A Letter Of Congradulations to Mr. DJ Grothe

December 7, 2009

Dear Mr. Grothe;

I would like to take time out to recognize you as the new president of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF).

You were not chosen to fill this position because of a divine revelation, a horoscope cast, or a reading of tea leaves. You were chosen to fill this position because of the hard work and dedication you have put into promoting science, the scientific method, and skeptical thinking. Under your leadership as the Center For Inquiry Vice President and Director of Outreach Programs, the Center For Inquiry has been able to establish Centers on Campus in many universities, colleges, and high schools across the country and around the world.

Skeptics like you aren’t chosen, they choose. They choose to stand against the tide of unreason. They choose to fight the forces of anti- and pseudo sciences. They choose to expose the inconsistencies and hypocrisies from religious fundamentalists.

As host of the Center For Inquiry’s radio show and the podcast “Point of Inquiry”, you engage the most prominent minds in the U.S. and the world, challenging their thoughts and notions. With your non-judgemental, non-biased approach to interviewing, you prod your guests into elaborating on their books, their comments, and their positions, clearing away misconceptions and misinterpretations.

It is with great respect that I extend to you my greatest congratulations and warmest wishes, and welcome you to your new position as president of the JREF. With unwavering certainty, I’m sure that you will lead the JREF to newer and unprecedented heights.

You have a character, a charisma, and a charm unlike anyone else, and I look forward to seeing what you have in store for us the skeptical community.

He told us he was misdiagnosed…sorta

November 24, 2009

Let’s lay one thing out front and make it clear-doctors are human and will make mistakes.

We now continue with your regularly scheduled blog entry, already in progress

Ok, here’s the skinny.

Rom Houben had a car crash 23 years ago. That left him in a “persistent vegetative state”. A persistent vegetative state is a mixture of awake and coma, but not quite either. Usually, the higher functioning brain, responsible for voluntary actions is off, while the brainstem, responsible for involuntary action (heartbeat, breathing, digestion, etc.) remains fully functional. They may have their eyes open, they may “track” a moving object with their eyes, they may grunt, or other actions similar to consciousness, but they aren’t actually responding to stimuli.

So, snap back to reality. Rom has recovered. The details are somewhat sketchy, though. I’ve found that a PET was used to help doctors make the new diagnosis. A PET scan uses positrons (antimatter electrons) that annihilate electrons they come in contact with, to create a 3D image of what’s happening inside the brain.

So, I haven’t been able to figure out what EXACTLY happened to allow the doctors to reach their new conclusion, or even what they did to bring him out. That seems to remain hush-hush.

So, now he’s awake and communicating…I think. The reporting has been SO bad, I can’t tell exactly what’s happening. But, I can tell you this, he’s coming up with these eloquent, discriptive complex sentences…with the help of a faciliated communicator.

!!!!!!!

A Facilitated Communicator? Did we snap back to 1986? All the tests run on facilitated communications have been fogotten? Facilitated Communication is when a person, or faciliator, holds the hand of a person who cannot communicate alone, to convey a message. The thought is that the facilitator is just there to steady the hand, and person communicates. The problem is that it doesn’t happen like that. When the facilitator is blinded, and the keys are in non-standard places, such as the keyboard turned upside down, then the “communication” becomes incoherent combinations of letters. Not words, not sentances. This is evidence that the facilitator is communicating, not the one being facilitated.

I’m not sure where on the sliding scale of consiousness he is. I’m not sure if he’s really responding to stimuli, or doing something really similar to responding. If a doctors pinches him, then clocks the doctor, I’m convinced. If the keybard is rearranged, and the facilitator is blinded, and the sentences are still coherent, and eloquent, then I’m convinced.

Until then, I remain unconvinced. I question what state he’s in. I question what he remembers. I question his responses. And I question the reporting.

If you’d like to read more about this, please visit one of the following sites:

http://news.discovery.com/human/belgian-man-coma-consciousness.html – Discovery

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/eu_belgium_coma_recovery – Yahoo

NOGLSTP

November 24, 2009

The National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Science and Technical Proffessionals (NOGLSTP) is a group of scientists/technical proffessionals/science advocates who are either GLBT or GLBT friendly. I’ve had the opportunity to interview Barbara Belmont, the treasurer of the organizations. Here is a portion, with more to come:

Skeptigay: Thank you for taking the time to do an email interview with me. Barbara, please tell me a little about you personally. How did you first hear about NOGLSTP?

Barbara Belmont: I saw a letter to the editor of Science magazine from a grass-roots group identifying themselves as NOLGS — National Organization of Lesbian and Gay Scientists. That was in 1980, and I hadn’t yet realized I was a
lesbian. After I came out a short time later, I remembered that letter, and started looking for the gay scientists. I found them locally, in the form of Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Scientists. Turns out some of the LAGLS organizers were involved with NOLGS. NOLGS became NOGLS, then NOGLSTP.

SG: How would you describe NOGLSTP to a person on the street?

BB: NOGLSTP is a professional society for queer scientists and engineers with, the following goals: explain queer issues to scientists, explain science, to the queer community, promote workplace equality and diversity
inclusion, promote professional networking among our members, and provide, positive role models.

SG: Most people think scientists are pretty liberal, but your goals, found
at http://www.noglstp.org/?page_id=3 seem to suggest that there is a lot of
homophobia in science and technical professions.

BB: While it’s been demonstrated that most educated people are more politically liberal than uneducated people, it’s important to emphasize that scientists and engineers represent all facets of political leanings. In addition, most of us techno-workers are surrounded by non-technical people in the workplace. So it’s not necessarily our peers who are
homophobic. It’s more likely that our peers value us for our competence and feel that our queerness is none of their business. Even so, are goals are about promoting corporate cultures of acceptance (or at least tolerance), inclusion, and non-discrimination.

When NOGLSTP was founded in the 1980’s, LGBT people were afraid to come out in academia for fear of being passed over for tenure or grants. LGBT people in industry could be denied security clearances (and therefore access to information required to get their job done) just for being queer. Very few companies had even heard of equal opportunity inclusion for LGBT people, let alone considered openly welcoming them. Most LGBT scientists or engineers thought they were “the only ones”. NOGLSTP’s goals were formulated around addressing these issues.

Now, these issues were not always caused by homophobic peers. They were a reflection of society and cultural mores at the time, as well as attitudes of people in charge — management, grant administrators, shareholders, etc.

Over the years, corporate management of most engineering companies have bought into the idea that diversity in staffing is a good thing, and we LGBT folk have made a very good business case for LGBT inclusion in that diversity outreach. It’s now well-understood that open and out LGBT-folk are not security risks. Almost every academic institution has an openly gay professor or researcher, and most larger companies and universities
have specific policies that protect their LGBT employees from discrimination.
Much progress has been made, but there is still room for improvement…

SG: According to your website, you give out recognition awards. Could you give an example of what some of the winners of previous awards have done?

Our awards program, established in 2004, serves two purposes: First, it recognizes the professional contributions of LGBT Scientists and Engineers. Secondly, it provides role models of outstanding LGBT Scientists and Engineers to the public.

Our scientists of the year so far have been honored for

  • contributions to the semi-conductor industry and to the understanding of how to make reliable chips (Larry Wagner)
  • hurricane research which has led to significant improvements in hurricane track forecasts (Sim Aberson)
  • setting the standard for quantitative estimates of the probability of future destructive earthquakes (Kerry Sieh)
  • investigation of cell surface carbohydrates and biopolymers that contribute to cell surface recognition and cell-cell communication (Carolyn Bertozzi)
  • contributions to the understanding of human linguistic communication (Arnold Zwicky)
  • understanding, emulating, and controlling the structure and interactions of proteins (James Nowick)

Our engineers of the year so far have been honored for

  • invention of “dynamic instruction scheduling”, which has become a classic computer hardware method for enhancing the performance of certain processors (Lynn Conway)
  • improvements in the semiconductor manufacturing process (Peter Ventzek)
  • pioneering work in software engineering involving development one of the
    first desktop publishing toolsets (Tim Gill)
  • design and development of classified missile systems of great importance
    to the Department of Defense (Michael Steinberg)
  • management of systems engineering and testing of the global positioning
    system IIF, an upgrade of the original GPS, which is a worldwide timing
    and navigation system (Anthony Gingiss)

SG: Are you familiar with skepticism as a course of thought in modern times?

BB: Any well-trained scientist will be familiar with Skepticism. Only, we
call it Scientific Method.

Properly executed Scientific Method is a form of applied Skepticism. We
observe the phenomena or data. We use reasoning to formulate a
hypothesis. We construct experiments and collect data to determine
whether the hypothesis is supported. We use critical thinking to
interpret the results. We revise the hypothesis if the data don’t support
it, and refine the experiments to dig a little deeper if the hypothesis is
supported.

SG: Does NOGLSTP have an official position on teaching Intelligent Design in
the classroom?

BB: NOGLSTP has not taken a position on Intelligent Design, simply because our
goals and expertise do not include curriculum content except that which
relates to presentation of LGBT issues in scientific research.

On a personal note, I would say that the ID discussion belongs with
theology discussions, not evolution discussions. I have no problem with it
being taught in the classroom, as long as it is not taught in any science
classroom. While Intelligent Design is a version of Creationism that some
scientists of faith find attractive, it is certainly no proven hypothesis
like evolution. Evolution is proven by scientific evidence. There is no
proof for any form of Creationism.

SG: Thank you, Barbara for this portion of the interview. I will have more questions for you later.

If you consider yourself a scientist, a technical professional, a science advocate, GLBT, or GLBT friendly, please visit http://www.noglstp.org for more information about supporting GLBT and Science, collective.

Equal Opportunity Offense

November 18, 2009

If you read the newspaper, watch the tv, and/or don’t live in a cave 10 miles deep, then you know that everyday, SOMEONE is getting offended by SOMETHING. And, it makes headlines.

Well, the writers of 2012 went out of their way to not offend someone, and, because of that, offended someone else.

If you’ve seen the movie, or the previews, then you know that several of Christendom’s greatest landmarks get destroyed. Christo Redemptor, (Christ the Redeemer in Brazil), the Sisteen Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basillica, just from the previews. Well, the problem is that the writers went out of their way to NOT destroy Muslim sites.

Muslims: Not Pissed Christians: Pissed

According to here, one of the writers was afraid of getting a fatwa (basically, a hit has been put out on you) declared on him.

Now, while he does have a point, Muslims have declared fatwas on people for works of enertainment, I think if  you’re not going to destroy one religion’s holy sites, don’t destroy another’s. Be equal opportunity. Leave the religious sites alone, and focus on some national landmarks. Take out the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Big Ben, Red Square, the Great Wall, the Leaning Tower (that’s not religious), the Angkor Wat, Chichen Izda, and the Pyramids. None of them are religious marks. Or, take out the Hagia Sophia, St. Peter’s Basillica, the Shwedagon Pagoda, and any other reglious monument you please. Equal opportunity destruction!

Very Busy Life

November 16, 2009

I’d like to start off by apologizing. My life is about to get very, very busy, so my blog posts may be spotty at best. Please bear with me, and thank you for your continued readership.

Kids These Days

November 11, 2009

Our world is changing, fast. Some of the stuff that we had when we were children will be completely ancient compared to what children now are exposed to. A video game not in 3 dimensions? Buying a physical item to listen to music? Not paying to watch television? HAVING to call someone for a short message? A dial tone? These are all things that children may not expereince anymore.

I’m about as old as Nintendo. While I’m sure some readers predate Nintendo and Atari both, I remember having just 2 dimensions to move my little man in. And you only had 3 lives. Now, technically, you only get one life, but you can find a save point, pick up where you left off, and try again.

I’m sure kids are aware that music is still sold in stores, but only mom and dad do that. The cutting edge kids get their music from the internet (legally). Why should I have to pester mom and dad to take me all the way to the store to buy a CD, full of songs I don’t want to hear, when I just want that ONE song!

Yes, I know mom and dad pay the bills, I just don’t care. As long as I can get my 500 channels of all day, everyday cartoons. I don’t know what I’d do if I only had to deal with…3 channels (SHREIK!)

Bobby: u cmng ovr?

Tommy: yeah be thr sun

Bobby: ok c u l8r

And, what’s this whole, check for a dial tone crap? You enter the number, hit send, and it calls. I might have a bad connection, but I can take as long as I want.

W.W.WTF – 11/11

November 11, 2009

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705343621/Mormons-back-gays-SLC-OKs-policies.html – Salt Lake City passes a gay rights bill, and the Mormon Church….suports it?

http://www.getxnews.com/2009/11/ufo-footage-flying-over-grand-canyon-usa/ – Watch a video of some Unidentified Flying Object by the Grand Canyon.

http://ontheflix.com/2009/11/10/2012-movie-continues-the-madness-in-its-8th-tv-spot/ – Oh, look, another “2012” tv Spot. I don’t know about you, but I’m amazed. Zzzzz….

Playtime!

November 10, 2009

Recently, The National Museum of Play recently inducted some toys into the Toy Hall of Fame. This year’s class includes: Nintendo’s Game Boy, the Ball, and the Big Wheel.

When I was 11, I wanted a Game Boy for Christmas. For weeks leading up to Christmas, I’d say…when I get a Game Boy. I’d be reminded “if you get a Game Boy”. Oh, I wanted a Game Boy. I knew I was getting a Game boy. I hoped I got a Game Boy. I woke up Christmas morning, looking at all the presents, and my heart sank. None of them were…Game Boy shaped. I’d open one, it was another Ninja Turtle. That was fine, I like the Turtles also, but, it wasn’t a Game Boy. I opened a fairly big box, and it was a TV for my room. That was pretty cool. I went to open another present, but my Aunt told me to open this one first. I did. I made my first tear, and I took a deep breath….”A GAME BOY!!!!” I went back to the other present, I was about to open, it was Dr. Mario-a Game Boy game. (It would have been pretty silly for me to open the game first, and then the game boy)

As soon as I was done opening my presents, I started playing the Game Boy. It was about 10, 0r 11. At 5 that night, my aunt pointed out I hadn’t even took my TV out of the box. I’d just been playing my Game Boy. Honestly, that year, I could have gotten one present that year, and I’d be fine.

I have fond memories of the Big Wheel. When I was finally able to leave the front yard, I would ride my Big Wheel around the block. Here, I would just go around and around, from the time I got out of school, to the time Gramma called me in for dinner. With that toy, I didn’t have anything to worry about…well, maybe the occassional car. Then, I’d come in, and if I was good, I could go out into the back yard. I wonder what ever happened to that thing.

And then, the Ball. What kid could live without a ball? Probably my favorite one was my kickball. My Aunt got it for me one day when I spent the weekend at her place in Conway. When I got back home, my friend came over, and we played with it. We had two trees out in the front yard, just a few feet apart. I’d kick it, try to get it past him, and he’d try to keep the ball from going between the trees. That day, while we were playing with it, one of my kicks were off, and it went over beside the house. When I found it, it had hit a stick and popped. We were very sad. We didn’t cry, because we were boys, but still, that ball, while it lasted, was a lot of fun.

Ah, growing up, and the toys we had. Looking back, I remember all the fun I had with them, and almost wish I could leave the days of bills, work, and responsibility and go back to just playing, all day, every day.

And then I realize that if I did that, I’d have to get all the other stuff that came with it. Not being able to do anything by yourself, always having to report to someone. Never being taken seriously. No thanks, I’ll keep the worse parts of today, if that means I get to keep the better.

What about you? Do you have any fond memories of these toys growing up? If not these toys specifically, what about the other toys in the Hall of Fame?

W.W.WTF – 11/10

November 10, 2009

http://www.mndaily.com/2009/11/09/gay-rights-focal-point-2010-race – Mind, Body, and Ventura supports gay marriage, based on seperation of church and state.

http://www.examiner.com/x-23325-Tampa-Deism-Examiner~y2009m11d6-Tanzanian-witch-doctors-cause-slaughter-of-albinos – In Tanania, albinios are being killed for organs. Witch doctor’s orders.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-11-09/does-suzanne-somers-cause-cancer/ – Surgon General’s Waring: Exposure to Suzanne Somers may be hazardous to your health.

Carl Sagan Day

November 9, 2009

As many of you know, today is the day Carl Sagan was born, and I’m sure a lot of you are recognizing it. While I have no plans to keep you from doing so, I would suggest you do so with caution.

Carl Sagan was pretty much a science popularizer. He made it cool to be a science geek. His “Cosmos” series did more for science in the public consiousness than most other events. Only Albert Einstein and his world tour can compare. Many skeptics would like science to be promoted in the public consciousness. I am one of them. However, I firmly believe that celebrating Carl Sagan Day and Darwin Day are bad ways of doing so.

In schools all across the country, there is a battle going on between science and religion. Science says that religion has no place in public schools, and religion says that science is a religion, and since science is allowed, then my religion of choice should be allowed also.

We need to make sure we are in no way wearing the trappings of religion. Religion celebrates the birth of people who have done great things in their religion. I’m sure you’ve heard of the holiday Christmas. To avoid looking like a religion, we need to separate the man from the event. In religion, the person who has done great things was chosen, by your preferred deity, to bring a revalation, or lead the people, etc. This person, and only this person, could  have done it. When we celebrate Darwin and Sagan days, we are making it look like they were chosen to do these things. I’m sure you and I both agree, they were not chosen, they chose. I’d much rather replace “Darwin Day” with “Species Day”-the day Darwin published his “On the Origins of Species”. We should not celebrate November 9th as Sagan day, but September 28th as “Cosmos Day”, the day Cosmos premiered.

To celebrate the birth of a man in science, no matter how great, elavates that man to the status of a prohet. If we are not promoting a religion, why do we need prophets?