing bully who is obviously overcompensating for the documented fact that he was born with a single cheese doodle where his genitalia should have been. And that’s all I have to say about that." – You could be sued for libel.

And if I, myself, were to say promoting chiropractics for ear infections in children is dangerous because it might persuade some parents to postpone real treatments thereby leading to more serious conditions. It’s cruel, because the brutal stabbing pain kids experience could easily be cured with simple antibiotics. It’s crazy, because there is no scientifically based mechanism as to why moving around the backbone would have anything to do with curing an infection. Not to mention that bending and manipulating the spine of a young child whose bones are not yet fully formed sounds, to me, just plain stupid. – I could be sued for libel. But what do I know. I’m not a doctor. Oh wait, nether are chiropractors, not real doctors anyway.

Parliament is just beginning to review its libel laws in the UK and Singh’s case is in the courts right now. Good luck Simon.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


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

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


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 , so it’ll be fun.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


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 it, that last question was asked by me.)

Monday, February 15, 2010


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 checks. This is why we are particularly aware when temperatures dare to dip below 80.
So, what happened to global warming? Come on Nick, explain this one. After all, you are the Rational Crank. Or, as a relative said recently, maybe we should start calling you the Irrational Crank. (Yah, a regular Don Rickles, that one is)

Thursday, January 28, 2010


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.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


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 polar bears. There would always be some schmuck who could say, I might have missed a bear, and he would be right.

Saturday, January 2, 2010