7.31.2008

Patently Absurd


There's been an ongoing issue with software patents. Software is, after all, nothing more than a set of instructions - a procedure for a machine. Human "calculators" can carry out the same set of instructions, albeit inefficiently and prone to error. If software can be patented, then can you also patent the instructions for fixing a leaky faucet? Shouldn't, by the same logic, mathematical proofs be allowed to be patented? What about the equation that generates a novel fractal image? Arstechnica tells us that the US Patent and Trademark Office has been wrestling with this problem and, after a series of missteps, may be finding their voice.
In an article last week at Patently-O, law professor John Duffy warns that the Patent Office has staked out positions that, if accepted by the courts, would amount to the de facto abolition of software patents. He's right that the Patent Office has become increasingly hostile to software patents in the last couple of years. However, it's far from clear that the end of software patents is imminent. And Duffy is dead wrong to suggest that fewer software patents would be bad for innovation.
The problem is so bad that even woo has been patented. Take, for instance, patent no. 7,357,638 - a computer program for generating astrological horoscopes. The abstract reads
The invention provides a zodiac sign horoscope mapping device, locating the coordinate positions of the twelve zodiac signs, in a manner accurately reflecting the precession of the equinoxes. The device divides the ecliptic coordinate sphere into twelve uniform longitudinal arcs, aligning an origin by a zodiac sign to degree, and thereby locating the twelve zodiac signs along the sphere. A dependent device divides the ecliptic coordinate sphere into twelve non-uniform arcs, each arc isomorphic to the longitudinal span of one of the twelve traditional zodiac constellations, and thereby locating each zodiac sign as isomorphic to its named constellation. The invention provides an astrological horoscope device, which provides the calendar dates of the year for each zodiac Sun sign. The invention provides a horoscope generating method, which can comprise a horoscope computer program's functional specification. The invention provides a horoscope generating computer program.
The patent points out the absurdity of horoscopes found in newspapers, in which the population is divided into twelve groups based on their astrological sign.
Common sense states that, to provide each twelfth of the human population with the exact same horoscope, it can not accurately predict or render a unique and suitable horoscope for each and every individual.
So how does this program "render a unique and suitable horoscope for each and every individual"? The program divides them into a larger number of groups!
Personalized astrology is based on the unique natal data of the individual, comprising the individual's birth date (day, month and year), birth place, and birth time. These are the input requirements for generating an individual's unique astrological data (the exact locations of the ten "planets" of astrology, which comprise the Sun, the eight non-Earth planets of the solar system, and the Earth's Moon), from which charts, tables and aspect grids for the individual can be accurately manufactured. Hence, a daily horoscope for each person should also be generated along these lines, using each person's unique birth input data.
Supposedly common sense has been restored, but I haven't quite figured out where. Close inspection of the patent shows that, even though time of birth can be input, it is optional and not used. Besides, the program doesn't look at the time the horoscope is output - just the date. So "birth time" is irrelevant.

But are the results individualized and unique? NO! The program can call upon a database of "interpretations" given the aspect of orbs (i.e. 'planets' in the parlance of woo). The particular interpretation it provides is entirely random. While the results may be unique (as determined by the size of the database), they are certainly not individualized.

So why did the USPTO grant this patent? Who knows. This one is tame compared to the universe of weird patents, but it serves to illustrate that woo encroaches everywhere, even in our beleaguered patent offices.

For more great info on this topic, see last year's post at the Coding Horror blog.

Octopus Escaping Through A One-Inch Hole

I love the Science Video Search Engine. Check out one of their latest offerings:

7.30.2008

UK Medicine Joins The 21st Century

UK had five homeopathic hospitals. One just closed up shop. In 2005, UK physicians gave out 83,000 homeopathic prescriptions. In 2007, this had dropped to 49,000. Meanwhile, overall prescriptions rose from 720 million to 796 million. There has been a definite shift in attitude regarding homeopathy. Perhaps people are realizing it is just water or sugar pills. Perhaps they are finding out that there is NO reliable evidence supporting homeopathy.
GPs shun homeopathy as prescriptions halve
But Dr Tim Robinson, a GP who provides a local homeopathic service in Dorset, said the huge drop reflected an orchestrated ‘hate campaign’ against homeopathy that had been led by Professor Ernst.

‘Patients are not asking for it because of what has been written in the press and this also reflects the disillusionment of medical homeopaths with the system and cuts in funding from PCTs,’ he said.
NOTHING is stopping manufacturers of homeopathic remedies from seeking formal approval and licensing their so-called medicines. All they have to do is provide evidence of quality, safety, and efficacy. So, was their a rush for approval?

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency revealed only two homeopathic remedies had applied for a licensed medical indication under their National Rules Scheme launched in September 2006.

Neither application has been approved.

Homeopaths are drowning in their own woo. The Brits are deciding that they're tired of years of snake oil salesmen, their lies, and their foolish products. To that, I say Huzzah!

As for those who are missing their remedies, just go to your sink. The faucet labeled Hot is for Hot Flashes. The one labeled Cold is for The Common Cold. See? It was free all along.

Microsoft Mojave - You're Soaking In It

Does your manicurist have you dip your fingers in Palmolive to soften the cuticles? Does your restaurant serve you Sanka with flavor crystals? Is that Pepsi or Coke you're drinking?

Microsoft shows it can be just as tricksy. Is that a new, incredible OS you're using or is it Vista?

Gizmodo has a good take on this "experiment". Basically, Vista is fine for the average user when everything works. But if you have an older PC that uses older drivers, then good luck figuring out what to do when things don't work.

7.29.2008

Not Kewl


Cuil is supposedly the new kid on the block to contend with Google, the search engine phenom. The creators claim to have over 120,000,000,000 pages indexed. That's 120 billion, over 4 times what Google has indexed (although no one can be sure since Google stopped publishing their catalog size a few years back).

As far as I'm concerned, I'd consider a search engine decent if the search terms "The Way of the Woo" brings up my blog. Google puts me at the top spot. That's kewl.

Cuil, on the other hand, gives me this.

Uhhh...that's not so kewl.

Critics agree that Cuil has not gotten off to a smashing start and Google didn't even blink. 120 billion pages don't mean a whole lot if there's a lot of irrelevant garbage thrown in. Relevancy counts. "Skeptic's Guide to the Universe" brings up a lot of stuff, none of them The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe. However, "Skeptic's Guide" will get you there. So, something just ain't right with their search algorithm or their method of ranking pages (if they even do that).

The excellent blog Search Engine Land has all the poop that's fit to scoop.

7.28.2008

Equilibrium Punctuated!

Part pig, part monkey, the twain have met. Where's an intelligent designer when you need one?? If this combination had some large evolutionary benefit, perhaps Stephen J. Gould might be stirring even now as evolutionary equilibrium gets a shot in the arm!

So, who wants to name the new species? How about Oinkzilla? Piggus Homini? Pan Domestica? Sus Troglodyte???


I see a Disney movie in the making. Although the family may have wanted to get rid of it, the innocence of a child steps in:

Feng's wife said the monkey-faced piglet was one of five newborns of a sow which the family had raised for nine years.

"My God, it was so scary. I didn't known what it was. I was really frightened," she said.

"But our son likes to play with it, and he stopped us from getting rid of it. He even feeds it milk."

Michael Savage On The Way Out?

Michael Savage's lunatic rant against autism is now costing Talk Radio Network loss of some major advertisers. Aflac was the first to go, and now:
Home Depot, Sears and Budweiser* all withdrew their support from the fiery hatemonger's program, along with Direct Buy, Cisco and Radio Shack, according to Autism United. (ref)
The loss of Home Depot support is no surprise. Co-founder Bernie Marcus happens to sit on the Autism Speaks board or directors. Apparently Savage didn't know this, otherwise he might have tempered his remarks. Perhaps this is just another indication of how clueless he really is. Considering that he once promoted homeopathy, this comes as no great surprise.
A new website was created to defend Savage in this controversy. It gives 20 audio clips of Michael Savage on autism. None of these clips were from his July 16th show, sparking the current controversy. In fact, all were after that show - i.e. these are damage control sound bytes. Instead of apologizing for his inflammatory gaffes, Savage instead criticizes the medical institution. He leaves it to Talk Radio Network to do the apologizing:
As a result, Dr. Savage's comments did facially appear to be directed at children who suffer from autism, and clearly could be perceived as such. This has, in turn, caused understandable pain and distress to those who have a child or family member who is challenged by autism. This was not Dr. Savage's intent, and, on behalf of the Network and all persons associated with the Network, we wish to note that our hearts go out to all families who are forced to face the realities of autism every day of their lives, and to sincerely apologize to these families for any increase in these burdens resulting from inartful commentary appearing in the Network's programming.
Inartful commentary? Well doesn't that sum up every single show he's ever done? Talk Radio Network, in the same article, has said they won't fire Michael Savage because they believe they know what he meant to say and his "inartful" comments were just a slip of the tongue...too much pressure, to many things going on in a live radio broadcast, too many things to talk about - mistakes will be made, and this was just one of them. No big deal. But Talk Radio Network is not an objective party in this. Savage is their biggest player with the largest audience. If anything, this controversy might increase his audience size because of a publicity bump (even if it's bad publicity). Savage is one of their cash cows and radio is just a business, right? They would never cut Savage off no matter how hot he made it for them.

As radio stations and sponsors drop his program, as the Talk Radio Network starts to lose the big bucks, it is possible (however remote) that Savage will come out with an official apology to the parents of children with autism. Like I said, it's radio is a business and he's hurting the business by refusing to apologize. But self-serving apologies like these do no one any good because 1) they are always a little too late, 2) their sincerity is driven by the almighty dollar, and 3) everyone recognizes them for what they are.

So, we wonder how far this will all go. Is Michael Savage on the way out? How many stations and sponsors need to drop him before Talk Radio Network fires him? Will Savage apologize and meet with, say, Jenny McCarthy (ala Imus meeting Sharpton)? That would be a hoot. Maybe Savage will even write a book under his real name (Michael Weiner) on how homeopathy can cure autism. That would be a bestseller. And maybe one day someone will write the headline "Savage/Weiner's Bone of Contention".
-------------------------------
(*update 7/28 - see comment #1)

7.27.2008

Tuna Qi Woo


This world's barrel of woo is bottomless. Now Japan is performing acupuncture on their tuna.
Acupuncture used to improve flavour of tuna for sushi
Their prized terriers are given samba-dancing lessons, their choicest beef herds are treated to daily massages and now, in an effort to produce the most delicious sushi in the world, Japanese tuna are to be given acupuncture.

The company in Osaka that patented the technique claimed that calm tuna thrashed about less in their death throes. Once the fish have received the brief treatment the blood becomes purer and the flesh has a better flavour, Toshiro Urabe, the president of the Osakana Planning Company, said.
Silly? Wacky? Nutty? I really don't think the word has been invented that can adequately describe the sillywackynuttiness of tuna acupuncture. So I hereby copyright tunaqiwoo. Now to wait as the money pours in.

7.26.2008

Insurance Company Rules

Slices of Religion

America likes the slice of religion called Christianity. America's the most powerful country on earth, therefore Christianity must be the right religion. Or maybe it's now power, maybe it's population, in which case Christianity is not the right religion. Maybe the right religion is the one you were born into. Or maybe you can switch to the right religion based on your own standards of morality. Perhaps the right religion for you hasn't even been invented yet, in which case you can start it yourself (hint, if you like to kill women or marry a half-dozen of them, those religions exist already). Whatever religion you happen to decide on (assuming you're free to decide), you'll be among a community of people who share similar beliefs, values, and goals. It's like being in a club, or being a fan of a particular sports team, or participating in certain internet forums. When someone disses your club, you and your fellow club members will get uptight, angry, hopping mad. But your club has no exclusivity on touch sensitivity. It's a fact of human nature, the one club we all belong to. Getting your dander up is normal.

So, pick and choose your religion wisely. Or, better yet, you don't have to pick any at all and simply realize that we're all in this together and that there's no need to get all hot and bothered over the little things, like which slice of pie tastes the best.

7.25.2008

CBS News Gives Up On 'Trust'

Once upon a time, the CBS News Anchor, in the person of Walter Cronkite, was known as "the most trusted person in the world". These days, CBS News has shied away from that responsibility and they've done so in a most heinous fashion. As watchers of the evening news, we've learned to expect a lot of hype and fancy graphics and scare-mongering and, yes, even bias during the prime time news shows. But I also expect that when the anchor asks questions of a guest, the guest's answer would be aired. Perhaps it might be edited for time or to get past all the "uhhhs" and straight to the juicy meat, but I would never think that the evening news would actually pick and choose a response from another question entirely and match it up with the original question.

Follow me? Katie Couric asked John McCain a question regarding the surge in Iraq. John McCain gave some answer in which he evidently screwed up the timeline, indicating a misunderstanding about recent history. OK...no big deal. Liberals might hammer him on this, but he might have "mispoke" or, more likely, "misremembered". But CBS News didn't play that answer to the question. They played the answer from some subsequent question.

Really.

Does this even qualify as news anymore? No. It's CBS making the news what they want it to be. At the most fundamental, basic, basic, BASIC level of journalism, this is manifestly wrong, dishonest, and not news. I'd have to say that this is glaringly worse than what got Dan Rather fired.

So longer Walter. Good night Mr. Murrow.

Novak - Hit and Almost-Run

Robert Novak, driving in his shiny black convertible corvette, hit an 86 year old homeless pedestrian yesterday on 18th & K Street in Washington DC as Novak was heading in to work. But Novak didn't stop...he kept right on going until a witness on a bicycle stopped him. Novak claims he didn't know he hit anyone and was cited for "Failure to Yield".

Sure. Why does it smell like woo to me? Upon being hit, the pedestrian is knocked onto the hood of the car, rolls up along the windshield, and back down onto the hood before falling to the ground, dislocating his shoulder. The pedestrian, Don Clifford Liljenquist, thinks it's possible Novak didn't know he hit anyone. From the Washington Post,
"Yeah, it's possible that he didn't know he hit me," Liljenquist said. "The vehicle was moving at 10 miles per hour or something like that, and the driver might not have seen me, because I rolled off and fell down to the pavement. So, yeah, it's possible that he didn't see me. He wasn't paying attention to his driving."

What? Was Novak so wrapped up in the latest Miley Cyrus album that he didn't know he ran someone over?? David Bono was the bicyclist who stopped Novak:
Bono and others said in interviews that they think Novak was attempting to flee the scene before Bono stopped him, but Novak said he did not know he had hit a pedestrian until Bono told him.



So Novak is 77. He's reaching that age where one day he'll mistake the accelerator for the brake and plow right through the Washington Post offices.

When There's No Man Around...

Funny now. Serious advertising then.



(via the good old days)

Top Ten Signs You're A Fundamentalist Christian

10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.


9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."


3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

2 - You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

1 - You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian.


(via Evil Bible)

7.24.2008

PZ Myers Takes Out The Trash


The infamous PZ Myers has taken out the trash. An otherwise uninteresting story, this is sure to cause an uproar among Catholic extremists, like Bill Donohue of the Catholic League because the trash PZ has gotten rid of includes a consecrated wafer (i.e. the sacrament, the holy host), pages from the Quran, pages from The God Delusion, as well as a banana skin (aka the atheists' nightmare) and some coffee grounds. More importantly, however, Myers reveals some of the history of past desecrations resulting in mass murder by angry Catholics. There are striking parallels with past sentiments and the current fervor surrounding Myers' anticlimactic desecration. The lesson is that religious belief can lead you down some very unreasonable paths if you choose to go. And there is also the lesson that we are free to believe what we want and can't be forced to respect other religions. And we have the freedom to express ourselves.

It is unlikely that seething masses will read PZ's message or take it to heart. But maybe reason will prevail.
You are all human beings who must make your way through your life by thinking and learning, and you have the job of advancing humanities' knowledge by winnowing out the errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of reality. You will not find wisdom in rituals and sacraments and dogma, which build only self-satisfied ignorance, but you can find truth by looking at your world with fresh eyes and a questioning mind.

Autism Spectrum According To Michael Savage

Michael Savage has characterized autism in a variety of insensitive ways. He says in 99% of the cases, a child diagnosed with autism is really "a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out". The diagnosis of autism falls on a spectrum, ranging from mild (highly functional) to severe (little or no function). It doesn't sound like Savage sees it that way. Autism, according to him, is a phony disease.
To me, there is one disease that they all have; it's called S-T-U-P-I-D. That's the main illness most of these kids have.
This, then, is a plausible spectrum of the autism disorder according to Michael Savage.

Note - click picture to bring up something more legible.

I suppose Savage also thinks Stephen Hawking is just lazy.

Geek Chic - Periodic Elements Coffee Table

I love geek chic furniture. This coffee table of the periodic elements from Element Displays almost fits the bill:


A nice addition if I felt like shelling out $8550 for it. After all, how many tables come with their very own Material Safety Data Sheet? Alas, no radioactive elements...not even a picture other than the standard radiation sign. Of course the deal breaker for me is - no Einsteinium!

(via Gizmodo)

At One With The Universe...Of Pain

Be at peace. Be one with yourself and your surroundings, especially those parts of your surroundings which are about to cause you a world of hurt...
Pastor gets into motorcycle crash - during service
Jeff Harlow, the senior pastor at Crossroads Community Church, broke his wrist when he lost control of the motorcycle at the start of Sunday's second service, driving off a 5-foot platform and into the vacant first row of seats. He underwent surgery on the wrist Monday.

7.23.2008

When The Luck Runs Out

Sometimes good luck also requires good hand-eye coordination!
Wiccan Accidentally Stabs Herself in Foot With Sword During Good Luck Ritual
Katherine Gunther, 36, of Lebanon, pierced her left foot with the sword while performing the rite at Oak Hill Cemetery, police said.

Gunther said she was performing the ceremony to give thanks for a recent run of good luck. The ceremony involves the use of candles, incense and driving swords into the ground during the full moon.

Gunther said was aiming to put the sword in the ground, but hit her foot instead.

"It wasn't the first time I performed the ritual, but it was the first time I put a sword through my foot," she said.

Brain Drain

That whooshing sound this past Saturday wasn't the wind...it was the sucking sound from a large American intellectual low pressure system forming over Los Angeles, CA, specifically centered on the Generation Rescue fund raiser. Dense clouds of stupidity developed, absurdity condensed, and gusts of inanity reached hurricane intensities. History will record this as the perfect storm of wackiness as the likes of Jenny McCarthy, Brittney Spears, Charlie Sheen, Hugh Heffner, and Jim Carrey all came together to push their agenda of linking vaccinations to autism, despite the lack of scientific evidence.

Orac has a great writeup at the Respectful Insolence blog, noting that these zealots have quitely moved the goal posts to broaden the link of autism to "enviornmental causes". Meanwhile, America continues to take its toll in disease outbreaks as well-meaning but ill-informed parents refuse to vaccinate their children.

7.22.2008

Sign The "Fire Michael Savage" Petition

The "Fire Michael Savage" petition currently has 2,239 signatures. If you think he should be fired for his highly insensitive comments or for claiming that "autism is a fraud" and undermining research efforts to solve this terrible disorder, please visit the petition site here.

When America Defecates

When America defecates, 8.25 million people like to turn around and smell it. At least, that is the purported weekly audience for the Michael Savage's nationally syndicated radio show, The Savage Nation. I have at times paused in my radio channel surfing to listen to a few minutes of his lunatic ravings before moving on to more saner pastures. Each time I do, I ask myself why this idiot is still on the air. The answer: he has an audience and he has sponsors.

His latest foray has him telling us the cause for autism. Forget Jenny McCarthy and her vaccine/environmental factors link, Michael Savage, with all the virulence and vitriol he could muster, has nailed the cause of autism:
You know what autism is? I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is.

What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, "Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot."
Moron. Putz. Crying, screaming idiot. Did he learn anything from his father??

When faced with charges of his ignorance, however, Savage is not one to back down. He says
“My main point remains true,” Mr. Savage, whose radio audience ranks in size behind only those of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, said in the interview. “It is an overdiagnosed medical condition. In my readings, there is no definitive medical diagnosis for autism.”
In fact, there is a medical diagnosis for autistic conditions - it's called autism! Or more specifically, an Autism Spectrum Disorder. What he means is that there is no identified cause, and that is a true statement. But because we don't know what causes it, does not mean that 99% of the kids who are diagnosed as having ASD are "brats" or "crying, screaming idiots".
Meanwhile, AFLAC, one of his major sponsors, is pulling their support:
Late Monday afternoon, Aflac, the insurance company, announced it was withdrawing all advertising from Mr. Savage's show. "We understand that radio hosts pick on any number of targets," Laura Kane, a company spokeswoman, said in a statement, before adding that Aflac considered "his recent comments about autistic children to be both inappropriate and insensitive.”
So, Savage's father couldn't stop him from being a moron, and AFLAC can't either. But it's good to see AFLAC finally dumping this piece of human filth. The stink of him got too strong.

Psychic Psues Montgomery County

In Montgomery County, Maryland, there is a law against fortunetelling. Section 32-7 of the county code states:
Sec. 32-7. Fortunetelling.

Every person who shall demand or accept any remuneration or gratuity for forecasting or foretelling or for pretending to forecast or foretell the future by cards, palm reading or any other scheme, practice or device shall be subject to punishment for a class B violation as set forth in section 1-19 of chapter 1 of the County Code; and in any warrant for a violation of the above provisions, it shall be sufficient to allege that the defendant forecast or foretold or pretended to forecast or foretell the future by a certain scheme, practice or device without setting forth the particular scheme, practice or device employed; provided, that this section shall not apply to any benefit performance or part thereof conducted pursuant to section 30-4 of this Code. (Mont. Co. Code 1965, § 16-7; 1983 L.M.C., ch. 22, § 41.)
Now, a local fortuneteller, Nick Nefedro, is suing the county for denying him a business license to open up shop in Bethesda, MD. He is claiming that the county is violating his right to free speech and is discriminating against his gypsy heritage. However, there is nothing in the law that says Nefedro can't predict someone's future - he just can't collect money for doing so.

As for the issue of discrimination against gypsies, Nefedro's lawyer, Edward Amourgis, says
“This legislation, this policy is focused really on the Gypsies,” Amourgis said. “How is what he’s doing different than running a horoscope? Who are they to say that is not fraudulent but my client is?”
Good point - both are pure woo. However, you don't pay for horoscopes (unless that's the only reason you're buying a newspaper. Also, horoscopes are not indivualized. If someone were to open up shop that sold you a horoscope especially for you, then that would fall under one of the "schemes" mentioned above and would likewise be illegal.

What does the county think about all this?
Council Members Nancy Floreen and Marc Elrich, who both sit on the economic development committee, said there did not seem to be support for repealing the measure.

“There are a lot more important things for us to worry about,” Floreen said. Elrich said the county should not encourage businesses “that take advantage of people.”
I think I've developed a new measure of respect for some of my council members. However, Arthur Spitzer, the local legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, has also weighed in with an incredibly vacuous statement:
“Many churches say, if you do this you can reach the hereafter, if you don’t you’ll go to hell,” Spitzer said. “If that’s not predicting the future, what is?”
How about THAT'S NOT PREDICTING THE FUTURE! It's a form of coercion, and besides, you don't have to pay $25 to get in the door to be told this claptrap. You get it for free.

Nefedro must have confidence in his case, however. I mean, how could he not? He already knows what the outcome will be.

7.21.2008

Framing The Autism - Vaccination Controversy With Amanda Peet

This is one way to do it - get another actress, like Amanda Peet, one who is not only very beautiful but also has a good head on her shoulders, to act as a counterpoint to the blatherings of airhead, Jenny McArthy.

121 As Pareidolia

I can't see it. Can you see it?



To me it just looks like someone needs to do laundry. More dirty laundry videos can be found here.

7.20.2008

An Evening With Gui

So you say you've been bad. You haven't been thinking about God in the right way. Perhaps you've - hmm, how shall we put this - stopped believing in God. Or you've had these little, nagging doubts.

Well you're just in time to meet our guest today, Bishop Bernard Gui. Hailing from the Limousin, Bernie likes cooking and painting. He's a prolific writer and fancier of peregrine falcons, tulips, and young boys. Although he's been the Bishop of Tui and, more recently, the Bishop of Lodeve under Pope John Two by Two, he is perhaps best known for his 15 year stint as the Inquisitor of Toulouse and author of the definitive 14th century text on the subject, Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Wickedness. During that time, he extracted 930 confessions of heresies while sentencing only 42 people to a horrible death. So, if you've strayed even one part per million from our faith, you'll know what to expect when Bernie comes calling.

Bernie, please tell our reading audience how you became so successful. What, for example, were some of your techniques in questioning a suspected heretic?
----------------------------
When a heretic is first brought up for examination, he assumes a confident air, as though secure in his innocence. I ask him why he has been brought before me. He replies, smiling and courteous, "Sir, I would be glad to learn the cause from you."

I You are accused as a heretic, and that you believe and teach otherwise than Holy Church believes.

A. (Raising his eyes to heaven, with an air of the greatest faith) Lord, thou knowest that I am innocent of this, and that I never held any faith other than that of true Christianity.

I You call your faith Christian, for you consider ours as false and heretical. But I ask whether you have ever believed as true another faith than that which the Roman Church holds to be true?

A. I believe the true faith which the Roman Church believes, and which you openly preach to us.

I Perhaps you have some of your sect at Rome whom you call the Roman Church. I, when I preach, say many things, some of which are common to us both, as that God liveth, and you believe some of what I preach. Nevertheless you may be a heretic in not believing other matters which are to be believed.

A. I believe all things that a Christian should believe.

I I know your tricks. What the members of your sect believe you hold to be that which a Christian should believe. But we waste time in this fencing. Say simply, Do you believe in one God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost?

A. I believe.

L Do you believe in Christ born of the Virgin, suffered, risen, and ascended to heaven?

A. (Briskly) I believe.

I Do you believe the bread and wine in the mass performed by the priests to be changed into the body and blood of Christ by divine virtue?

A. Ought I not to believe this?

I I don't ask if you ought to believe, but if you do believe.

A. I believe whatever you and other good doctors order me to believe.

I Those good doctors are the masters of your sect; if I accord with them you believe with me; if not, not.

A I willingly believe with you if you teach what is good to me.

I. You consider it good to you if I teach what your other masters teach. Say, then, do you believe the body of our Lord,lesus Christ to be in the altar?

A. (Promptly) I believe that a body is there, and that all bodies are of our Lord.

I I ask whether the body there is of the Lord who was born of the Virgin, hung on the cross, arose from the dead, ascended, etc.

A. And you, sir, do you not believe it?

L I believe it wholly.

A. I believe likewise.

L You believe that I believe it, which is not what I ask, but whether you believe it.

A. If you wish to interpret all that I say otherwise than simply and plainly, then I don't know what to say. I am a simple and ignorant man. Pray don't catch me in my words.

I. If you are simple, answer simply, without evasions.

A. Willingly.

I Will you then swear that you have never learned anything contrary to the faith which we hold to be true?

A. (Growing pale) If I ought to swear, I will willingly swear.

I I don't ask whether you ought, but whether you will swear.

A. If you order me to swear, I will swear.

I I don't force you to swear, because as you believe oaths to be unlawful, you will transfer the sin to me who forced you; but if you will swear, I will hear it.

A. Why should I swear if you do not order me to?

I So that you may remove the suspicion of being a heretic.

A. Sir, I do not know how unless you teach me.

. I. If I had to swear, I would raise my hand and spread my fingers and say, "So help me God, I have never learned heresy or believed what is contrary to the true faith."

Then trembling as if he cannot repeat the form, he will stumble along as though speaking for himself or for another, so that there is not an absolute form of oath and yet he may be thought to have sworn. If the words are there, they are so turned around that he does not swear and yet appears to have sworn. Or he converts the oath into a form of prayer, as "God help me that I am not a heretic or the like"; and when asked whether he had sworn, he will say: "Did you not hear me swear?" [And when further hard pressed he will appeal, saying] "Sir, if I have done amiss in aught, I will willingly bear the penance, only help me to avoid the infamy of which I am accused though malice and without fault of mine." But a vigorous inquisitor must not allow himself to be worked upon in this way, but proceed firmly till he make these people confess their error, or at least publicly abjure heresy, so that if they are subsequently found to have sworn falsely, he can without further hearing, abandon them to the secular arm".
--------------------------------------------

Well thank you Bernie. I know you've got a flight to catch. Just one quick thing - when you say "abandon them to the secular arm", that basically means sending them off to some horrible execution because the church really didn't want to have a part in that, is that right? Well, good - see I'm not as stupid as I look. Take care and, well, keep the faith! Or keep everyone else keeping the faith. Or...you know what I mean. Just keep on keepin' on.

(shamelessly ripped from An Inquisition Torture Session)

7.19.2008

The Vatican Brings The Hammer Down

A 70 year old Main priest accused of a variety of sexual abuses dating all the way back to 1959 has finally received his comeuppance. The Holy See, after searching their souls, talking to the big man upstairs, checking the wind direction, and rolling some knuckle bones, has decided that Rev. Marcel Robitaille (find him in this directory if you can) is hereby sentenced to a life of prayer and penance.

Sigh. Catholic punishment ain't what it used to be.

7.18.2008

Merriam Webster's Word of the Day

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for today is "bogart". I rarely use that word, but I had an occasion to use it in the title of yesterday's post on a missed opportunity for a Eucharistic miracle. The post's original title was something bland, but I decided to change it at the last moment. The very next day, M-W uses "bogart" as their word of the day! It's like they somehow knew that word had meaning to me.

How weird is that?

Then on 7/14/08, I used the words "religious ignominy". On 7/11/08, M-W's Word of the Day was "ignominious". I just found that out today! It's like M-W and I are somehow connected through the meaning of words.

Now I know the most indurate of skeptics are thinking that I'm just trying to reify specific, seemingly improbable occurrences as......HOLY CRAP! It happened again*!

I don't attribute any meaning to these coincidences because they are just coincidences. If coincidences didn't happen, then we'd have something to talk about. But some people do find a lot of meaning in these chance events. If you were to write down three different words each day, and these words were relevant to something that happened to you that day, then before long you would have a long list of seemingly randomly generated words. But you can attribute some personal connection to each one. Now if you put these words in a search list for Google news, invariably some would start returning "hits". Some of these will be significant hits. For instance, off the top of my head, I just came up with "angry", "dog", and "car". Running all three of these through Google's news search, I come up with these news stories:
The contractor believes his dog was poisoned in a car park, in broad daylight, while he was only metres away. (link)

Echo was attacked twice, while still in my car, by a St. Bernard dog. The owner, driving a red or wine-coloured van, did not have either of her two dogs on a lead -- did not appear to even have a lead. (link)

Oozi (a police dog) plunged into the line of fire as police shot at a man they chased from Oakland Park to Miami Beach. The suspect, 27-year-old Delvin Lewis, was hospitalized with three gunshot wounds and charged with aggravated assault with a vehicle on a law enforcement officer, aggravated fleeing and eluding, resisting an officer with violence and being principal to the death of a police dog.Five years earlier, Lewis was accused of attacking a police dog. (link)
A few random words, a few random stories connected to these words - none of them really significant. Yet these stories were culled from a few seconds of searching the news. Suppose I apply these search terms for a week, or a month, or three months -- or longer. How long does it take for a story to crop up that is qualified as significant to the public? Once I get that story, I can post it on my blog and remind you that the words "angry", "dog", and "car" had some meaning to me last week or last month. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but I was sure back then that there would be a story coming out soon. Then I link to a story about some angry dog attacking the pope-mobile, complete with angy dog pictures, maybe even angry pope pictures.

Not too convincing is it? So, let's present it this way:
Last night, I had this dream about a car and the next morning my wife asked when we were going to buy a new car. While driving, we saw a car we both liked in the mall parking lot. Two dogs were in the car, windows rolled up, stifling heat. I became very angry and had some words with the owner. There's definitely going to be a major news story happening about this car, perhaps in conjunction with one dog, maybe two. It will generate an outspoken, angry reaction.
OK...I'm done with the set up. Do I have magic powers? No. Can I see into the future? No. Am I psychic? Hardly. But these are the tricks that Patrick Scott uses on his website, Precog News.
Welcome to Patrick Scott Reports: the PRECOG NEWS. I tell you what's going to happen before it happens. Not just at the beginning of the year like other sites do but with daily and hourly updates. Come back everyday, follow along and see how often I get a Future News hit. Just click on the labels below and all the predictions for that subject will display together.
Some of the hits look very impressive and are often attributed to "The Big Holy". I see it as Scott throwing a bunch of crap onto the wall and seeing what sticks. Not too impressive. And let's all note that the Florida Lottery has yet to ban him for successful lottery predictions.
---------------------
*These last two M-W words were "postcog" hits - i.e. I manufactured these coincidences. The first two, however, were honest-to-god, cross-my-heart, real magic coincidences. As magical as nature can make them.

Just For Fun

The Pope arrives in heaven, where St. Peter awaits him.
St. Peter asks who he is.

The Pope: 'I am the pope.'
St. Peter: 'Who? There's no such name in my book.'
The Pope: 'I'm the representative of God on Earth.'
St.Peter: 'Does God have a representative? He didn't tell me ...'
The Pope: 'But I am the leader of the Catholic Church ...'
St. Peter: 'The Catholic church ... Never heard of it ... Wait, I'll check with the boss.'
St. Peter walks away through Heaven's Gate to talk with God.
St. Peter: 'There's a dude standing outside who claims he's your representative on earth.'
God: 'I don't have a representative on earth, not that I know of ...
Wait, I'll ask Jesus.' (yells for Jesus)
Jesus: 'Yes father, what's up?'
God and St. Peter explain the situation.
Jesus: 'Wait, I'll go outside and have a little chat with that fellow.'

Ten minutes pass and Jesus re-enters the room laughing out loud.
After a few minutes St. Peter asks Jesus why he's laughing.

Jesus: 'Remember that fishing club I started 2000 years ago?
It still exists!'

(From Phils Phun)

7.17.2008

Creation Museum Ad To Be Aired On Fox News


Shrewd move on Ken Hamster's part - start running a commercial for a summer tourist attraction with summer vacation already half over. It's kind of nice to see them wasting the big bucks. In case you're wondering what I'm talking about, the famously ridiculous Creation Museum will be airing two different commercials on Fox News, starting Wednesday around 8:00 am. You can check out the spots on their website. They're a little confusing, but they do have that family friendly feel to them. Supposedly, one of them won an award or two, which is likely because they are unique albeit very retro.

I haven't visited the museum yet. I'll do it one day, but it will have to be when there's a full moon rising. I really really really want to watch Ken complete his werewolf transformation. That'll be a hoot.

(first seen at The Great Dinosaur Mystery)

91st Skeptic's Circle


The Skeptic's Circle number ninety-uno is being hosted by Sam Wise, he of the Sorting Out Science blog and podcast. Drop by and check out his curio shoppe of oddities and fantastical woo. He'll be glad you did.

And for you visitors making your way here from there, thanks for stopping by. Make yourself at home. There's beer in the fridge and steaks on the grill. And if you use the facilities, I have just two words: courtesy flush.

Speaking Of Idiots...


(From Phils Phun)

Don't Bogart The Host, My Friend - Pass It Over To Me

On Sunday, June 29, 2008, Webster Cook attended the Catholic Campus Ministry mass at the University of Central Florida Student Union building. Upon receiving communion, instead of swallowing, Cook held the consecrated sacrament in his mouth and brought it back to show a friend who had never seen a holy cracker before. A confrontation with church leaders ensued and Cook escaped with the wafer. Within a week, the headline appeared: Body of Christ Snatched From Church, Held Hostage By UCF Student. Predictably, two days later, the next headline read ‘Body of Christ’ Returned to Church After Student Receives Email Threats. At the same time, Catholic League president, Bill Donohue, said in a press release “For a student to disrupt Mass by taking the Body of Christ hostage – regardless of the alleged nature of his grievance – is beyond hate speech.”

So, the holy sacrament was returned and all should be well, at least as far as the UCF incident goes. However, it is likely that the UCF Catholic Campus Ministry missed out on a tremendous opportunity for glory (in the highest). Cook, in his incident report (still searching for the link), wrote “I attempted to affiliate myself with the Catholic Campus Ministry. In the process of doing so, I was forced to consume a food item.” Other than potential allergic reactions, there was the distinct possibility of him puking the body of Christ all over the place. Recall, if you will, a little incident that happened in Gerona, Spain in 1297. During a mass, the priest, upon placing the sacrament in his mouth,
“…was impeded and demonstrated bewilderment. A nun that followed the rite from above the altar saw the priest remove something from his mouth, and afterwards wrapped it in the corporal and placed it on the corner of the altar. After the Mass, the nun went immediately to the altar to verify what the priest had hidden in the white cloth and with great amazement discovered that it contained a small piece of Flesh, dripping with Blood. Questioned, the priest confessed to doubting the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. And just as he put the Holy Host in his mouth, the size increased to such a volume and consistency that he was not able to swallow the Sacred Species. (ref-pdf warn)”
Cook took the holy host back to his chair. The priest in Gerona spit the actual flesh and blood of Christ into a napkin and balled it up like common trash. In one case it’s desecration while in the other it’s a miracle.

Cook was not the first to take the holy host back home with him. I know you’re thinking what I’m thinking: Augsburg, Germany – 1194. The smell of schnitzel in the air, feces in the street. A woman, who we’ll call Gretchen, received Communion but, without being noticed, put the Host in a handkerchief, took it home, and placed it in a container of wax inside a cupboard. There really weren’t many places back then that you could go to to worship the Eucharist and it way easier to do it if you have your very own Eucharist…you get the picture.
Five years passed and on the 11th of May 1199, the woman, tormented by remorse, confessed to the superior of the convent of the Heilig Kreuz, Father Berthold, who had her bring the Host back. The priest opened up the wax covering that enclosed the Host and saw that the Holy Eucharist had been transformed into bleeding Flesh. (ref - pdf warn)
The Vatican calls it a Eucharistic Miracle. Like I said, the Catholic Pompous Campus ministry missed out on a Eucharistic Miracle of their own, and a Eucharistic Kerfuffle doesn’t really have that staying power quite like a miracle does.

The Eucharistic Miracles Around The World can be found here. They make for fascinating reading. Some of them will weird you out, like when Christ reached down from his cross and took up the chalice from a hesitant priest. I’ll have to read that to some scouts over the campfire. Guaranteed to keep them awake.

7.16.2008

American Idiot

Last month's American Idiot was a twofer: Rick Kieffe and J.W. Horne. The American Idiot blends a strong sense of patriotism, pride, and religion that, together, leads to some remarkable stupidity. This month's American Idiot is Mike Meehan, who amply demonstrates that he can be both stupid and tasteless, not too mention a piss-poor singer/songwriter. We submit the following for your inspection:


The billboard is an advertisment for his song "Please Don't Vote For A Democrat" and yes, those are the twin trade towers burning. Apparently, the terrorists were democrats. You can check out the cheesy video on his website, but to get a sense of what you're in for, the song's refrain is "Oh no, no no no, no no no, no no no no-no no-no. No no please don't vote for a democrat."

Pure genius. At least he said "please".

The Eucharist - Did You Know?


The following select Eucharist do's and don'ts come from the Catholic Code of Canon Law. I thought about commenting on each one, but I think they're interesting in and of themselves. In reading a few of them, I did have a vision of a priest waking in the middle of the night and rummaging through his cupboard for a bite to eat, pausing to wonder if there were any rules preventing him from fulfilling his craving for the Holy Host.

Can. 919 §1. A person who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain for at least one hour before holy communion from any food and drink, except for only water and medicine.

Can. 913 §2. The Most Holy Eucharist, however, can be administered to children in danger of death if they can distinguish the body of Christ from ordinary food and receive communion reverently.

Can. 924 §2. The bread must be only wheat and recently made so that there is no danger of spoiling.

Can. 933 For a just cause and with the express permission of the local ordinary, a priest is permitted to celebrate the Eucharist in the place of worship of some Church or ecclesial community which does not have full communion with the Catholic Church so long as there is no scandal.

Can. 935 No one is permitted to keep the Eucharist on one’s person or to carry it around, unless pastoral necessity urges it and the prescripts of the diocesan bishop are observed.

Can. 904 Remembering always that in the mystery of the eucharistic sacrifice the work of redemption is exercised continually, priests are to celebrate frequently; indeed, daily celebration is recommended earnestly since, even if the faithful cannot be present, it is the act of Christ and the Church in which priests fulfill their principal function.

Can. 905 §1. A priest is not permitted to celebrate the Eucharist more than once a day except in cases where the law permits him to celebrate or concelebrate more than once on the same day.

And if you're ever in a rush preparing for mass or are just looking for something to pack in the kids' lunchboxes, remember that Prefilled Communion cups can be a Godsend.
The Prefilled Cup presents communion in a new way that churches love. Both communion elements are delivered in one pass, yet the congregation may partake together of the communion bread separately from the juice.

Offers a communion wafer and grape juice in one sanitary, single serving container, specially sealed to stay fresh and clean without requiring refrigeration.

7.15.2008

If He Only Had A Brain...


Ext. Cross Roads of Yellow Brick Road -- Dorothy and Toto come forward along
the road from b.g. - CAMERA BOOMS down to left as she pauses
in the center of the cross roads -- looks about, speaks --

DOROTHY
Follow the Yellow Brick Road? Follow the
Yellow....?

Dorothy, puzzled as she looks about o.s. --

DOROTHY
Now which way do we go?

Dorothy standing in the center of cross roads -- a Scarecrow on a
pole in the cornfield at right -- he speaks, points to right -- Dorothy
whirls about and looks at him --

SCARECROW
That way is a very nice way.

Scarecrow, his arm pointing to right --

Dorothy, a bit frightened as she looks about o.s. - she speaks,
looks down at Toto as he barks o.s. --

DOROTHY
Who said that?

Toto barking at the Scarecrow o.s. --

Dorothy looks down and speaks to Toto o.s. --

DOROTHY
Don't be silly, Toto. Scarecrows don't talk.


SCARECROW
It's pleasant down that way, too.

Dorothy reacts, watches the Scarecrow o.s. -- speaks to Toto --
looks up as the Scarecrow speaks o.s.

DOROTHY
That's funny. Wasn't he pointing the other
way?

SCARECROW o.s.
Of course, people do....

Scarecrow in field -- shooting past Dorothy in f.g. -- the
Scarecrow crosses his arms and points in both directions --

SCARECROW
...go both ways!

Dorothy reacts, speaks as she starts forward --

DOROTHY
Why....

Dorothy steps forward to the cornfield as she speaks to the
Scarecrow -- CAMERA TRUCKS forward --

DOROTHY
...you did say something, didn't you?

The Scarecrow shakes his head, then nods --

Dorothy looking at the Scarecrow as he nods his head -- she speaks
to him --

DOROTHY
Are you doing that on purpose, or can't you
make up your mind?

The Scarecrow explains -- shows his straw head --

SCARECROW
That's the trouble. I can't make up my
mind. I haven't got a brain -- only straw.

Dorothy questions the Scarecrow o.s. in f.g. --

DOROTHY
How can you talk if you haven't got a....

Scarecrow speaks to Dorothy o.s.in f.g. --

DOROTHY o.s.
...brain?

SCARECROW
I don't know. But some people without
brains do an awful lot of talking, don't
they?

Dorothy nods, speaks --

DOROTHY
Yes, I guess you're right.

SCARECROW
Take my friend Geoffrey, here. He doesn't
have a brain and he talks all the time. He
even writes books.

Pan to Simmons, hanging in the field next to the SCARECROW.

SIMMONS
Howdy-do, little miss. I created him, don'tcha
know.

Dorothy, perplexed --
DOROTHY
You made the Scarecrow?

SIMMONS
Oh heavens, no! He's not a scarecrow. He's a
tree. Well, actually, he's a strawman. But
really, he's a tree.

DOROTHY
Oh my, I'm afraid I don't understand. He doesn't
look like a tree...

Simmons, frowning

SIMMONS
Your problem is that you're using your brain.
You'll never understand me if you keep that up!
Didn't you read the sign?

DOROTHY
Sign?

Camera pans to sign, which reads: NO BRAINZ ALOWED. THIS MEENS U.

DOROTHY
If you please, sir. I didn't notice the sign. But
even if I did, I can't just stop thinking.

SIMMONS
Ah, but you can stop thinking rationally. Take, for
example, the evolution of the tree.

Simmons points to the scarecrow. The scarecrow smiles and nods at Simmons,
then turns to Dorothy and mouths "SAVE ME".

SIMMONS
How would you say the tree evolved to be so tall?

Dorothy thinks for a moment, then

DOROTHY
Well, I suppose that it must have started with the
unicellular organisms present in the sea. Once they
made their way onto land, they started to compete for
resources. Initially, this would have led them to
spread across the landscape, but eventually the
struggle for sunlight imposed a distinct selection
pressure, with improved environmental fitness for
those that attained some measure of vertical height.
Oh, at first it would have been in small increments,
perhaps a cellular layer here, a cellular layer there.
But overall, local patches would exhibit some height
gain. Further adaptations over the millennia would
result in the development of long-chain polysaccharides
(i.e. cellulose), leading to ever complex support
structures that would further gains in height.
Similarly, improvements would have been gained by
the evolution of root structures to take up nutrients
from the soil as well as provide an anchoring mechanism
in the face of varying physical forces. And then...

Simmons, in a thundering voice

SIMMONS
ENOUGH! That is not AT ALL what I'm talking about!

The scarecrow clasps his hands in supplication, pleading to Dorothy.

SIMMONS
What you don't seem to understand is that, true, there
once may have been a landscape covered in these small
organisms, perhaps something like moss. I'll even allow
that there may have even been prehistoric flat plants.
But where did the tree come from, hmmm? Did one of these
flat plants all of a sudden decide that it wanted to be
a Redwood, hmmm? Did it say to itself "OK, I think I'll
create a huge root structure, develop some protective bark
and sap, make some piny bristles to give off moisture so I
can have an osmotic pressure gradient that will wick more
moisture some 400 feet into the air, and while I'm doing
that I might as well develop both male and female
characteristics so I can give off pollen AND drop seeds...

Red in the face, Simmons begins to sweat under the sun. The scarecrow holds
up a sign "FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, PLEASE GET ME OUT OF HERE!"

SIMMONS
Well, little girl? Did a flat plant decide to do all that
on its own? Huh?! And before you say anything, you better
be prepared to show me which plant decided to do it,
because I want to know.

Dorothy looks on, mouth agape...a stunned expression on her face.

SIMMONS
I didn't think so. Your problem is that you think too much
when all your questions can be answered quite easily. There's
no need to go through all that effort of collecting data,
analyzing data, developing and confirming hypotheses. It's all
rubbish! There's only one answer you need...

Dorothy releases the scarecrow, tears streaming down his face in
gratitude.

SCARECROW
C'mon, let's get outta here! I don't have a brain
and even I can tell this guy's a loon.

SIMMONS
Only one answer: WOW.

Dorothy, the scarecrow, and Toto slowly put some distance between them and
Simmons, heading down the yellow brick road for their next big adventure.
Simmons continues to shout at them, even as a woodpecker lands on his forehead.

SIMMONS (o.s, fading)
See something neat in nature? WOW! Whales have blowholes? WOW!
Chickens lay eggs? WOWIE-WOW-WOW!

The woodpecker begins to peck.

FADE OUT

References:
Billions of Missing Links: Upright Plants

The New Yorker Fails With Poe's Law

The cover of the latest issue of The New Yorker depicts Barrack Obama as a muslim and his wife as a terrorist, doing their fist-bump thang in the Oval Office. It's supposed to be satire. It's supposed to poke fun at the way the air head chicken hawks in right wing media portray Obama in their attempts to torpedo his campaign. The problem is that The New Yorker doesn't understand Poe's Law: Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won't mistake for the real thing.

Apparently, The New Yorker doesn't realize that there are people who will believe anything, like homeopathy, crop circles, perpetual motion. Some will even believe that you can turn a cracker cracker into someone who has risen from the dead.

In fact, there are people who believe that Obama is a muslim. After all, his middle name is Hussein, so he must be, right? He's probably even related to Saddam, right?? Oh, and Fox News planted the idea that Obama's fist bump with his wife might be some "terrorist jab". Rush Limbaugh has falsely stated that "Hamas has endorsed Obama..." Now, there will be people who will look at the cover of The New Yorker and, without reading a word, conclude that the magazine concurs with these falsities. It's not much of a stretch to expect that people will now think that Michelle Obama owns an AK-47. Some people just aren't smart enough to pick up on satire*, and if you have to explain a joke, it ain't funny!

*(except, of course, all the wonderful visitors to this blog)

7.14.2008

Bare Chested Mormons


More women swoon for more men Mormons, or at least those hunky types just back from their missionary positions. In 2007, twelve such individuals posed shirtless for a pinup calendar, currently on sell at Mormons Exposed. By showing off their ripped Moronis and bulging Nephis, Chad Hardy, the calendar's creator, says
The Men on a Mission calendar is intended to be a light-hearted and fun spin on a social taboo. Far too much fear, hatred, anger and violence is committed in the name of religion. By showing these missionaries as regular people, we hope to build a common thread that can break down some of the barriers that have been built up. Driven by the desire to serve as an advocate for change, Mormons Exposed created a national product that consumers everywhere can find humorous and enjoyable.

Alas for poor Chad, it seems the presence of so much beef-cake in their midst is not an image the Church of Latter Day Saints would like to project. So, they excommunicated poor Chad. Somehow, I doubt Chad is too concerned over the consequences of his religious ignominy:
Hardy has been inactive in the Mormon church for the past six years. He no longer pays tithing or wears the religious undergarments considered sacred. In an interview last week, Hardy said he had always struggled to fit in and live up to the expectations of membership.

Some of the models were also called in for punishment. Apparently they weren't excommunicated. Maybe they were just given a spanking, instantly converting a few hundred volunteers in the process.

And finally, any last words from Hardy?
"This calendar is my contribution to society," Hardy says. "We need to get over ourselves."

And next year, Hardy promises, "it's girls."

7.13.2008

Where Will You Go When You Die?

One person's answer:

Tackling The Myth of Gravity

It is only satire but it's a nice illustration of the Discovery Institute's tactics against the theory of evolution.

Discovery Institute Takes on Gravity Myth
Hot on the heels of a recent Louisiana victory in the fight against evolution, the Seattle-based think tank Discovery Institute held a press conference Thursday to announce their latest initiative: defeating the myth of gravity.

Robert Crowther, Discovery’s director of communications was visibly excited as he detailed the Institute’s plan for attacking what he refers to as the sloppy, inaccurate, and overtly biased portrayal of the theory of gravity.


We should also expect them to put the earth back at the center of the solar system.

7.11.2008

Surprise Endings

The following is an opinion piece from the "letters to the editor" department in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It is in response to an earlier article about the support for Intelligent Design.

Of the eight scientists mentioned by name, four work for the Discovery Institute, a group whose purpose, stated in a once-secret document, is to "replace materialistic explanations with the understanding that nature and human beings are created by God."

Two of the scientists seem rather extreme, and one other takes a moderate position and advocates testing Intelligent Design (ID) before teaching it in schools.

On the subject of peer-reviewed articles, Michael Behe said, during the trial of Kitzmiller vs. Dover, "There are no peer-reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments." Behe is one of ID's most important figures.

The writer sounds like he has his facts down and has a better understanding of the evolution/ID controversy than most people. As I read on, I could quibble with some of the points, maybe change something here or there, emphasize this and not that, etc. So, it was just minor editorial nits but basically the argument was sound.

Then, at the end of the article, I was shocked to read this:

It is unscientific to teach so flawed a theory as ID. You should test theories before, and not after, shoving them down the throats of students.

Dylan T. Vrana, Age 12.

Mechanicsville.
Damn. Age 12.

Hey Jenny McCarthy - Thanks A Lot!

Major measles outbreaks are occurring because people are avoiding vaccinations. Why are they avoiding vaccinations? Because morons like Jenny McCarthy say vaccinations cause autism and morons like Oprah Winfrey giver her a vehicle to spew her garbage to the public. Then there are the morons in media outlets which do very little to counter her claims with real science.

Measles Outbreak Spreads to 15 States, Largest in 10 Years
"Cases started springing up in May, when more than 70 people in a dozen states became ill. According to federal health officials, most of the victims were not vaccinated against the highly contagious virus."

"What concerns me is the trend of more and more people not vaccinating their children because of fears that vaccines cause autism — although no studies have proven this to be true," Dr. Joseph Rahimian, an infectious disease specialist at St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan, told FOXNews.com in May.


Why anyone would trust Jenny McCarthy is beyond me. I feel sorry for those who contracted the disease, but if they took Jenny's advice over their doctor's, then the results are not unexpected. Even though vaccinations have eliminated measles in the United States, the disease can still be contracted abroad by those unvaccinated. It can then be brought home and transferred to other school children, who, again if not vaccinated, will be susceptible. A tiny percentage of the population who choose not to get vaccinated are depending on others to be vaccinated to prevent an all out epidemic. However, once this percentage rises to 10% or more, there is a significant chance that outbreaks will occur. Measles, if you didn't know, can be fatal. Although rare, the potential exists.

So, let's all thank Jenny McCarthy for her service in pseudoscience and the real dangers she brings to her countrymen.

7.10.2008

The Racially Insensitive Singularity

Q: What object in the universe has a gravitational pull so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape?

A: A pointlike singularity with a surrounding event horizon, of course. What were you thinking? Oh...that? You didn't really go there, did you? You weren't really thinking "B---- H---", were you? If so and if you happen to be a Dallas County commissioner, then you're a racially insensitive bastard.

Dallas County officials spar over 'black hole' comment
Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield, who is white, said it seemed that central collections "has become a black hole" because paperwork reportedly has become lost in the office.

Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is black, interrupted him with a loud "Excuse me!" He then corrected his colleague, saying the office has become a "white hole."

That prompted Judge Thomas Jones, who is black, to demand an apology from Mayfield for his racially insensitive analogy.

To alleviate further confusion in the future, I offer this handy-dandy little Q&A to steer you in the right direction and keep you out of similar awkward situations:

Q: What kind of box is recovered from airplane crashes?
A: The airplane crash box

Q: What is the common name of the bubonic plague during the 14th century?
A: The 14th century bubonic plague

Q: What is the common name of pneumoconiosis caused by habitual inhalation of coal dust?
A: Pneumoconiosis from habitual inhalation of coal dust

Q: What do you call the mountains that are found in
W South Dakota & NE Wyoming?
A: The mountains

Q: What do you get when someone punches you in the eye?
A: A bruisy eye

Q: What do you call someone who has achieved expert rating in Judo or Karate?
A: Sir or ma'am.

Q: What do you call the common North American bear?
A: Ursus Americanus. Deal with it.

Discotute's Crazy Uncle Escapes Again

The Discovery Institute's (aka Discotute) Geoffrey Simmons has apparently escaped from his cage and gotten access to a computer again to pimp his fantasy novel, Billions of Missing Links (BOML), which finds just about everything in nature to be amazing. The Discotute has no problem with just a little bit of evolution, something they call microevolution or variations within kind. So, they really shouldn't have a problem with the little bit of evolution it takes to affix a barnacle or mollusk firmly to its perch. Simmons, on the other hand, finds this phenomenon simply amazing.
Billions of Missing Links: Barnacles and Mussels
Mussels have a similar glue, which sets underwater and has enormous strength. It takes about five minutes for the mussel to create a “dab” of this glue beneath its foot on a piling or rock. Twenty dabs will do it, and the job can be completed overnight. Imagine the consternation of intermediate species when they secreted what they thought was glue, but kept being washed away by the waves. Or the species that couldn’t store their glue and found their bivalves stuck together.
The adhesives that we produce today work really well on dry land, however we have yet to invent a compound that will form an adhesive underwater. Mussels, mollusks, and barnacles do this rather well - in fact, incredibly well. For barnacles, their "glue" is made by combining proteins together, much the same as we make epoxy from two different parts. Mix the two parts together, and they can solidify or create a fast curing adhesive. The barnacles have two separate glands to keep these proteins separate.

Mussels, on the other hand, create a gelatinous compound that streams out beneath their "foot" as an adhesive strand called a byssus and mussels use them not only to anchor themselves down, but also to permanently weld predators where they are.

Now all this sounds like I might be supporting Simmons' "that's incredible" way of thinking. Indeed, it is incredible. Nature is amazing. But that doesn't mean it's inexplicable. Just because Simmons can't imagine how barnacles evolved with two separate glands to keep epoxy components apart doesn't mean it didn't happen. Discotute might tell us the odds of this happening are a longshot, but I don't think that even they would say microevolution couldn't account for it. After all, they are trying to put intelligent design on some sort of scientific foundation, so they can't adopt Simmons' way of thinking otherwise their arguments would all boil down to incredulity.

So why even give Simmons a platform? Why doesn't Behe criticize Simmons? Why not Luskin or Dembski? They have to see Simmons as a liability, so why keep him on? My guess is that they need his credentials, whatever those are. They can't afford to lose PhDs otherwise they lose a bit of that "air of legitimacy" that they've tried to craft for themselves. No, it really sounds like Simmons is the Discotute's crazy old uncle that they keep locked away in the attic. Someone obviously left the door unlocked after feeding time.

References:
Underwater adhesion: The Barnacle Way
The Chemistry of...Glue
Chemists Crack Secret of Nature's Super Glue
Salty Water Makes Barnacles Stick