Sunday, December 27, 2009

HEAVEN?


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.

HEAVEN

Is 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 flavors melt together. What I say shapes you, what you say shapes me. When I remember something my sister said or did, or if some action she took or some kindness, changed me, made me think about what I was doing, then that was my sister’s wave, her soul, having its effect.

religion might have it backwards. I think, maybe, your soul doesn’t leave your body at the moment of your death. I think, maybe, it stops leaving your body, and begins existing as only an echo in the lives of others.

So, is there a soul? I don’t know.

Is there a heaven? Yes.

I definitely think so. There is a heaven, right here, in our minds and in our hearts, bouncing and reflecting in us, and through us, all those ripples and waves of all the people we have ever met, all the people we have ever loved. We radiate back out, to the world, everything that our loved ones ever were. Though our actions and through our deeds we, all of us, are the pond in which the raindrops fall. We, all of us, are forever, the heaven in which our loved ones now reside.

Friday, December 18, 2009

PAREIDOLIA

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.

Monday, December 7, 2009

LEX LUTHOR - HUMANIST


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 exploded everywhere and Lex was thrown to the ground. The robot advanced and stood threateningly over the fallen billionaire. In a last ditch effort Lex attempted to reason with the machine. It was obviously powerful beyond description. What, he inquired, could the robot possibly want with little old Lex. Without missing a beat it said, It just wanted to ask Its creator (Lex) what It’s(the robot’s) purpose in life was.

Friday, November 27, 2009

BEATLES 3000

You see this is secretly about religion. Get it?

This is from Scott Gairdner at Loltarkill's Cannel. There is some great stuff there.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

IN HONOR OF CARL SAGAN


To celebrate Carl Sagan’s birthday this month I thought I would post some of his quotes:

I maintain there is much more wonder in science than in pseudoscience. And in addition, to whatever measure this term has any meaning, science has the additional virtue, and it is not an inconsiderable one, of being true.

In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness.

It is of interest to note that while some dolphins are reported to have learned English -- up to fifty words used in correct context -- no human being has been reported to have learned dolphinese.

One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.

Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.

A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism.

But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

This was a great man. If you have never read Carl Sagan’s book, “The Demon Haunted World,” you are truly missing out.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

CRITICAL THINKING IN ACTION!!!


I blather on about Critical Thinking all the time but what does that mean specifically? Recently, someone sent me an article in reference to my post entitled Going Gault. Thanks for the article. I love all comments. Please write me. (Really, I’m so lonely.)

I agree with most of what the commenter said, but this article that he sent is another matter. It’s a piece of crap. But the article is useful in one way. It is great to analyze for CRITICAL THINKING IN ACTION!!! (For future referencing to this post please note that three exclamation points after the title are always required)

Basically the article says that between 2000 and 2008 people left New York in droves because of high taxes, and now the state’s tax base is hurting. The lesson - if you tax the rich, you’ll be sorry.

First, this piece is from the tabloid paper, The New York Post. According to a 2004 survey by Pace University, The Post was rated the least-credible major news outlet in New York. The article quotes a study by the “Empire Center for New York State Policy.” It isn’t mentioned until the end of the article, that the Empire Center is part of the Neo-Conservative think tank, The Manhattan Institute. The author should have stated this at the top of the article.

Neither of these facts gives us the right to dismiss the article offhand. If we did we would be committing a logical fallacy called, “Ad Hominem” (attacking the source of the information instead of the information itself). I recall even the National Enquirer breaking legitimate news stories on at least two occasions. So we can’t call “bullshit” yet, but it is ok for us to get out our galoshes.

Now, to analyze the content of the article itself using CRITICAL THINKING IN ACTION!!!

I don’t question the assertion that New York had a large exodus between the years 2000 to 2008 (especially from Manhattan, as the article states). But, what does the Empire Center offer as the reasons for this large population move? They say high taxes are the culprit, but offer no proof. If they could show that taxes went up greatly in NY during that same time period this would support their assertion. The Post commits the fallacy of incomplete comparison.

If they then showed other examples of states loosing there population because of raising taxes then this would also help support their conclusion, but they do not. This could be considered cherry picking results. On top of that, if they showed that the exodus from Manhattan was different from the movement of populations of other cities in the US during the same time period, then they might really be on to something. For all we know, NY’s declining population might just be part of a larger national trend of Americans moving to the suburbs. In this case The Post’s sampling group is too small (basically one).

Also, maybe I am wrong, but wasn’t the city of New York governed by a Republican mayor for most of that time period? Aren’t Republicans supposed to be known for their ability to lower taxes? (Inconsistent comparison)

Lastly, is there some other event that occurred between 2000 and 2008 (other than rising taxes) that might also help explain the reason people would want to flee the city of New York in droves? Maybe something that happened in the city of New York around September of 2001, perhaps? The article blatantly commits the fallacy of assuming single cause.

Is it any wonder no one writes me?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

WHY CAN’T WE ADMIT IT?

A new poll shows that the number of Americans who believe scientist’s warnings about global warming is presently at 57%. This is a drop of 20 percentage points in just three years. It reminded me of a discussion I had with a (non-specified) relative a while back. We were talking about global warming and he said that he wasn’t worried about rising sea levels. It did not matter if the ice at the poles melted because when icebergs melt, they do not change the overall sea level.

I said he was wrong, and started mercilessly attacking the right wing conservative news media that he listens to. He countered with a fact that he thought would blow me out of the icy water. As the cubes melt in your full glass of soda, the liquid does not overflow. How could I explain that! He was so pleased with himself. My retort was ready. To be honest, I heard it on one of those lefty tree hugging shows I always listen to. But I was going to enjoy repeating it. I actually got out of my chair, walked over and sat down next to him to deliver the chilling blow. I said Climate scientists are not worried that the melting icebergs at the North Pole will change sea levels. They are worried about the giant ice sheets that cover all of Greenland and the Antarctica. I sat back in my chair and waited for his gracious reply. Naïve me. I assumed he would say something like, “wow Nick. I hadn’t thought about that, thanks. Maybe I should reevaluate some of the media sources that I get my science news from. Golly, you sure are a great (non-specified) relative. What he said instead was, “I said melting ice does not change water level. Nick, I am right. Why can’t you admit it?” - I’m such an idiot.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

a little something till next post….


They lie and fight and spit and cheat and …cats litter.


They growl and bite and don’t brush their teeth and…cats litter.


My home is a mess, though I try to stay neat but …cats litter.


There’s crunching and rocks under my feet because…cats litter.


Large mud tracks everywhere in spite of small feet and…cats litter.


Christ, my house is a wreck and so are my sheets because…cats litter.


OH NO, rocks in my food and, God what’s in my teeth, it’s…CATS LITTER.


Cats Litter.


cats litter.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

AND THE WORLD GOES ON

There is this website that I have stumbled upon, that I would like to share with you all. It’s called World Clock and it’s quite extraordinary. It is a running odometer that calculates the world population (to the person) as you watch. One line continually clicks off the number of births on the planet while another, clicks off the number of people dying. It breaks the deaths down into categories: cardiovascular, cancer, traffic accidents, violence, falls…

The site has other statistics on it also: the rising temperature of the earth, cars rolling off the assembly line, oil being produced…


Some of the statistics change unexpectedly slowly, like the number of couples divorcing in the US. Others whiz by surprisingly quickly, like the number of computers being produced.


As I describe it, you might think this site would make you crazy, watching the world, unchecked, spiral out of control, but surprisingly it has the opposite effect on me.


When I think about my own personal world clock I become anxious, thinking about my rising debt, my middle age or that deadline at work - all of them odometers spinning out of control. Then I turn my mind over to the World Clock on the internet and look at that meter and suddenly my own odometer slows. Compared to the internet odometer mine is moving at a snail’s pace.


There is another site where you can watch a satellite image of the planet as it moves from daylight into night. The entire Earth is uncurled like one of those 1950’s maps. As countries and continents move into night, you can watch the lights of their cities beginning to come on. Glowing threads trying to fight off the darkness. If you’re watching and you happen to be in that darkness, you can see which parts of the world are waking up, slowly, coming out into the light.

Both of these sites calm me. They are both illustrating the same thing. It is the world moving forward, sometimes toward the dark, sometimes toward the light. Even the deaths on the world clock are not frightening. They’re movement – and movement is life. If you have a minute, click over to the two sites, I think you’ll find them as hypnotic as I do. In the time it took you to read this, there were 587 people were born.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

OBAMA BREAKS BUSH’S RECORD!

EVIL NICK - Well, President Obama’s done it. He has broken Bush’s record for number of days in his first year without a catastrophic terrorist attack. Bush said it best after receiving an August 6th 2001 briefing entitled “Bin Laden determined to strike in the US.” The then President didn’t ask follow-up questions. He didn’t order more investigation into the threat. His only response to the aid was “Ok, you covered your ass.”  And let’s not forget the 7 minutes of inaction President Bush wasted after being told a plane hit the second tower. Ok, you’re right, you got me. The 7 minute thing is just liberal propaganda dreamed up by Michel Moore. The filmmaker got it completely wrong. According to the independent 9/11 commission it was just 5 minutes Bush sat doing nothing after he was told the United States was under attack.  Watch the You Tube split screen of those minutes.  In this nuclear age do you know how long 5 minutes are? Try sitting there now, not talking, not doing anything, for five minutes. There is a reason that on the anniversary of that terrible day we observe a minute of silence, because we couldn’t keep everyone’s attention for 5 minutes. I wish that shoe had hit him right in the nose.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

DOES DIGITAL MEDIA MAKE PRINTED BOOKS WORTHLESS?


For the last couple of days I have been corresponding with someone on Facebook about healthcare. (I promise this Post will not be about healthcare) He would write something and I would respond. And yes, all of my responses were just as lengthy and boring as you might imagine. Yesterday, my computer alerted me that my sparring partner had struck again. Another challenge! I couldn't wait to rush home and post yet another, oh so clever retort. The strange thing is when I went to respond, my adversary’s latest post was gone, along with all his previous posts. All that were left were my responses. Standing alone they looked like the rambling of a crazy person. If you read them without seeing his stuff it seemed very much like I would write something then wander away only to return moments later to answer questions no one had asked, as though I was responding to voices in my head, only I could hear. I was arguing about Lyndon Johnson for god’s sake. But I swear he brought it up first! All digital media is fluid. Like the ocean, do not trust it or you will surely drown.

Have you heard about the Kindle? It’s a small digital note pad that allows you to purchase and download digital books through Amazon. In July of this year many owners of the Kindle woke up to find that the copy of George Orwell’s book 1984 they had previously purchased, had been deleted from their notepad without their permission. Their bank accounts and credit cards had been credited the amount that they had paid for the book. It seems that because of some mix up, Amazon did not really have the right to sell 1984. So their solution – sent out a command to all Kendal’s to delete Orwell’s book. The irony writes itself.

One of the good things about digital books is that they can be updated automatically, handy if there is a typo. But, what happens if the book is a political nonfiction, say about a war or a previous administration. What if the author writes something that someone else thinks is libelous? To avoid a law suit, does the publisher send out a signal through the internet to remove the offending passages. Do all digital books become sterilized, cleansed of all political incorrectness? Where will we turn if we want to find the original texts of some long dead author? In the future, will real printed books become more valuable because they cannot be easily changed?

Now, the inevitable slide into dorkiness. I remember this episode of Star Trek were Captain Kirk was being court marshaled for some crime he did not commit. To help defend him they found this crusty old lawyer who insisted on toting a mountain of law books with him wherever he traveled. Kirk asked the old man why he didn’t just use his computer. Holding up a book the lawyer said, “This is where the law is. Not in that homogenized pasteurized synthesized - you want to know the law, the ancient concepts in their own language? …learn the intent of the men who wrote them -Books.” Books are cool.

Friday, August 14, 2009

FIGHTING WITH MYSELF

EVIL NICK: God! have you seen all those conservatives screaming at town hall meetings. I have news for them. Contrary to their convoluted belief, none of the healthcare bills currently in congress say anything about “death panels euthanizing your grandparents.” Nor have they ever. These republicans are panicky little crybabies. It reminds me of that study that came out a while back that proved that conservatives act the way they do because they are less brave then liberals.

GOOD NICK: I assume you are referring to the study last year published in the “Journal Science” by Kevin B Smith. It suggested a link between the positions people hold on such controversial issues as gun control, pacifism and capital punishment with their reaction to disturbing images and startling sounds.

EVIL NICK: Yah, that’s the one. They measured perspiration and eye reaction and found that conservatives are three times more afraid of stuff then progressives. Damn pantywaists. Every little thing in the world sends then running for the covers.

GOOD NICK: Now it’s not right to draw such broad conclusions from those tests. Only 46 people were studied at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the study was just preliminary. Besides, all the subjects were drawn from one small Midwest town, hardly definitive. If we were talking about a study supporting some homeopathic drug, you would be the first one to point out that the study was just “preliminary” and in science a “preliminary study” only means that more research might be warranted.

EVIL NICK: Oh come on, who are you kidding. You know conservatives are a bunch of frightened wing nuts. Look at the “birthers,” right wing flakes who think President Obama wasn’t born in the US. This, despite the fact that his certificate of birth and birth announcement from Hawaiian newspapers have been posted on line and have been examined by independent sources and the republican governor of Hawaii. The real scary thing about this is that the conspiracy wackjobs that are still talking about this are Republican Senators.

GOOD NICK: I told you not to bring up the “birther controversy.” You know that studies show that when you talk about a phony controversy, even if just to thoroughly discredit it, people walk away just remembering that there was “some controversy.” They don’t remember that it was debunked. That’s why Phil Donahue, and legitimate news organizations stopped giving airtime to Nazis and the KKK back in the seventies. It legitimizes the crackpots.

EVIL NICK: you mean like that study conducted by University of Michigan that presented people with false claims, clearly labeled as such. Three days later researchers asked those same people about the claims and found that 40 percent of them remembered the false claims as true, even though they were originally clearly identified as false.

GOOD NICK: Yes. That’s why you shouldn’t even acknowledge people when they are repeating lies, even if it is just to debunk them. Wait a second, unless you were just using the “birther controversy” as an excuse to talk about those studies, giving you yet another opportunity to write about critical thinking.

EVIL NICK: how do you know I wasn’t?

GOOD NICK: Well played.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A MILLION DOLLAR CHALLENGE

At parties, you’ve heard me say that when it comes to my world view I am a “Skeptic.” (Right now, I am addressing only the people I have gotten drunk in front of, which it turns out is more of you then I wish to admit) Some of you think I use the word Skeptic as a general adjective, as in: “I am skeptical, please refill my wine glass.” To be clear, when I say I am a Skeptic I mean, I belong to an organized group calling, themselves “Skeptics.” Yes, there is such a group. You’ll be surprised to hear there are a number of such grumpy sounding groups. They publish grumpy magazines like "The Skeptic” and “Skeptical Inquirer.” They have grumpy podcasts like “Point of Inquiry” and “The Skeptics Guide to the Universe.” They have grumpy congressional lobbing groups and they even hold grumpy conventions. They just had one this month in Las Vegas where I’m sure no one gambled because no one believed they could win. That’s all a pack of lies of cause. They are not a bunch of grumpy people. They are just like everyone else. (I was about to say they are just like you and I, but since I myself am not know as mister sunshine I thought better of it.)

During the convention in Vegas, psychic, Connie Sonne participated in James Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge. For those of you who don’t know, Randi is a funny old bearded Skeptic who has offered a million bucks to anyone who can perform any supernatural feat under controlled scientific circumstances. A MILLION BUCKS FOR ANY SUPERNATURAL FEAT. To this date no one has even passed the preliminary testing for this challenge. Let me repeat that. To this date no one has even passed the preliminary testing. That should tell you something about the “supernatural.”

Connie was no exception. Using a divining stone she thought she could identify three playing cards in an envelope. She failed on all three. I give her credit for trying, though. She seems sincerer, like so many who truly believer. But something she said during the question and answer session after the test particular struck me. She of cause gave some excuse as to why she failed the test. They always do. She said the test didn’t prove anything, and she still believes she has psychic powers. They always do. But then she was asked if there was any test that would change her mind. And without skipping a beat she said “no.”

Think about that for a second. There is no empirical test in the entire world that could change this woman’s mind about a particular subject. Call me naïve but I do not believe there is a single position that I hold that I am not willing to change my mind about give enough evidence. Granted some things would require a mountain of evidence for me to change my mind but still it’s possible. And that’s what Skeptics are. They are people who are willing to go where the evidence leads, even if they don’t like the results. In today’s world this ability is crucial. To participate in anything less is to enable fanaticism, partisan politics, and religious extremism.

Poor Connie, I don’t mean to lay all that at her feet. She is just some lady who thinks she can guess cards in an envelope. I don’t mean to pick on her but if more people were willing to accept evidence even when they don’t like the results (and we are all guilty of this, myself included) the world would be a far far better place. Our unwillingness and inability to listen to contrary evidence and weigh that evidence fairly is the reason we are the only developed country in the world without health care. It is the reason the US is involved in two overseas wars, and why we, as a species are doing nothing about the dying seas and global warming. And it is the reason some people believed (all evidence to the contrary) it is a good idea to fly planes into buildings. .....Do me a favor, change your mind about somethings.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

JACKSON'S CONTRIBUTION TO NEWS QUALITY


The Michael Jackson media circus reminded me of something I thought of a while back. Remember the Anna Nicole Smith nonsense over here estate and custody of her children? Well in the wake of her death I created a formula called the Anna Nicole Smith Inverse News Quality Index (© Nick Farrantello 2009). I think it also fits for Jackson. It works like this – The amount of air time that a particular news program gives to such stories (like Anna Nicole or Jackson) is inversely equal to the quality of that particular news show's overall performance. Not just its performance in covering Anna or Jackson, its performance covering all news. If you are listening to a station that is devoting all it's time to Jackson then (when it comes to news) that station probably blows. If the station you’re listening to doesn’t give the Jackson story much air time then that station is a quality new outlet. I believe that this relationship between air time and how reliabile and accuracy a particular news program is can be quantifiably charted , minute to minute. Although, I have no idea how to do that.
Here is the reasoning behind this formula. You see, beyond the reporting of Jackson’s death and one or two follow-up stories about what becomes of his estate, the Jackson story has no news content. A story has news content dependent on how many people it directly affects. If it impacts a lot of people’s lives then it’s an important news piece. Now, I know you are saying “but this story does impact people’s lives. Millions of people loved Jackson.” That may be true. Millions of people are interested in Jackson but almost no one will really truly be affected by Jackson. The only people really affected by Jackson's death are his kids, his family and maybe the people who own property around Neverland Ranch. But that’s it. In contrast if , lets say, congress passes a law that changes the tax code in the US then millions of people truly are affected and so that is a newsworthy story.
Here’s the funny thing. Stories like these, that are unimportant and mealy titillating, can acuallybe very useful. As a result of Jackson’s death, at this moment, media outlets all over the world have a clear choice. 1) They can run stories that are not newsworthy about Jackson and get ratings or 2) They can continue with their normal schedule, ignoring any further Jackson stories and maybe not get the ratings that they would like.

Moments like these can tell you which news shows are doing a good job and which are not. It tells you what’s more important to a particular news show, its ratings or its integrity. Take this moment to be aware of how much your favorite news network is covering the Jackson stuff. You know the one with the team of Jackson Special commentators and the news recaps scrolling across the bottom of the screen. That station might be blowing it. Take a second and surf the competitor’s station to see how many stories they are doing. If that hour long show you hate with that boring host is not talking about Jackson at all, maybe it’s time to rethink where you are getting your news from. Maybe boring is better.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

OPRAH'S A BAD DOCTOR


Check out the current issue of Newsweek. The magazine takes on the Goddess of all quack medicine, Oprah Winfrey. Wow, Newsweek’s got balls!

Celebrities get to where they are by wearing blinders. They must have the ability to ignore other people’s opinions. To succeed in Hollywood (along with a mountain of luck) you have to have persistence. Persistence entails the ability to ignore everyone who doesn’t agree with you.
You must ignore critics who question your ability (that is to say the people criticizing the methodology by which you do things). You must ignore friends that might tell you it’s time to give up this acting thing and get a real job (that is not accepting results). And you must ignore odds that tell you your chances of succeeding are one in a million, (that means you must be bad at math). All those qualities that make for a successful celebrity make for a lousy scientist.

A good scientist (or doctor) should listen to his or her critics. If others can show a scientist’s methodology is wrong then that scientist needs to change tactics. He or she cannot ignore evidence. Evidence is a scientist’s bread and butter (or beaker and bunsen burner if you will). They must go were the evidence leads. That means they should move on if the evidence says so. A good scientist doesn’t ignore results that contradict what they were setting out to prove, they embrace those results. They might even publish those results. Can you imagine a celebrity wanting to publish their bad reviews?

And, lastly most scientist are good at math.

This all might seem anti-intuitive to becoming successful. It goes against everything Dr. Phil has told us. Sorry, that’s the way science works. I know Oprah fans might hunt me down for saying the following, but here it goes: Don’t take medical advice from Oprah! Oprah is a very successful celebrity, but she’s a really bad scientist and an even worse doctor.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

TRADING MY FINGERS FOR ALIENS


I don’t believe in a damn thing. UFO’s, Bigfoot, ESP, the Loch Ness Monster, ghosts, you name it. In my mind it’s all a bunch of poop. Despite that, I still consider myself very open minded. The reason for this is nothing revolutionary. It’s a reason that other Skeptics sight as to why they too are open minded. Simply put, I want there to be flying saucers. Are you kidding? Alien visitors from another planet, how awesome would that be? I want there to be a Loch Ness Monster. The idea of some animal surviving from the age of the dinosaurs would be fascinating. I want there to be ghosts. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want there to be an afterlife? ESP? Bring it on. Mindreading would be the bomb. Now, in the spirit of complete disclosure, Bigfoot doesn’t do anything for me. If there really is some big, hairy, naked guy running around in the woods of Montana, I’d just as soon not know about it - but UFO’S?
To make it absolutely clear, as to how much I would love it if there where aliens, I want to state here and now: I WOULD SACRIFICE DIGITS IF THAT WOULD PROVE THE EXISTENCE OF ALIENS. I am serious. I am willing to give up four toes (or two fingers) if that loss would somehow help prove the existence of aliens, - three fingers if the aliens built the pyramids. Now, I am not sure what might initiate such an exchange. Maybe if I found some proof of aliens, and I wanted to share it with the entire world, but at the last minute, government agents discover me. As I make a run for it, I get my hand caught in the screen door. No, that sounds just kind of clumsy - maybe something involving me escaping from a Russian submarine. Yeah, that sounds better.
I’m getting off track. It doesn’t matter. I’ll even take the clumsy way. The point is, I really want there to be aliens. So, that is why I think I am open minded. And that is why I think other Skeptics are open minded. I have heard many of them state the exact same thing that I have just stated. Not the thing about the fingers. I believe I am the only one to say that - but the part about them wanting supernatural things to be true, that, I have heard.
Carl Sagan stated it in many of his books. I’ve heard the head of the New England Skeptic Society, Steve Novella, say it on his podcast. Even James Randi, the king of all the Skeptics, has said stuff like this. They want ESP and flying saucers and ghosts and, yes, they even want there to be a Bigfoot. God knows why.
When they begin talking about these things all those grumpy old Skeptics start sounding like children. So when guys, like that, say they don’t think there is evidence for supernatural stuff, you maybe, have to believe them.
If you read Skeptic literature you’ve probably heard this appeal to impartiality before. But, here’s an angle on this subject that you might not have heard. I’ll state it in the form of a challenge. Show me one guy on the other side of these issues that has said the same thing. I don’t mean, show me a believer who thinks it would be cool if aliens existed. Come on, that’s a dime a million. I’m saying, show me one UFO advocate, who has said, “To be honest, I don’t really like the idea of UFO’s. I don’t think they would really add much to our general knowledge.” Show me one biologist who has said, “The Loch Ness Monster? I assure you the evidence for its existence is most definitely there; but frankly, the entire subject rather bores me. I have asked my university to approve my grant to study the mealy bug instead, those little creatures, now they really are something.” Show me one crypto zoologist who has said, “Yes, unfortunately, I captured Bigfoot but I’m not looking forward to all that re-classifying. It’s just so much paperwork.”
I know you’re thinking this comparison isn’t fare. Scientists wouldn’t be looking for paranormal stuff if they weren’t interested in it. But think about all those physicists in the turn of the century that we’ve read about who really hated quantum physics. It’s messy, anti-intuitive and almost impossible to understand, but reluctantly they accepted it.
The examples that I gave above are written for laughs, but consider the following: Is there a scientist who is a steadfast atheist, searching for ghosts? Show me the atheist who doesn’t believe in life after death but is still searching for ghosts because begrudgingly, the evidence has forced him to accept their existence. Show me the believer who is trying to prove himself wrong.
Instead, what we get are Bigfoot nuts, trying to pass off fuzzy pictures as proof because their favorite episode of the Six Million Dollar Man was the one with the Sasquatch, alien, robot from another planet. Don’t be coy. You know the episode I’m talking about.
So I say to you, show me the reluctant believer, the begrudging advocate. Show me the guy with the proof who continues his research to prove himself wrong, not right. Until then I’ll continue thinking the way I do. I’ll continue to hope for real live aliens but settle for Star Trek. Carl Sagan said it best, “It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is then to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Want to not be a zombie? Change your Mind about something. Find a subject that you hold a specific position on and actively and honestly try to change your own mind on that subject. Do some research, read some of the opposition literature, really make an effort to understand the other side of that position.
I’m not saying give in to some something. I’m saying actively seek out a subject in which you can honestly say “I use to hold position A but after doing more research I now hold position Z which is it’s direct opposite.” You don’t have to change your mind about everything, just find one thing, anything. Start with something that is not to close to you, something you can give up without it meaning much.
You might even try arguing that new position with a friend just to test whether you really understand it. I'll explain using the A and Z thing again. Let’s say you hold position A and your friend also holds position A. (That’s probably why you're friends) I’m saying make an honest and sincere attempt to argue position Z with your friend. Pick something fun, I’m not out to rip apart friendships here. Your friend might think you’re a little crazy but tell them it’s an experiment. Or tell them you were drunk.

Why should you do this? First it will sharpen your critical thinking skills. If you are honestly trying to support your new position Z you will see and point out the flaws in your friend’s position A. Those mistakes were ones that up until a second ago you yourself where making. Second you will discover why your friend holds position A. You might be surprised. They might not be the same reasons that you had for supporting position A. Third and most importantly, it will give you an idea of what you sound like when you were arguing position A. You might not like what you hear. Now you have a chance to correct that. It will make you a better person.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

GOING GAULT


There is a new term floating around the conservative blogesphere - It’s “going Gault” It refers to the protagonist John Galt in Ayn Rand's novel, “Atlas Shrugged." In the book Galt convinces all the captains of industries to go on strike to protest the fact that the rest of the world feeds off of what they (the executives) produce. Many conservatives are suggesting that executives in this country do this very thing to protest against Presidents Obama’s proposed tax hikes targeting the rich. (It’s not really a tax hike but actually just going back to the rates we had under Clinton and Reagan) They say they are going to stop showing up at board meetings and show us workers who the real producers in this country are. I say go right ahead. I would love to see them try. I guarantee if one hundred of the top executives in this country disappeared tomorrow the world wouldn’t even skip a beat. How full of themselves can these people be? The only billionaire that I can think of who actually accomplished something and really deserves to be where they are is maybe Bill Gates. You could have made an argument that if he disappeared, he would truly be missed. But you can’t even make that argument, because guess what? He retired! And the sun rose the next morning. No one even noticed.

Let’s face it. Everyone is expendable. That goes for me along with the CEO of Merrill Lynch.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote, ''Nobody's so damn well educated that you can't learn ninety per cent of what he knows in six weeks. The other ten per cent is decoration.” Vonnegut was being kind. I say the other ten percent is bullshit.


Can you imagine a bunch of top executives going off to an island someplace to live by themselves like they did in that book? These guys probably wouldn’t even be able to dress themselves. In a week they’d be shivering naked and hungry by the shore trying to initiate a hostile takeover of each other’s coconuts.

If the conservatives say go Gault, I say please do.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

THE BEST I CAN DO?



After blasting the Freedom from Religion Foundation last week for coming up with what I thought were lame bus signs, I thought I would try to make one myself. I apologize to them. It’s not that easy. This one I made is clumsy but I am posting it for your amusement anyway.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

THE BEST YOU CAN DO


It started with signs in London that read “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy life.”
Next came signs in DC saying, “Why believe in God? Just be good for goodness sake.” They pictured a young person wearing a Santa outfit and looking like they belong in a Benetton commercial. This is good advertising.
Recently the group Freedom from Religion Foundation paid to have these signs displayed on buses in Madison, Wisconsin. I think promoting Atheism is great. The London and DC sign campaigns were brilliant. With that said, these Madison posters are awful. There are so many things wrong with them, I can't type fast enough. First, they are all too negative. The sepia tone makes me feel like the Atheist movement belongs to the past like buggy whips, and baseball. What’s with Clarence Darrow? He looks like a Vulcan! And butterfly McQueen! Who in God’s name is Butterfly McQueen?
Besides that, if you want to show some famous people who are Atheists don’t quote Richard Dawkins. I personally think he’s dreamy but he makes religious people see red. Why not quote guys like George Carlin he said: If this is the best God can do, I'm not impressed.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Godless In Orlando


A local Atheist group whose meetings I have attended recently wants to start a website and asked its members for name suggestions. Here is my response:
On the question of whether we should use the word atheist in the name of the site - I think it depends on what the purpose of the webpage will be? Do we want to recruit? Then maybe it should like a sports team (O-TownAtheists.com). Do we want to push for policy changes in local government? Then I suggest TheCollisionforLegislativeReason.us. Do we want to have influence on school boards? Then we absolutely have to drop the word Atheist and shove the word family in there someplace. How about AmericanFamiliesForReligiousTruth.org Who could be against Truth? Do we want to get exposure on local news? Then I suggest GodlessOrlando.net. If you want to get on nathional news - ChristiansAreDumb.com. Do we want a Facebook hookup site? Then go with FreeThoughtChicks.cc. Or, do we just want to alert members as to where the next party will be held? HeathenCentral.info. I’m hoping they go for the last one.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

METEORS AND TAXES


Have you heard of the “fair tax?” Throw away all taxes and just institute an across the board sales tax on everything. It sounds like a good idea at first, right? The problems arise when you stop to really think about it.
Forget about the problem with the actual legislation. It doesn’t eliminate the IRS as promised just changes the name. It doesn’t eliminate state income taxes, local city sales taxes, lodging taxes, or even federal gas taxes as promised, just adds to them. It would encourage the expansion of a nearly impossible to monitor underground economy. And it has built into the actual legislation a system of rebates basically neutralizing its “non-progressive” selling point. Forget about all that.
Let’s take a few seconds and look at the basic idea itself. Is the basic idea really fair?
As I see it the “fair tax” falls short do to one basic flaw. It mixes essentials (things we all need to exist) with nonessentials. Here are four scenarios that will help you understand why this is a problem.
1) A meteor is heading to earth. In a unique moment of unity (and for the sake of this example) all the scientists agree on what to do. They have designed a spaceship and it will go to the meteor and blow it up (or move it or turn it into whipped cream it doesn’t matter here). The problem is that it will cost a huge amount of money. In another unique moment of unity all the world governments have agreed on how to pay for it. First problem solved. The new problem is that they have come up with two different plans. You have to pick the plan they should use.
The first plan is that every human on earth each must pay the same amount - one million dollars each to pay for the rocket. If you don’t have the million, the government will take everything you do have and you must work off the remaining amount you owe. The advocates of this plan say it’s fair because each person must pay the exact same amount of money to continue to live.
The second way we could pay for it is that everyone is taxed 5% of their net assets.
In the first example even though everyone benefits in the same degree (the benefit is that the earth is not destroyed) not everyone solders the same burden. Only the rich come out unscathed. In the second example everyone losses 5% of their assets. Everyone is saddled with the same burden although each pays a different amount.
The planet Earth is an essential. Without it we die. The bill for the spaceship should of cause be based on what people can afford - not on the same number for everyone
I know a 5% tax on net worth is not progressive. And I know you think this example supports your “faire tax” but just hang in for little while more. Sometimes ideas are not one-liners. Sometimes ideas are complicated and take more than a second to explain.
Next scenario….
2) There have been a number of devastating voting scandals recently. Hackers have figured a way to bring our voting system to its knees. Once again in a unique moment of unity all the scientists have come up with a solution - voting machine that is unhackable . (I know nothing is unhackable, heck that isn’t even a word but again for the sake of this example, go along with this.) The problem is that the machines will cost a lot of money. To pay for this, the government has instituted a poll tax. Everyone who votes pays the same amount - $5,000. Is this fair? If you even begin to say “yes, this would be fair” don’t bother reading any farther. Go directly to the library and read about Supreme Court decisions on poll taxes.
Liberty is an essential. Access to voting (the taxes we pay for the machines) should be based on the amount a person can afford, not on arbitrary one-number-fits-all rule.
Next scenario…
3) Two men are accused of committing the same type of crime. They are both innocent but each still must be tried. The trial is to be held in 30 day. The judge sets bail. Each must pay the same amount - $1,000. The innocent poor man does not have the money and must spend the 30 days in prison. Because he can’t come to work the poor man loses his job, and because he doesn’t have a job he is evicted from his apartment. When the trial rolls around he is found innocent (because he is). The innocent rich man, on the other hand, posts bail, spends the 30 days going about his business and when the trial roils around is also found not guilty (and he is). Even though they were both asked to pay the same amount in bail, were they treated equally?
Now let’s say they were both found guilty (and now they really did do it). They beat their wives. The judge treats them the same. Both men must pay a fine of $10,000 or 30 days in prison. The poor man can’t come up with the money and goes to jail (as he should). The rich man writes a check and walks out of the courthouse. As he is leaving the bailiff overhears the rich guy say to his lawyer, “Hell ten grand! I’ll write a check for twenty grand so you can bring the bitch back and I can smack here around again.”
Justice is an essential. It must be based on a person’s means. I’m not saying lower the amount of money the poor man has to pay. I’m saying if he is just as guilty, raise the amount the rich guy has to pay. Raise it to an amount he (the rich guy) also cannot afford so he too must spend time in jail.
Now see what I just did? I introduced a situation in which it was fair to take into consideration how much money a person makes to when deciding on monetary fairness.
Next scenario… hang in there remember I said sometimes things are complicated.
3) We have two people. One is rich, one is poor. They are the same in every way. They are even the same height, weight, and physical condition. They both take in about 2000 calories a day to sustain them. The taxes on the bare minimum amount of food for a person of their height weight and build to live (the 2000 cal a day) are about $3000 a year for each. Under the “faire tax” both of them must pay the same amount - $3000 a year. That is a minimum amount of money each must pay every year to live.
Just as we established a planet is an essential and should be taxed a percentage of a person’s net worth so too are the 2000 calories an essential.
In this case you are asking each person to give the same flat amount of money for an essential. You are not asking them to suffer the same boredom - say 5% of their net assets for that essential. You’re asking each to pay $3000 flat. Weather they are Bill Gates or some homeless guy who happens to be the same height and weight as Bill Gates, each must pay at least $3000 minimum to live. As in the case of the meteor, the homeless guy will be saddle with a impossible bourbon while the Bill comes out relatively unscathed. If this idea is unfair in the case of the meteor (each need a planet under their feet to live) how is it faire in this case? Each needs the 2000 calories to live.
To be clear, please do not think I am arguing against taxing nonessentials. If a “fair tax” means taxing 5% on all nonessentials, sign me up. I am all for taxing video games for the poor or yachts for the rich. (Although the people who make yachts and video games might not like that) I am only against this “fair tax” if it taxes essentials at a flat rate. Essentials really need to be taxed according to means. So,you’re probably thinking, it’s an easy enough fix this. We could just exempt a few foods, say milk and bread from the tax. What about produce? Ok and produce. Now I’ve introduced a couple of exemptions into the” fair tax. “
4) Finally, to wrap this up (thank God). Let’s make it even clearer. Image two men, (last two guys I promise) both are the same, same build, same height and same strength. They are both steel workers. They make I-beams for our bridges, our battleships, the buildings we live and work in. Both work equally hard and both make a respectable salary. (as they should) But neither can afford health insurance. The problem is that one of the men has a genetic blood disorder. It was diagnosed when he was a child. He is prescribed a complicated and expensive regiment of drugs. As long as he stays on them he will stay healthy, and continue to build big metal things and contribute to the American way of life. But if he deviates from the regiment he will die. The man with the blood disorder works the night shift and extra hours at the factory to pay for his drugs and treatment. He doesn’t complain because he thinks everyone must play the hand he is dealt. But along comes the “fair tax.” Because he consumes more (namely those expensive drugs, bimonthly doctor visits, and continual blood monitoring tests) he pays more in taxes then the healthy man. They both contribute the same to society, yet the man with the medical problems must pay more in taxes to live. And understand, I am not saying here that it is unfair that the sick man must pay more for his treatments. Remember I said he doesn’t mind working more for those treatments and that medication. What I am saying is, it is unfair that he has to pay more in taxes on top of that other burden. Surely, this man can be given a tax break? Maybe we could apply some small bit of a sliding scale!
And here is where it starts getting complicated. If you n give our deserved steelworker and people like him a little tax break to make it truly fair, then which medical expenditure should be eligible Should it be only life threatening ones or could we include expenditure that address chronic pain like arthritis? Are eye glasses essential? A draftsman or surgeon would say they are for him or her to make a living. Maybe you go back to the previous example and you exempt food from the “fair tax.” Is bread exempt? Is a twinky? It’s a food, I think. What about toilet paper? It’s not food but it’s kind of essential. What about cleaning supplies? Is a clean house an essential? Is hygiene essential?
I’m not saying our tax system works. It obviously does not. But just because our tax system is not fair in its present state it is a fallacy to automatically come to the conclusion…therefore this other tax system is fair. That conclusion does not necessarily follow from that premise. In critical thinking class this is the definition of the fallacy of a non-sequitur.
What I am saying is that you’re fooling yourself if you think a one size fits all tax system will be more fair. The “fair tax” sounds good when you say it fast. It probably looks good on a bumper sticker, but that’s not how ideas are, and that’s not how the world is. The world is complicated and messy, and yes sometimes even anti-intuitive… and unfortunately (if we ever come up with one) that’s probably how any real fair tax system is going to be.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

THE DOWSING MACHINE


My friend who is participating in the dowsing test emailed me. Here is part of the email:
Please bear in mind that we are testing a specific and limited form of dowsing - I have never made any claims regarding dowsing for water, underground cavities, or anything other than ferrous metals - in fact, I am very skeptical about these other types of dowsing. We could also test the subterranean flowing water type of dowsing in another experiment, but it would require a different, and more complicated, test setup. I'd also like to build a dowsing machine to totally remove human subjectivity from the process, but this too is for later. Do you have a date or place in mind? We need to make this into a fun interesting event!
My response:
You are correct. First priority is that the test must be fun. I propose that all the guests at the party state which result they think will prevail, Skepticism or Dowsing. They are each given something to identify their position (preferably a silly hat). Each time the test is performed the losing group must drink a shot. You and I can each personally decide whether we want to participate in this rule. My first inclination is to say no, but if the results of the test start not going my way I will probably be looking for an excuse to drink.
Of cause you can teach people how to Dows. Once you prove it, I will be the first in line, if I’m not too drunk.
As to the subject of a dowsing machine - a test in which the human could be taken out of the equation would be even easer then one that includes a person. All we need to do is buy two small vases (the type that hold a single rose). Place the two vases on the ground and place one divining rod in each, then, simple walk toward them with a piece of rebar. If the rods turn toward the rebar then there is some unknown force moving the rods. (given of course that neither the rebar or rods is magnetized) If the rods do not move then the human body has something to do with the phenomena. The body may act as an antenna or some type of amplifier. This is why one of the less goofy questions in my questionnaire was about if the rods moved in your hands by themselves. I also asked if the rods or rebar were magnetized. If either the rods or rebar are magnetized then the divining rods would naturally turn toward the rebar, although distance is a factor. When you double the distance from a magnet its force declines by a factor of 8. That’s a lot, given that when you stand hold divining rods in your hands you are maybe 5' to 7' from the metal pipe. Magnetism is just not that strong. Consider the fact that it takes something as big as the earth to move a Compass. A compass points north even though it is sitting on the dashboard of a car, literally incased in metal. If the rods in the vase do not move, maybe you are the amplifier or maybe it’s nothing more than the ideomotor effect. Yes, we scientists often use terms like ideomoter effect. I sometimes even find myself throwing out terms like nanobytes and integrated luminosity for no particular reason what so ever. That’s just the way us scientists roll.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

DRUNKEN DOWSING: cherry picking


I want to talk a little bit about a logical fallacy called “Cherry Picking,” but first I should bring you up to date on the dowsing test that my friend and I are working on.
I was really pleased with what my dowsing friend Tom (not his real name) said at the last party. He suggested for the dowsing test I hide rebar in one of several PVC pipes. I went to Home Depot and purchased some 2 ½“ PVC and 4 pieces of rebar. I plan to cluster the 4 pieces of rebar together and place the cluster in one of five PVC pipes for him to pick.
I was thinking that the day of the test Tom could designate 5 spots in the backyard that he feels are clear of any interference. We could put towels down to mark those spots. I would then place the PVC pipes on those spots. He would use his dowsing ability to pick which PVC pipe contained the cluster of rebar. We would do this a number of times. Each time I would switch out which piece of PVC contained the rebar.
Tom thought each round should have 10 choices (10 pieces of PVC). I liked that idea also but thought it requires a big reset for each round. One person can’t reset 10 pieces of PVC easily and because I am horribly cynical, there is no way I’m letting anyone else touch the PVC. Knowing my friends they would quickly become bored between rounds and start wandering away perhaps into the nearby lake. That would be tragic. I thought 5 pieces of PVC would be a better number because we can just double it to figure out the percentage. If we do the test ten times, and Tom has only chance on his side, he should be able to choose the correct PVC twice. 5 choices for each round also make it easy for me to randomize my PVC choices because I can use dice. I will just ignore the number 6 whenever I roll it.
The idea of videotaping all of this (which I love) also came up. I have an award winning filmmaker friend who said he is ready to film. I am required by him to mention the award any time I talk about him. So, Youtube, here we come.
This brings me to “Cherry Picking.” Tom and I both agreed that we shouldn’t let anyone else try dowsing at the party until after the test is finished and the dowsing claim is confirmed (or not). Letting everyone try dowsing first off leads to a false positive on tests called “cherry picking the results.” Basically cherry picking goes like this: During the test, Tom might not be able to show a greater then chance ability to dowse but (given enough people trying) someone will. That is just how averages work. Some people do below average. Some people do above average. If you get ten people each to flip a coin, say four times, the overall average is going to be around 50%. But, one of those people might get four heads in a row (just as one of them might get four tails in a row). If the person who got four heads in a row didn’t know any better he or she would walk away from the test thinking that every time they flipped a coin it will come up heads. That is what would happen if we let everyone take a swipe at guessing were the pipe is. By sheer chance alone one of those people (say Mary) has to do better than chance, just as one of those people (say Sally) has to do worse than chance. And then Mary will walk away thinking she has some dowsing ability. Everyone will forget about the original claim Tom made about dowsing and instead focus on Mary and her amazing skill. The belief in dowsing would continue and I would be left alone drunk and naked passed out in the back yard. I’m not sure how the last part would happen but trust me it always does.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

DRUNKEN DOWSING PART 2


Here is the next installment of the dowsing test.

(DOWSER- TOM – not his real name)
Let’s make the Dowsing experiment into a kind of performance piece/party! I'll bring plenty of dowsing rods - I know that after I prove that dowsing is true, everyone will want to learn how. Maybe even you!

(ME)
A test at a party would be great but not at the one coming up. We have not yet come up with the protocol for the experiment. And as the Wicked Witch of the West has said, "These things have to be done delicately."
I would love to learn how to dowse. You may not know this but there are a number of science organizations around the world which will award you large sums of money (we are talking a million dollars) if you can demonstrate to them that you can do what you claim. But we are getting a little ahead of ourselves. Why don't we see if you can dowse first? Then we can have a dowsing rave because you are going to be rich.
From what I have read these science groups usually start out their tests with a questionnaire to get the applicant to specify their claim, so that is what I am sending you.
I want to do this questionnaire thing through email because I think this experience would make a good article for one of those ponderous Skeptic magazines I'm always trying to get published in. Don't worry; I won't use your name. In fact, I'm hoping to get drunk enough at the dowsing party that I won’t want to use my name either.

PS, you can dress up like a guinea pig if you think that will help.


DOWSING QUESTIONNAIR
As a licensed science TV watcher I feel I am eminently qualified to administer this test. The following is a series of questions to help us agree on a protocol. Once you answer these questions, we can come up with some suggested parameters for the experiment. Feel free to email back to me any ideas you think might help, any rules that you would like to change, or any rules you cannot agree to. Also please add any excuse to drink alcohol during the test. I don’t think this will help the results but it will certainly make the experimenting more interesting.
Please answer the questions fully. Add any information or qualifications that you see fit. If you do not know the answer to a question or are unsure feel free to include that in your response. Or say “this is a dumb question.” Please include curse words only when needed.

1) As I understand it, you claim that by holding two bent metal surveyor flags in your hands (one in each hand) and walking around in a field, you can detect a pipe made of ferrous metal buried in the ground in that field. Is that correct? If you would like, please feel free to describe your ability in your own words.
2) What would you estimate is your success rate?
3) How far away from the point you indicate (radius) can the pipe be for you to still consider it a successful detection (hit)?
4) How deep can the pipe be for you to still consider it a hit?
5) If you pointed to a spot and did not find a metal pipe but instead found a terracotta, cement, plastic or PVC pipe would you still consider that a hit?
6) Are the pipes you detect always water pipes or can they be pipes carrying wires, sewage, fiber optics or gas?
7) Does electrical power running through the wires in the pipes affect your results?
8) Does your body act as an antenna and somehow focus energy in a way that facilitates detection?
9) Do the metal rods move in your hands by themselves or do you move them (even if just subconsciously)?
10) As you walk and search, do you continue standing straight up or do you have to crouch close to the ground? In other words, how much does distance from the ground affect your abilities?
11) How long does it typically take you to perform a detection?
12) Can you always perform this action or do you have good days and bad days?
13) Does the season or time of day affect your results?
14) Does rain, temperature, or weather affect your results?
15) If you are tired will your results change?
16) Does repeated testing affect your results?
17) Does the presence of other people or animals affect your results?
18) Does jeweler worn by other people affect your results?
19) Does drinking affect your results?
20) Will I be allowed to hold and inspect the surveyor flags before the experiment begins?
21) Will I be allowed to wear a lab coat while doing so?
22) Will what I am wearing under the lab coat affect your results?
23) Do you have favorite surveyor flags?
24) Do they have names?
25) Are the surveyor flags you use magnetized?
26) Will I be allowed to test whether they are magnetized by bringing them in contact with some other ferrous metals?
27) You mentioned that the force that you are detecting may or may not be magnetism. Will bringing your surveyor flags in contact with ferrous metals before the experiment have any effect on the results?
28) Does the presence of trees or nearby power lines affect your results?
29) Does the presence of drunken people affect your results?
30) I understand that the pipes you are able to find are made of ferrous metals. Am I correct in understanding that those pipes do not have to de magnetized for you to be able to detect them?
31) Would the presence of any of the following materials affect your results? water, wire, fiber optics, sand, cardboard, paper, cloth, wood, plastic, ice or alcohol.
32) As part of this experiment (and if you agree) I think I will be hiding a length of pipe in one of a number of cardboard or plastic boxes. If I use a pipe made of ferrous metal as the object of the test, what would you say is the shortest length that you would feel confident in detecting. Although I would like you to specify a short length to facilitate the test, I also want you to pick a length that would make you perfectly comfortable. What is the shortest length of pipe (and suggested diameter) that you feel that you can detect in a cardboard or plastic box?
33) If I did hide the pipe in a box, would a plastic box or a cardboard box be ok?
34) If we do use a metal pipe you will be allowed to approve and inspect the pipe. Before the beginning of the experiment the pipe will be checked to make sure it is not magnetized. If the pipe is checked for magnetism by bringing it in contact with other ferrous metals will that affect the outcome of the test.
35) Would putting sand in the boxes with the pipe (to equalize the weight and prevent the pipe from rolling in the box) affect the results?
36) Since I will suggest we perform this test in Claire and my backyard does the presence of a lake affect your results?
37) Since we will be, (I hope), in a party situation, when this experiment is performed, would people passed out in the backyard affect the results?
38) Will nudity affect the results? (I would like to make it clear that that last question is in no way related to what I will be wearing under my lab coat.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

AS CLEAR AS MUD


First off, I would like to say Happy New Year. I can’t seem to shake this nagging feeling that 2009 will be a really good year.
Recently our local, progressively minded, free newspaper, The Orlando Weekly, printed an article in which they asked local newsmakers what they thought 2009 will be like. They chose some county commissioners, a radio news personality, and some local charity board members to use their crystal balls to pear into the future. The responses the paper received were interesting but not outstanding with the exception of one, Kim Wade, resident “psychic” at a New Age Shop in Orlando called Avalon. I want to compliment Wade for her STUNNING AND DARING predictions for 2009.
Without the benefit of ESP, gay activist, Michael Wanzie foresees Florida’s ban on gay adoption being lifted in 2009. Kim Wade, on the other hand, went out on a limb to say “Political things will be front-row center” in 2009.
Because of the slowing economy, reporter, Mike Synan of WDBO radio was willing to predict the renovation of the Citrus Bowl would be canceled. By contrast, Wade, really put her money where her mouth was by predicting “We’re going to start tightening the belts.“ She wouldn’t even say “our belts.” because that would be too much of a commitment. She said “the belts.” Someone someplace will be tightening some belts that may or may not belong to them.
Even County Commissioner, Robert Stuart was weak in predicting a second national championship for the Florida Gators. But, Wade demonstrated a powerful, penetrating vision that burrows into the murky future like a laser by stating “We’re going to see more as far as – it’s not going to be so much the big guy as far as money, big time.” …… What???