Thursday, December 30, 2010

Frolicking Reindeer

Until I have time to write some more angry skeptical rants here is a frolicking reindeer.  ok, maybe its an elk.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

How a Skeptic Deals With “The Santa Problem”

My wife and I were out with another couple and their daughter the other night. Since it is nearly Christmas, I asked the little girl the obligatory question, “what is Santa bringing you.” The seven year old responded coldly, by stating there is no Santa Clause. I glanced over at the parents. Obviously displeased with their daughter’s discovery, they were rolling their collective eyes. Without revealing my own position on the subject, I asked the little girl why she did not believe in Santa.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Island of Misfit Toys


















How would you like to be a spotted elephant or a choo choo with square wheels on your caboose or a water pistil that shoots jelly? We’re all misfits!

Click on the page fold to read more.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Skepticism and Art

All the well-known Skeptics are globetrotting this week so, in an attempt to fit in, I thought I would tell you about my recent trip.  Art Basel is an international art exhibition held each year in both, Basel, Switzerland, and Miami, USA.  I went to the one in Miami, because I don’t think my car would make it to Switzerland.  If you ever find yourself in South Florida around the first week of December try to make it over to some of these shows.  From Picasso to Shepard Fairey to Hello Kitty, I promise there is some art collection just for you.

This year my wife and I concentrated on the smaller fringe shows which popped up around the main convention.  This gave us the opportunity to see incredible cutting edge stuff along with (to be frank) some real crap.  My wife is good at defining which is which.  Fanciful taxidermy creating a whimsical creature which is part iridescence peacock and part full scale rhinoceroses – that’s art.  Decaying foam seat cushion secured to the wall with a piece of wood – that’s crap.

The experience reminded me of a film I saw a while back focusing on a painting know as “Man with Golden Helmet.”   It is a beautiful work of art, owned by the Staatliche Museum in Berlin.  Up until recently, this work was attributed to Rembrandt van Rijn.  It depicts a somber soldier wearing a decorative helmet, staring sternly at the viewer.  The juxtaposition of the old war-hardened man and the elaborately cast helmet is magnified by delicate brush strokes emulating the dancing and glowing light on the polished metal.  The entire thing has that ethereal Rembrandt radiance and was the museums crown jewel.  It was world famous. The museum had a specially curtained off section, devoted to it and crowds of people would line up three rows deep to get a glimpse of the little painting. Then suddenly, in 1985, a council of art experts determined that the work was not painted by Rembrandt at all, but instead, most likely created by one of his students. 

That’s when people stopped coming around to see the little painting.  With no more crowds, the painting was moved to a side wall of the museum, around a corner.  If you didn’t know to look for it today, you might walk right past it.  It’s the same painting, just as beautiful, just as masterfully crafted, only the master isn’t Rembrandt.  The painting’s worth has been downgraded to a tenth of what it was originally.  But as a reviewer noted, what is a tenth of priceless?

As we walked through Art Basel, my wife picking off art as though it were a shooting gallery, this one’s art; this one’s crap. Art, art, crap, BLAM, BLAM, BLAM! I thought there was a Skeptical lesson here.  I, for one, am not too quick to define what is “art,” and what is not.  I’m more of the opinion that everything that man makes (or has ever made) is art, from feather covered sculptures, to things nailed to a wall.  As to whether it is good art or bad art - that’s a different story.  And as to whether other people will perceive what you create as being true art…well, I think that’s just dumb blind luck. 

   golden helmet hello kitty copy

Monday, November 22, 2010

MALE PROSTITUTES AND THE POPE

pope and male prositute copy
“Pope Benedict XVI says in a new book that condoms can be justified for male prostitutes seeking to stop HIV.” He doesn’t approve the use of condoms for any other group in the entire world - just male prostitutes. For a subject that hasn’t been in the news lately, that’s a strangely specific decree, isn’t it?

I mean it’s kind of like if your boss had you over for dinner, and you were complimenting him on the meal he served, when suddenly he blurts out “I don’t think it’s wrong if a person masturbates to an image of Misses Howell from Gilligan’s Island.”

ok…ah…great…um…I really like these vegetables.

Friday, November 5, 2010

SHOULD I BE A DICK?

I will not lie to you, as I write this; the news from the trenches is not encouraging. The enemies of reason are on the march. We are being attacked from all fronts.  Because the struggle is so long and so exhausting some of you might begin to blame your fellow soldier for the slow progress of the entire movement. We must not give in to this, seductive temptation. For, although it seems like our foes have us greatly outnumbered, We have right on our side!..AND WE HAVE A SECRET WEAPON.
If you don’t know, there is war going on in the Freethought community. Skeptics think that Atheists are pushing their message too hard. Atheists are accusing Skeptics of being accommodationist. And everyone just ignores the Humanists because, let’s face it, they don’t know how to get any press anyway. The following is a letter that I have sent to some Freethought and Skeptic magazines:

The debate over whether to be nice or not while practicing Skepticism seems to be missing an important component …numbers. Every facet of the Freethought movement (Skepticism, Atheism and Humanism) seems to have blossomed in the last few years, but honestly none of us can really say that what we are personally doing contributed to this. A survey every ten years reporting how many Americans “believe in evolution” doesn’t cut it.

I put forth a challenge to all sides – STATISTICS AT TWENTY PACES. Let us remember who we are. We are, each of us, scientists at heart. We do not accept a hypothesis merely because it sounds good. We demand proof. I call for a new emphasis on statistics. I call everyone, be you Skeptic, Atheist or Humanist, to go forth and seek out new ways to measure whether what you are doing is having any effect. I for one do not want to waste my time preaching to the choir. I want to accomplish something.

Go ahead and try new things; put up billboards in Georgia, give out vaccinations at comic book conventions, even roll up pages of the Koran and smoke them if you want, but come up with some type of metric beforehand that shows that what you are doing is having an effect. That’s how a scientist would do it. Not by giving a lecture but by timing weighted balls dropped from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We Freethinkers have a secret weapon in this war against reason. We know numbers don’t lie. In this debate, one side might be right or all sides might be right but we will never know without a way to measure it. Like all of you, I demand proof. I say RELEASE THE ACTUARIES!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Scientology – Return of the Archons

 scientology
Recently I found myself in the town of Clearwater, Florida, world headquarters of a unique organization. My office was, maybe 400 yards, from what was once the First National Bank of Clearwater. The sturdy neoclassic designed building was decorated with massive Greek columns and the words “Church of Scientology” newly carved in the freeze.

Apparently, the preferred wardrobe for many of the Church of Scientology members is simple black pants, black shoes and white button down shirts. I did not know this until recently. When I first arrived in Clearwater, I just thought the town employed an unusually high number of French waiters.
I was there for f weeks.  Everyone in town was nice. I was never approached by devoted followers or dragged away and brainwashed by cult operatives. (At least I don’t think I was. That’s the funny thing about brainwashing. You never can know for sure, can you?)

There was one interesting moment during my stay in the town, which I would like to describe to you all. It was on a Saturday, I found myself having to work the weekend. I had skipped breakfast and was the only one in the office so around noon I finally decided to take a walk to get something to eat. Downtown Clearwater has a charming, small town, main street. It seems like the local government spent a lot of money recently to fix it up - restored storefronts, neat sidewalks and a green median, with a sculpture and fountain. The sad thing is, despite the refurbished facades, all the stores are empty, (I suppose, as a consequence of the economic downturn.) The weather was wonderful. It was the beginning of fall, which is the only reason Floridians put up with six months of what seems like living on the hot side of the planet Mercury. Because it was Saturday, no one was downtown, the street was beautiful but empty with an ideal breeze rustling the palm trees. Everything was just right in a kind of Truman Show sort of way. As I walked down the street, my stomach grumbling, a crowd of Scientologists started streaming out of the large church. (I suppose they have to eat too) and the street, a ghost town, a moment before, was now filled with people, all serene and polite, all wearing black pants, black shoes and white shirts. So there it was, a perfect day, on a perfect street, with no activity going on behind the perfect business facades, and with everyone dressed exactly the same, like a scene straight out of The Stepford Wives.  The only thing out of place was me, hungry, and cranky, weaving through it all, in my ratty sneakers and Hawaiian shirt, desperately looking for a place that would sell me a ham sandwich.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

“Today I Quit Being a Christian” By Jesus Christ

This just in: Today, on his Twitter page, Jesus Christ, philosopher and rumored “Son of God” announced “I quit being a Christian. I’m out. ”
Twitter followers were stunned. “I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-science, anti-movies, anti-Halloween, anti-Harry Potter, anti-Teletubbies, anti-science fiction conventions, anti-Indian food, anti-Large Hadron Collider, anti-big words, anti-yoga, anti-Karma Sutra (pages 17 thru 49), anti-news that isn’t Fox, anti-history books, anti-Wikipedia, anti-trees, and especially anti-Will and Grace. I mean come on, who didn’t like Will and Grace. Jack was so funny. Am I right?”
“I just, in good conscience, can no longer associate myself with this quarrelsome, hostile (and frankly way to needy) group. They all just need to get a life, always asking me for stuff. “Can you give me the lottery numbers? Will you rig the football games so my team will win? Can you smite the entire population of that country, over there, so I can continue to drive my SUV?” It’s tiresome.

How do your friends feel about this decision?
I suppose have a lot of Christian friends.  I never really thought about it.  They’re going to be disappointed. I understand that, but let’s face it. A lot of them had it coming. I don’t mind sitting there listening to them talking about their kids or their crumby job, but when they start talking about burning Korans and blabbering about the Tea Party and how great Glen Beck is, I just turn off. And when I started seeing the “Palin/Coulter 2012” bumper sticker, frankly, I thought my head was going to explode.

Monday, September 20, 2010

People, Who Believe the Devil Exists, Don’t Believe In God.

Recently during an email exchange with a friend of mine (in which I was trying to explain to him that the bible was not literally true) my friend explained to me that I was being controlled by the Devil. Although I was shocked (and yes, I’ll admit, a little bit flattered) I chose to I ignore the accusation. I was not going to be suckered into a long debate about the existence of Satan. Instead I decided to take the high road and focused on my friend’s assertion that evolution was wrong because of the fact that we humans cannot reach every part of our own body to scratch ourselves. True story.

Now that I have a little more time on my hands I decided I will take the bait and turn my attention to THE DARK ONE. Let me make a clear declarative statement. People, who believe the Devil exists, cannot also believe in God (at least not God as most of us understand him). When I Goggled the idea that people can’t believe in both God and the Devil I was surprised nothing came right up. I’m sure I did not think this up myself. Most of my philosophical and religious positions are either based on dim memories from my college philosophy class or merely reinterpretations of old Twilight Zone plots. So I assumed this idea of mine is not new. But, since it is not present in the popular discussions on the internet, I think I should take the time to explain it by offering a formal logical proof.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Future is Groovy

I’ve been pulling 12 hour days lately and have had no time to write, so to make it up to you, I thought I would show you a video of what I GUARANTEE the future will be like.

 

Did you see the size of those fish?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This Could Be Craziest Post I Have Ever Written

A while back I spoke about pareidolia, the act of seeing specific images in vague random shapes. It was easy for me to find a bunch of pictures of the virgin marry to illustrate the phenomena, So I started looking for some pictures of the big man, himself. They were also easy to find - Jesus on toast, Jesus in an x-ray, Jesus in a Kit Kat bar. But, there was one picture in particular, that I came across, that I specifically did not use. When you stare at this picture, if you squint your eyes, and you use your imagination you can clearly see the image of Jesus in…I’m sorry, I can’t say it. It is too crude for my blog. Believe it or not, I DO want to maintain a certain civility in my posts. And this image of Jesus would be crossing the line.

But I can’t stop thinking about it. Not because of where the image is, but because of what the implications of this image appearing in this particular place, are. You see, the fact that the image of Jesus can clearly be seen in… this place, could very well be absolute proof that there is no God.

According to Christian beliefs, God is responsible for all things. He designs the sunsets. He determines the number of leaves on every tree. And, he determines the growth patterns on the hair on….

If he really existed, he did this. He is responsible for this image. He is the guy who put THAT there. There is no way around it. You can’t say it was man’s fault for seeing it. God is all knowing. He knew that there would be some bozo with a cell phone camera and the rudimentary skills to upload images to the internet. If God didn’t want us to see Jesus in this place then why has he been conditioning us for all these years to spot Jesus in all those other places - in potato chips, and tree bark and oil stains? If Jesus really is appearing in all those ordinary places then you can’t blame us if we suddenly see him so clearly in…NO I WON’T SAY IT.

God does not exist. That is the only reasonable explanation. The alternative is too appalling to imagine. There can be no other explanation. If he exists, he is an insane deity, baiting us, wanting us to identify this horrible image. He is waiting, like a tiger in the tall grass, waiting to judge us unworthy, to cast us to hell - ready to pounce, wishing with all his heart that we fail. GOD IS MAD, YERNING TO ENVELOP US ALL….. Oh, ok. Here’s the picture.

Monday, August 16, 2010

F*ck Me, Ray Bradbury

I want to be the first one to link to this.

I love at the end when she slaps the girl wearing the Kurt Vonnegut T shirt.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Is the oil spill really that bad?

The following is either the thought process of a skeptic or the mad scribblings of a schizophrenic mind.  First the obligatory disclaimer - All of the preliminary investigation suggests BP was grossly negligent in regards to the recent oil spill. BP should pay every cent for the cleanup and be heavily fined for the damage that it caused to the environment and to people’s lives. (Offer not valid where prohibited by law.)

With that said, will the Gulf recover from this spill a lot faster than we expected? From the beginning something didn’t seem right about the media’s coverage of this spill. What I remember from the Exxon Valdez disaster are images of scores of workers in hazmat suits using giant pressure sprayers along large runs of coastlines. I haven’t seen that here. I know this spill is bad but why is it that all of the images I see of this disaster only involve close ups of fish and frames of marshland about 20 to 30 feet wide.

Oh Nick, don’t be suckered. The reason you don’t see those images is because there is a conspiracy by BP and the government to prevent reporters near the cleanup.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Portraits of Strangers

I’ve said I don’t really like people much, but I DO love the Human race. Take a second to go to this wed site on flicker called Portraits of Strangers. Human Beings are wonderful.
human race

Saturday, July 31, 2010

HOW OPINION POLLS WORK

Yesterday the Skeptical community was abuzz about a crooked poll, PZ Myers found on a creationist website. It reminded me of this clip from a great, British sitcom I loved in the 80’s called “Yes Minister.”
If you don’t know, PZ Myers is a biology professor at the University of Minnesota Morris. On his website, Pharyngula, he is a distinguished bulldog, relentlessly fighting the nonsense that is creationism and intelligent design.

The poll question was:
What do you believe about evolution?
It’s a religion. 46%
It’s a fact! 43%
It’s a reasonable scientific theory 11%
The skullduggery here, as PZ points out, is that the creationists split the reasonable choice into two, thereby ensuring its loss and their win.

Monday, July 26, 2010

URBAN LEGEND TRUE

animals at the zoo were shocked copySomeone at the office told me this story: It seems there was this zoo in Bristol, England, which had a small secondary parking lot that was owned and administered, not by the zoo, but by the city. It was manned by a loyal parking attendant, who in 25 years , never missed a day of work. That is until one day, when the parking attendant didn’t show up for work. The zoo administrator called the city to tell them they needed to send a replacement over. The city said they had no idea what the zoo administrator was talking about. The city had no employee collecting money for them in that location. It seems this phony parking attendant had been collecting money and pocketing it. They figured it was 400 pounds a day for the past 25 years. When the authorities went to the employee’s home they found it empty and no one knows what had become of him.


When I heard this story, immediately my “skepty” sense started tingling. I informed my coworker that what he just told me was probably an urban legend. Don’t get me wrong. It was a great story. Hard working bloke, bucks the system, gets away with millions, probably sitting on a beach somewhere. The problem is that this story has red flags all over it:

It’s about “some guy.” He has no name.

It takes place in another country, but since the city is identified that gives it a little authenticity.

It’s about something we would all like to be true. No one is really hurt by the crime. After twenty five  years, you could say, the guy earned the money.

But, did the guy never miss a day at work? He even worked weekends?

How could he have gone 25 years without ever blabbing about his scam to at least one other person? He never had one too many beers at a pub, and started bragging?

This was a simple call. I didn’t believe this story for a second. I told my work friend immediately, to go to the website, Snopes. If you don’t know, Snopes, it is a great resource to check out the validity of urban legends.

Now here is where the twist comes in. My friend looked at the web site and said,” SNOPES CONFIRMED THIS STORY TO BE TRUE”. I instantly became confused. How could this be? It makes no sense. All the rules of logic, that I’ve come to rely on, seem to be letting me down. All the analytical thinking, the baloney detectors, they all were failing. Up was down. Down was up. Twinkies were good for you, and we’re all wearing monkey pajamas. The room was spinning.

Then my friend corrected himself. “oh no wait. I’m reading it wrong. ‘true story’ is the title of the email that was going around. Nope it’s a fake”
And all is right with the world.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

DISCO STROBE LIGHT AND RACOONS IN MY GARAGE HAVE LED ME TO MY FIRST PODCAST

Here is the progression. After discovering the dirty animals in the rafters I started asking friends what I should do about it. Some suggested poison, but I was afraid my cat might get into that. Some said I should trap the animal but I already have experience with this. In the end, you find yourself in possession of a ravenous, spitting, growling, devil beast contained in a flimsy cage, which you then have to set free in the woods someplace. Here is a little advice. After relating the ghastly story to your friends of trying to unlatch the cage door for this flea (and possibly rabies) infested vermin, do not finish by showing them a picture that you snapped on your phone of the trapped beast. All you will elicit is sympathy for the monster and comments of how cruel YOU are. I swear there was spitting and growling and clawing at the cage handle. It was horrific

So where does the strobe light fit in? Well one of my friends suggested I put a strobe light in my garage at night. He said this would drive the raccoons out. And although this guy smokes a lot of weed, his suggestion seamed to make sense. I like thinking outside the box.  Here is a solution that doesn’t involve hurting the animal and also doesn’t involve personal danger to myself. We should all try new things.  So I got out my disco strobe light (yes I have a disco strobe light) and hooked it up.  And now I present to you the song that resulted:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

TIDAL WAVE CAUSED BY OIL VOLCANO TO SLAM INTO FLORIDA -more critical thinking in action

disney flat
Someone sent me this video recently, and it wasn’t even my birthday. Thank you very much. I live to address claims like these.
So if we are going to evaluate a video like this, why don’t we start with the two guys talking? A quick Google search for Bill Ryan and Dr Bill Deagle (the guy without the accent) brings up their web sites. Deagle’s site talks about how the Federal Reserve, 911 and the Avian Flu are all tied together to bring about a “New World Order.” Bill Ryan’s web site talks about Freemasons, World War III (which is apparently going to happen in the next 18 to 24 months) an “Anglo-Saxon Mission” to Christianize the world and of course the “New World Order.” Well, I guess my work here is done. Good night everybody. Drive carefully, and don’t forget to tip your waitresses.

Actually that’s not quite fair. What I did there was called an “ad hominem argument.” I attacked the messengers, rather than the message, and it is a logical fallacy. So, let’s actually look at the claims.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

BARACK OBAMA IS NOT GOING TO GET INVOLVED WITH THIS EMERGENCY, AND THAT’S A GOOD THING

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

AND TO THINK, JUST MOMENTS BEFORE, I WAS STANDING UNDER THAT VERY TREE PRAYING TO A FALSE IDLE

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

CHANGE YOUR MIND ABOUT SOMETHING

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

ANOTHER PUBLIC SERVICE BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE TEXAS BOARD OF EDUCATION

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

THE CHURCH ISN’T LIABLE FOR SEXUAL ABUSE BECAUSE PRIESTS AREN’T EMPLOYEES OF THE VATICAN



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

THESE FUCKING GUYS!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

ACCURATE CPR INSTRUCTIONS

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

BP & KATRINA – A COMPARISON MADE BY MEATHEADS

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

EVERYONE DRAW MUHAMMAD DAY

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, RATIONAL CRANK, WHY?

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

FOR ALL MY NEW FRIENDS

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

STAR TREK MADE ME AN ATHEIST

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

ARE YOU A MARTIAN?

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

WHO IS SIMON SINGH AND WHY THE FUCK SHOULD YOU CARE

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

YOU GOTTA LOVE EVANGELICALS

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

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

THE RATIONAL CRANK –V- THE GIPPER

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

2012

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

GAIA COMMITS SUICIDE

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?

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.