Monday, December 24, 2007

Orson Scott Card

I once heard a tale of a man who split himself in two. The one part never changed at all; the other grew and grew. The changeless part was always true, the growing part was always new, and I wondered, when the tale was through, which part was me, and which was you.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Chinese haunted house.

A ten year old mystery explained. Two brothers purchased a large house for a pittance, $6,500, because a series of previous owners believed it was haunted. After an investigation lasting several evenings, the brothers discovered the cause of the mysterious noises that had frightened away the previous owners. Located in a sewer pipe underneath the bottom floor, a family of catfish were in residence. Apparently, the first owner of the house had enjoyed catfish dinners and two escaped, providing the genesis of a dynasty.

Training Santa Claus

It is an arduous and difficult path to travel, should one try to become a Santa Claus.

Brendan Gill

Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the idea that life is serious.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Boris Marshalov

"Congress is so strange. A man gets up to speak and says nothing. Nobody listens -- and then everybody disagrees."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

J. R. R. Tolkien

I wish life was not so short,' he thought. 'Languages take such a time, and so do all the things one wants to know about.'
The Lost Road

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How to kill an American

This video purports to be a training film for those who want to kill Americans.

Too much skepticism.

Skepticism is somewhat defined as a doubting or questioning attitude or state of mind. Many have adopted the mindset as a means analyzing information; sort of an open inquiry directed towards what life has to offer. However, is it possible to be too skeptical? Presumably, there is a theoretical point where sufficient information is collected to infer that an argument is correct. However, for some that point is set excessively high, José Hidalgo of Spain may be one of the perpetually unconvinced. Apparently, Hidalgo and some associates were debating the merits of a poster that warned against eating poisonous mushrooms. Hidalgo, taking the negative of the argument, began to consume mushrooms of the amanita phalloides variety in an attempt to prove his point. Somewhere between the second bite when he appeared drunk and the bite that turned him yellow and made him vomit, one of his associates called an ambulance. After two days in an intensive care unit, the concern now is to what extent Hidalgo may have suffered permanent liver damage.

Amanita phalloides, also known as the Death Cap mushroom, is similar in appearance to several edible species. Because of that similarity, it has been responsible for most of the deaths that occur when mushroom species are confused. Apparently, it also was responsible for a handful of dead Roman emperors as well, although only their family members, slaves, and taste testers could attest to any confusion. Originating in Europe, the Death Cap mushroom is now widespread throughout the world.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Abraham Lincoln

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.

Devil Incarnate

Sunday, December 16, 2007

John Lyly

Though all men be made of one metal, yet they be not
cast all in one mold.
--John Lyly (1554-1606)
Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit [1579], "Euphues"

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Baby's First Mythos

Laying in the ocean's darkest and deepest depths, what can the dreaming god of evil Cthulhu teach your first born spawn?

How about the ABC's!

Someone with a twisted and dark sense of humor, namely the authors C. J. Henderson and Erica Henderson, have illustrated a children’s book with H.P. Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones. If torturing the souls of your offspring is a passing entertainment for you, then take a look at this book.

In my youth, I was an avid reader. Going through four or five books a week wasn’t unusual, but of everything I read, H.P. Lovecraft was the only author who seriously frightened me. The first thing I read of his was the “Colour Out of Space,” which kept me awake for hours one evening. So of course, I had to go out and read everything else he wrote. Lovecraft created a universe populated with ancient evils that not only caught my imagination, but many others. Although not a popular author in his lifetime, he’s now recognized as one of the founders of the horror genre. With the Internet his popularity has only grown, and the Lovecraft universe continues, his “Call of Cthulhu,” has been made in to an independent film, a card game, and a computer game. Many authors have expanded Lovecraft’s icons in to their own works, and his creature Cthulhu is now satirically running for president, “At least he admits he’s evil.” So if you’re a fan of Lovecraft’s look at “Baby's First Mythos” book. It is an unusual example of fans honoring a great author.

I recall that the people went about with pale and worried faces, and whispered warnings and prophecies which no one dared consciously repeat or acknowledge to himself that he had heard. A sense of monstrous guilt was upon the land, and out of the abysses between the stars swept chill currents that made men shiver in dark and lonely places.


Thursday, December 13, 2007


The advantage of a bad memory is that one can enjoy the same good things for the first time several times.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mayor Resigns, Claims Abduction By Satan Worshippers

POSTED: 6:08 pm CST November 21, 2007
UPDATED: 6:22 pm CST November 21, 2007

CENTERTON, Ark. -- The mayor of an Arkansas town resigned on Wednesday, claiming he was abducted and brainwashed by Satan worshippers nearly three decades ago.
Centerton Mayor Ken Williams said he has been living under an assumed name for nearly 30 years. He had been mayor since 2001.

Williams told authorities he was born Don LaRose and that in the mid-1970s, he was a preacher in Indiana. He said he was abducted and brainwashed into forgetting all about his life as Don LaRose.

It was a double-life he had never acknowledged, Williams said, because he didn't even realize it existed until he had recently taken a truth-serum injection.
As Williams regained his memory, he said, he realized that he had a wife and two kids but that he had decided to leave and take on a new identity to protect them.
"I had no choice. The choice was to watch my family killed before my eyes or go with these people, and I chose instead to run," Williams said.

He wouldn't explain from who he was running, saying only that he had been brainwashed.
"I had multiple shock treatments," Williams said. "It took five years to get my memory back."
Williams said he took his current identity in 1980 when he moved to Centerton. His full name -- Bruce Kent Williams -- was taken from a man who died in a car crash back in 1958, he said.
"What happened in 1980 -- whether it was right or wrong -- I did it under the threat of my family and for my own survival," he said.

The information went public, Williams said, because he runs a Web site about Don LaRose and his disappearance. LaRose's former family found the Web site and started inquiring about its author. They found the site registered to a Ken Williams and went from there.
Williams said his current wife is standing by him and the two of them want to continue living in Centerton. He said he plans to continue living as Ken Williams.
Also, his resignation was signed with two names, he said.
According to police, Williams is under no investigation for any wrongdoing.

Carl Jung

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves.

A muslim protecting a jew.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A Muslim man jumped to the aid of three Jewish subway riders after they were attacked by a group of young people who objected to one of the Jews saying "Happy Hanukkah," a spokeswoman for the three said Wednesday.
The New York Police Department's Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating Friday's incident on the Q train.
Friday's altercation on the Q train began when somebody yelled out "Merry Christmas," to which rider Walter Adler responded, "Happy Hanukkah," said Toba Hellerstein.
"Almost immediately, you see the look in this guy's face like I've called his mother something," Adler told CNN affiliate WABC.
Two women who were with a group of 10 rowdy people then began to verbally assault Adler's companions with anti-Semitic language, Hellerstein said.
One member of the group allegedly yelled, "Oh, Hanukkah. That's the day that the Jews killed Jesus," she said.
When Adler tried to intercede, a male member of the group punched him, she said.
Another passenger, Hassan Askari -- a Muslim student from Bangladesh -- came to Adler's aid, and the group began physically and verbally assaulting him, Hellerstein said.
"A Muslim-American saved us when our own people were on the train and didn't do anything," Adler said.
Adler pulled the emergency brake and the train stopped at DeKalb Avenue station, where police came on board.
The 10 suspects, ages 19 to 20, were taken into custody, said Brooklyn district attorney spokesman Sandy Silverstein.
Askari was first handcuffed alongside them, but he was released when Adler told police he was not an attacker, Hellerstein said.
Alder was treated at Long Island College Hospital for injuries that included a fractured nose and a cut lip that required several stitches, while Askari suffered a black eye, Hellerstein said.
The suspects are to appear in Brooklyn District Court on February 7 on charges that include assault, attempted assault, menacing, harassment, unlawful assembly, riot and disorderly conduct, Silverstein said.
The New York Police Department's Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the incident, and will determine whether the suspects will be charged with hate crimes, Officer Philip Hauser told CNN.

Russell's Teapot

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"It's not right. She's 16, damn it."

Canadian girl murdered by her father for refusing to wear a hijab.

More on Matthew Murray

The All Spin Zone has collected a few of Murray's Internet posts.

Matthew Murray

“The media is reporting that Matthew Murray posted the following on the web: ”I’m coming for EVERYONE soon and I WILL be armed to the @#%$ teeth and I WILL shoot to kill. …God, I can’t wait till I can kill you people. Feel no remorse, no sense of shame, I don’t care if I live or die in the shoot-out. All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you … as I can especially Christians who are to blame for most of the problems in the world.”
Look at the last part of that quote closely. One wonders if Murray has been reading Dawkins or Dennett. By blaming the world’s ills on religious people do Dawkins and Dennett incite to hatred and make it more likely that tragedies of this sort can occur? I don’t know, but it is an interesting question.”

From Uncommon Decent

I think it is interesting how some fundamentalists are already trying to use the Colorado tragedy for propaganda purposes. I also think its despicable. A mentally ill Christian, disenfranchised from his church, resorts to terrible violence. It must be the atheists’ fault! They caused this senseless shooting because they dared to criticize religion. Perhaps the blame for the shooting could be better put on the New Life Church itself. How does a religious organization maintain the trust of its members when its founder is shown publically to be a criminal and a hypocrite? How can a church with a 10,000 plus congregation and 300,000 square feet of buildings provide real comfort to an individual? Can a minister, or ministers, understand the problems of particular family when they are shuffled like cattle through the repeated Sunday services?

Enough ranting though, the blame for these murders belongs to Matthew Murray and no one else. His weapons were used and his finger was on the trigger. He walked into the church with the intent of creating a tragedy and he succeeded. It was the foresight to have extra security, and the luck that those officers were in the right place, that prevented it from being a bloodbath. It is far too easy, and oh so wrong, to look for scapegoats in the aftermath. Murray was mentally ill, that is not an excuse for his crime, it is the reason he committed it. He was homeschooled and his home was apparently very troubled. This is an excerpt from another post that has been credited to Murray’s Internet nickname, nghtmrchld26:

“Me, I remember the beatings and the fighting and yelling and insane rules and all the Bill Gothard bull**** and then trancing**......I'm still tranced out. I remember how it was like every day was Mission Impossible trying to keep the rules or not get caught and just....survive every single f***ing day. My mother's a f***ing psycho too, her and her whole church and christian family.

Of course people will say the usual fake answers "just stop being this way and be happy from now on..." "we don't have the time and the energy to give a s*** about you..." "you're not the only one who has it bad" "I had it a lot worse than you and I'm happy and doing great" "you're not popular you one likes you very much"

I'll take Dawson's advice to Devin:
"it's almost like you've come back from a war and are having flashbacks" "ONE MORE, just ONE MORE bit of psychological abuse from your mother and you WALK, you are OUT THAT DOOR saying 'I won't live like this anymore EVER'."

I'm not getting any younger and it's time for the abuse to stop. Just because I'm not one of the "Beautiful People," just because other people don't understand or because I'm not "popular" does not mean I need to take any more s*** from anyone.”

Murray was an angry and disturbed young man, I don’t know if the anger was justified or not and at this point it doesn’t matter. Anger to that extent has to come out. Murray chose a tragic way of expressing it.

Life Is Worth Living

"There was a preacher once who was saying to the
congregation, "It is wrong to steal horses." The
congregation answered, "Amen, amen!" "It is wrong
to steal cows." "Amen, amen!" Then he said, "It
is wrong to steal chickens." And someone shouted
back, "Now he is meddling!" Up to that point,
conscience was not touch."
--Fulton John Sheen (1895-1979)
_Life Is Worth Living_ (Fourth Series) [1956]

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Microwave Beam Used to Stop Cars Dead

High speed chases may be fun to watch on TV, but they are dangerous to the bystanders, the officers involved, and the suspects being chased. A California company called Eureka Aerospace claims to have developed a device that emits a low powered, short duration microwave burst that fries the electrical system of cars. Too heavy and short ranged to be an effective tool now, they're seeking funding to create a practical model. This is a great idea, ten times over.

Gatti neri

What do you do with an animal with an ancient history representing evil. You give its own day and celebrate, Black Cat Day in Italy.,1518,517431,00.html

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Worst U.S. President EVER!

U.S.News has a poll posted asking you to vote for the worst U.S. Presidents ever. As of the time I voted the top five were:

• George W. Bush
67% of voters

• Richard Nixon
21% of voters

• Jimmy Carter
20% of voters

• Bill Clinton
18% of voters

• Ronald Reagan
14% of voters

The poll permits three votes each, explaining the percentages.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The USS Arizona: A proud and grand old lady of the sea.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Preacher rebuffs Senate spending inquiry;_ylt=Ag5JH7Nn8kAXrPlsMNqvfIsE1vAI

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Christians commenting on the historical origins of Easter and Christmas.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Interplanetary legal jurisdiction

This pretty much guarantees that there will always be lawyers.

Alabama's sex toy ban

Alabama state representative John Rogers, Democrat – Birmingham, recently filed a bill to overturn Alabama’s ban on sex toys. If you are not already aware of it, Alabama has fought a ten-year court battle against vibrators, dildos and masturbators. The initial court case involving the law went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear it. Their refusal left the ban in effect, but the battle is not over. Hoover, Alabama took a store to court that was selling such items in an attempt to close it. Last week, one of the state's Circuit Courts refused to enforce the law due to its vagueness. For reference, 13A-20-200.2 of the Code of Alabama can be found here:

The Honorable Mr. Rogers is doing the right thing, a rarity among our state representatives. Aside from the gross privacy violation the law entails, this particular statute has cost Alabama millions of dollars trying to enforce it and thousands of hours spent by state employees preparing the case and its appeals. In its ten year existence, it has yet led to a single conviction that hasn’t been overturned. Although the intent was to control the proliferation of “Adult” type stores, because of its wording, the law has proved useless. Zoning laws and regulations were better tools when the law was written and are the best tools now to control such businesses. Despite of the logic of the situation and the advantage to Alabama, Rogers’ bill will have a fight from the Southern Baptist organization, the Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP). As quoted in an article, Dan Ireland, ALCAP’s executive director, “Laws are made to protect the public,…Sometimes you have to protect the public against themselves."

That’s what I like about my state, there is always somebody willing to pursue the ridiculous for their self-perceived greater good.

A beautiful shot of a meteor caught on the dashboard camera of a police car. How low would a meteor have to be to reflect light off of clouds?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A 20/20 report on an atheist high school student and the reaction of her classmates and teachers. On the BoreMe website this piece is subtitled, "Christian's violate young girl." I think a more appropriate title might be "discriminate against young girl." Some atheists are just as emotionally dramatic as their Christian counterparts.

When philosophy murders.

With the rise of the “new atheist” movement, an argument has come to the forefront. Which belief, atheism or Christian theism, has a bloodier history. Atheists gleefully use the Catholic inquisitions, the Crusades, and the several hundred years of war between the various flavors of Christianity as ammunition. The Christians point to the avowed atheism of the world’s communist regimes, Hitler’s Third Reich, and the slaughters these governments have perpetrated against their own people and others. However, the appropriateness of contrasting faith to non-faith by comparing histories is questionable. Religion has been one of the greatest rationalizations for violence in history, but it has rarely been the true cause for the violence perpetrated. The various inquisitions conducted by the Catholic church had as much to do with the church acquiring property and wealth from its victims as it did with religious hearsay. The Crusades provided a handy excuse for a clever Pope to rid Europe of quarrelsome knights and their warriors and give them some quality make work in the Middle East…far away from him. Political control and gaining an economic advantage caused more European wars than the differences in church doctrines. In turn, the communist regimes’ self-proclaimed atheism concerned controlling the populace than it did with an aversion to religious faith. Communism was the state approved faith and no competitor was allowed. Churches were eliminated as they might serve as focal points for opposition to government control. Whatever faith Hitler espoused was nominal, he was raised as a Roman Catholic. He attempted to use religion to advance his ideas, and at least initially gained the support of various faiths through his anti-communist stance, but that crumbled away when the true nature of the Reich became apparent. What remained was silence from the major faiths and acts of incredible heroism and resistance from a scattering of individuals, both religious and not.

Whatever issues that exist legitimately between theists and non-theists, disputing atrocities is in the end meaningless. No one will be “saved” and no one will be converted by comparing body counts collected through history.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Biking in Amsterdam.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dawkins' publisher faces jail over 'atheist manifesto'

The Turkish publisher of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion is facing six months to a year in jail for "inciting hatred and enmity.” The London newspaper The Independent quoted the publisher who stated that a reader of the book had complained to Istanbul state prosecutor and asked that the book be banned and the publisher prosecuted. Apparently, the prosecutor’s office is actively pursuing the issue.

If you haven’t read The God Delusion, I recommend you do so. (If you live in Turkey, I suggest you buy it on-line, read it in secret, and hide the evidence well.) It’s not a great book, but it is better than some of the other “atheist manifestos” that have been published lately. Regardless of your opinion of Dawkins, by writing The God Delusion, he has certainly started a dialogue concerning atheism. Whether that is a good or bad thing will depend on your own views and beliefs. The six thousand copies of The God Delusion sold in Turkey are hardly a threat to the republic or the faith of Islam. The 1.25 million copies of the English version that have been sold haven’t brought down any governments or caused any church to board its doors and windows. What it may have done though, is encouraged some readers to consider their faith and the consequences of believing. That’s a good thing though; to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, a person who does not think for themselves, does not think at all.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon was noted for a few things other than his genre writing. One was what has become known as Sturgeon’s Law, ninety percent of everything is crap, and the other was the lesser known but more significant concept of, “Ask the next question.” With it, Sturgeon advocated inquiry, asking the next question and then the next question until either the truth was obtained or the imagination exhausted. In an article published in Cavalier Magazine in June, 1967, Sturgeon stated; "Every advance this species has ever made is the result of someone, somewhere, looking at his world, his neighborhood, his neighbor, his cave, or himself and asking that next question. Every deadly error this species has committed, every sin against itself and its high destiny, is the result of not asking the next question, or of not listening to those who do ask it."

Representing the “Ask the next question” credo was the symbol “Q->,” a question mark with an arrow dissecting it and pointing to the right. During the last years of his life, Sturgeon so believed in “Ask the next question” he used the symbol as an addendum to his signature and wore it on a necklace around his neck. I’ve posted the links to Sturgeon’s Cavalier Magazine article where he introduced it as a method of inquiry. Whether “Ask the next question” was a great idea lying dormant for the last twenty years or the eccentric rumblings from an active imagination I’ll let you decide.

From the "Wrong place, wrong time" school of practical jokes.

Just For Laughs: Demonstrator Prank - Funny videos are here

CNN's ghost update

Rebecca Watson, the celebrated Skepchick, posted a video analysis, taken from You Tube, of CNN's security camera ghost.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Devil’s Dictionary

HOMOEOPATHIST, n. The humorist of the medical profession.

HOMOEOPATHY, n. A school of medicine midway between Allopathy and Christian Science. To the last both the others are distinctly inferior, for Christian Science will cure imaginary diseases, and they can not.

PHRENOLOGY, n. The science of picking the pocket through the scalp. It consists in locating and exploiting the organ that one is a dupe with.

PHYSICIAN, n. One upon whom we set our hopes when ill and our dogs when well.

Excerpts from The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce, 1911

Theo Jansen

Incredible art/engineering projects from the Dutch artist Theo Jansen. I am probably misstating this, but one of the concepts of great art is originality. Perhaps anyone can paint like Picasso, but Picasso was the first. He invented cubism and earned his subsequent notoriety. Jansen blends engineering and art in such a manner that his creations are unique. Well worth watching.

Monday, November 26, 2007

This Week in Tech (TWiT)

TWiT is an award winning weekly technology centered podcast hosted by Leo Laporte and is one of thirteen podcasts or video casts available from TWiT.TV. The website Digg identifies TWiT as the second most popular podcast in all of its categories, collecting twice as many votes as the third place entry. Other podcast centric websites have listed TWiT as it’s most popular. TWiT is downloadable from iTunes, but the availability of past episodes is limited to about twenty. The entire collection of episodes is obtainable from the TWiT.TV website with the length of the episodes from iTunes and the website averaging about an hour. The Emmy winning Leo Laporte is the author of several technology related books and articles and a former host of the cable television shows The Screen Savers and Call for Help. He presently hosts a technology program on Canadian television, a syndicated Los Angeles radio program, and is a repeat guest as a technology expert on several U.S. television programs. A biography of Laporte is available in his Wikipedia entry, although Laporte stated during one of the TWiT broadcasts that the entry contained inaccuracies. A probably truthful assertion since past entries described Laporte as a “nobody” and it is unlikely he “shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.”

TWiT is a round table discussion following a rough agenda prepared by Laporte. Regulars to the program include the outspoken John C. Dvorak and several Screen Savers and Call for Help denizens. Program guests have ranged from Apple computer founder Steve Wozniak, computer hacker Kevin Mitnick, and science fiction author Jerry Pournelle. The tone of the show is informal and mostly friendly. Ordinarily, the participants discuss consumer electronics although occasionally the conversation can drift toward technology that is more esoteric. Ironically, for a show about technology, the drawback to the program is technical. The participants are scattered around the world and the roundtable is connected by cellular or voice over internet telephone. Dropped calls, low quality connections, background noises, and unplanned events do occur. During one episode the inflatable exercise ball Laporte was using as a chair audibly burst. While these occurrences add to the informality of the program, and sometimes provide an element of humor, they can accumulate quickly during an episode and become an annoyance.

TWiT accepts commercial sponsorship but rather than being an irritating commercial, Laporte skillfully blends the sponsor’s plug into the roundtable discussion. A moment that could be tiresome with repeated listening is instead varied and interesting as the roundtable members discuss their use of the sponsor’s products.

Amidst the abundance of consumer reviews available through the Internet and popular media, TWiT stands out by providing unique insights concerning the latest and greatest gadgets. Laporte and his colleagues provide pertinent information in a lively and amicable style. If you have an interest in the latest technology and the time to listen, TWiT is one of the podcasts you should be downloading.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


I can't embed this, the service doesn't apparently allow it, but this is a very cool live action/animation mixed film.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Found it, it was posted. This was what I like about science and investigations, common sensical, rational, logical arguments destroyed by experimentation.

Common Sense is not so common. - Voltaire

Of mice and elephants.

Those warriors of urban myth deflation, The Mythbusters, have conclusively proved...elephants are scared of mice. Well, at least they did a pretty good job of it, but I wouldn't call it conclusive. While watching the program, I came up with a reason for the elephant's reaction to the mouse....which as the show went on The Mythbusters tested and shot down. I thought the elephant might have been frightened by the movement of the dung heap the mouse was hiding under. Of all the popular myths of modern times, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, do a pretty good job providing evidence supporting one of the strangest. This isn't film of the elephant and mouse (the show just aired), but of Savage and Hyneman discussing the test. I'll post the film of the test if it shows up on You Tube.

Inquiry is fatal to certainty. Will Durant

Got a question?

Ask500People is an interesting website; post a question of your own and one hundred people around the world answer it. The 500 People question is, I think, a paid option. My username is Grillparzer but I have not asked a question for a few days. Some of my past results:

Are you smarter than average? Seventy-nine yes’s and twenty-one no’s. (Apparently, some people are kidding themselves.)

Do you believe it is possible to speak with the spirits of the dead? Forty-two yes votes and fifty-seven no votes.

Which are the better tools to have while going through life? Sixty-five people voted for “Science, Reason, and Logic” while thirty-five voted for “Religious Faith.”

Have you ever seen a ghost? Twenty-one people voted yes and seventy-nine voted no.

How did life develop? Evolution or intelligent design. Fifty-nine people voted for “Evolution” and forty-one people voted for “intelligent design.”

I will not go into the reasons why these polls do not provide scientifically reliable results since I have no training in statistics. If you have questions on the subject, I recommend a Google search, which should pull up some primers. If you have more questions after that, take a college course because you are on your own. Most of the respondents to the polls are European or North American, with a smattering from other parts of the world. I think the polls reflect worldwide access to the Internet rather than real opinions, but the website is a fun thing to play with.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Penn and Teller

A question answered by Penn and Teller (or at least Penn), discussing how their program Bullshit was picked up by Showtime.

CNN's ghost.

This CNN story about a ghost at a Ohio gas station has already been covered and debunked by numerous blogs , but I wanted to try embedding a video so your stuck with it too. Blue, out of focus image on a security camera. Watch for the bug like movements, the faint hint of antenna, and the occasional wing flutter. Keep in mind that static security cameras are focussed on selected areas to record events, so something close to or on the lens will be blurry. Now write CNN and tell them how this isn't newsworthy and why story pandering is bad.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Freethought Radio Review

Freethought Radio Podcast

Of the non-theist podcasts I listen to, Freethought Radio, probably the only atheism themed radio program in existence, is my least favorite. Freethought Radio is produced by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and broadcast live every Saturday on WXXM, The Mic 92.1, in Madison, Wisconsin. WXXM is a progressive talk radio station and is affiliated with the Air America Radio network. Freethought Radio is also available via Air America, on line streaming, and by podcast. The podcasts lengths are generally between forty to fifty minutes duration and episodes dating from April 2006 to the present are available on iTunes and the Freethought Radio website. This review is of the podcasts downloaded from iTunes. The podcasts are jointly hosted by Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, accomplished authors and co-presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The format of the show varies somewhat from episode to episode but opens with John Lennon’s “Imagine,” normally includes a guest interview or interviews, the segments “Theocracy Alert” and “Freethinker Almanac,” and music written and played by Barker.

Barker and Gaylor fall into the category of “angry” atheists and they display little tolerance for people of faith. As the “Theocracy Alert” segment deals with theocratic intrusions on the church and state doctrine, some indignation is necessary but the hosts tend to be needlessly emotional, exaggeratory, and snide. A less inflammatory approach would serve Freethought Radio's audience better. Barker and Gaylor are, pardon the irony, “preaching to the choir” with these podcasts, but many freethinkers will find their antagonism toward the religious repugnant. Not all atheists see religion as an enemy, some are content just not to believe.

Freethought Radio is the only non-theist podcast that relies on music every episode to convey its message, but it is more of an annoyance than an asset to the program. Since Freethought Radio is radio broadcasted, the music might have some entertainment value, but other radio talk shows do well without it. In particular, the use of the song “Imagine,” as an opener frankly, lacks imagination. Lennon’s anthem has been played to death by every leftist cause for the last thirty years. I know there are not many freethought themed songs out there but something more distinctive is needed.

The strength of the podcasts are the people chosen for the program by Baker and Gaylor. Although they have had some notable guests the ones I enjoyed most are with the less well-known people and the difficulties they have encountered because of their beliefs. As a Birmingham resident, I found the interview with Emily Lyons fascinating. Birmingham Police Officer Robert Sanderson was killed and Lyons was seriously injured in the woman’s clinic bombing perpetrated by Eric Rudolph in 1998. At the time, I was working as a police officer in a town near Birmingham so the case holds an interest for me. Some other interviews worth listening to are the ones with Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and Michelle Goldberg, author of Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. Gaylor sometimes asks leading questions during the interviews, but I think it is a result of editing prerecorded interviews rather than trying to force the guests to make specific points. All of the guests present some aspect of freethought, the interviews are not confrontational, and during this segment Barker and Gaylor are at their best.

In many ways Freethought Radio feels like it was produced by amateurs. The inclusion of Barker’s music makes the presentation uneven and the hosts attitude might alienate members of their audience.

This blog is an experiment and a test on a couple of fronts. One, it is a writing experiment for me. Can I repeatedly find subjects and write about them in such a manner that it will interest an audience for an extended period of time? What writing experience I have I gained in the Army and it shows. I write like a soldier standing at parade, stiff and formal. I want to develop a more casual style, something that is easier to read. Two, after some deliberation, I’ve decided I have a few things to say on a variety of subjects. I am a lifelong skeptic and am horrified by what I think is some of the pure garbage other people have chosen to believe. Reason, logic, and science, have shown themselves to be the best tools to accompany me through life, I do not understood why others have not adopted them. However, I am not out to change anyone’s mind but I might be able to point you toward a little introspection. If you post comments you will probably not change my mind either but you could provide me with new insights. Learning is a lifetime process and I always enjoy new perspectives. I am a regular listener to a variety of podcasts, generally political, scientific, and skepticism themed. I foresee a lot of the posts to this blog being critical reviews of podcasts and blogs since this appears to be a somewhat ignored area on the Internet. I draw as a hobby, note the self portrait, and am an avid bicyclist and bicycle collector. I’m in the process of rebuilding an unknown model of Raleigh mountain bike and turning it into a commuter, and I own a 1957 Hiawatha, a 1939 Rudge Whitworth, a 1963 Raleigh Sports, and a 1983 Trek road bike. I don’t actually ride these bikes, I just take them apart and leave them lying around my living room which seems to fulfill some deep subconscious need. I love to read, mostly nonfiction and the classics, but I stray sometimes. I’m currently rereading Dickens’s David Copperfield, my favorite of his works and probably the twentieth time I’ve gone through it. Wilkins Micawber may be my favorite literary character of all time. Come back and check me out. Let’s see what happens.