Reimagined and Revamped. Fighting the spread of nonsense often feels like a Sisyphean task. However, the joy is in making the information available, not the hope of conversion.

Anti antivax

I'm going to follow Phil Plaits lead here and send my few readers over to this post debunking most of that antivax nonsense that so many stupid celebrities are espousing these days. Its a shame that so many people and babies have to die and suffer before maybe these dorks snap out of it. I'm not sure they ever will.

Anyway, its a good read. I'll be back to blogging one of these days after my computer recovers from swine flu.

Update:
Oooohh I gotta add this from Skeptic Dad. Well done.


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Steal This Idea

I have recently become an avid podcast listener. I love it. So much information that I can pack into my head while doing mundane things is just wonderful to me. I get history, skepticism, science, culture. Love it. My list of podcasts I am listening to is on the right (I need to update it).

I also read tons of blogs because I not only like the content, but also the personalities.  I write an ‘amateur’ blog and I know how much time I spend on researching topics, sometime performing experiments, and so forth. So I have a small idea of how much time and effort goes into putting together a real one like the guys over at SGU, or the JREF. These guys and many others, not only have a web site, but routinely perform trials, or put on pod casts, organize conventions, and do so much for the skeptical community.

None of this is without cost. Websites, materials for trials, recording and editing equipment, travel, personnel, etc etc, all cost money even though most of them don’t do it for money. So I am totally not surprised that most of these groups ask for donations.

So I donated. I gave Andy Kaiser at Digital Bits Skeptic some money. I have grown to like his show a lot. But what this means to me is that Steven Novella and Gang aren’t going to get any money, neither is JREF, or Center for Inquiry or Skeptoid any of the other of the groups that I enjoy listening to. I’m not really happy about that.

So I was thinking…

SkepticDonor

What about a SkepticDonor website? At this website people would visit to donate money to the skeptical groups they like. It could work as follows:

A number of skeptic groups are participants of this site. They have links to the site at their blogs or homepages. When someone wants to donate they click on a link to get to the SkepticDonor website.

At SkepticDonor, all the participating skeptical entities are listed, with links back to their sites. It would look something like a blogroll or check boxes next to their names. The donor would check the boxes they would like to donate to and hit “submit”.

They are then asked how much money they would like to donate. Credit card information is asked for and the amount is entered. This amount is split between the groups that the donor specified.

An email is sent to the donor with a receipt and an acknowledgment of how much went to each of the skeptic groups he chose.

A database tracks all donations and the way they were split. Every once in a while, a transfer is made or a check is cut to all the groups involved.

Advantages:

The main advantages of a system like this are twofold. First off, it’s more efficient with regard to money. Instead of processing fees on smaller amounts of cash only one processing fee is made. This leaves more money available for the actual groups.

Second, its far more convenient than doing a donation multiple times. This would lower the bar that may be preventing people from donating to more than one group (like myself). More total money would be directed at skeptical groups, even if the amount that each group gets from a donor may be smaller. Besides, I don’t think there is anything stopping anyone from donating even more to one specific group if they like.

Variations on a theme:

While I am usually a big fan of “simpler is better”, there are other alternatives. For example, instead of a check box for the groups you want to donate to, there could be amounts you want to send to each group. Or instead of amounts, it could be percentages, something to allow you to send more money to one group than another.

Another variation is that the money that gets donated could just go into a pot. Then the skeptical groups that are involved could battle it out as to how it gets split. Groups that have more costs could get more money, or something like that. I like that idea less, because if I am giving the money I would like to direct it where I like (if only taxes worked that way).

Effort Sisyphus is not a good place for SkepticDonor

This is why I entitled this post the way I did. I would love to be the organizer for this thing. I would love to be that involved in this little movement we have. But I gotta face some facts. I’m nobody. I have no clout. People would feel weird giving me money and trusting that it is going somewhere useful.

Further, in order for me to do that, I would have to create a non-profit, and create the website and so forth and that will add costs to the thing that is trying to save on costs. Other groups like SGU and JREF are already non-profits and already have strong web presence and manpower.

 

If this existed, I would use it every year. While throwing this idea at Mr. Kaiser, he responded that he had a similar idea, so I can’t be totally nutz. So, here I am, I’m imploring a larger, more established group (hello SGU? hello JREF?) to create something like this.

 

What do you think?


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Saying Hello

 

As I mentioned in my last post, I use Google Analytics a lot to see what posts are popular and who is reading my blog. I just thought I would spent a little time thanking you for visiting me.

My 10 most popular posts over the last year are the following:

The tenth most read post was a short one linking to a bingo game that I made so you can play creationist bingo. You can play right online, but also it allows you to make real cards that you can print out and take to lectures. The cards are randomized. You can also make booklets that explains the reasons why the tired argument in the square is false. Sadly while it has been downloaded often enough, I have yet to hear of anyone actually using it.

The ninth most popular was about the fallacy of assuming that because ancient Chinese medicine is old, it is also good. I wrote this post for myself mostly so that I would have something to reference whenever this idea gets brought up.

The eighth most popular post was a one that linked to a report I wrote describing why the Medis 24/7 is all hype and no bite.

The seventh most popular post from last year was my post on global warming. This was another post I wrote for myself so that I could refer to it when someone asks me why I think its real.

The sixth most popular post was about correct thanking. Basically I was pointing out that when amazing things happen that saves lots of people, you can thank literally generations of millions of people’s work, money and energy to have made that happen. God is a cop out.

The fifth most read post was about Blacklight energy. Another energy company making bold energy claims that go against current understanding of physics. which would be ok, if they also provided evidence that they can actually do what they say they do. It basically another Medis in the making.

The fourth most popular post was about Direct Buy and how their business scheme can be totally honest and viable, but still not provide benefit to a majority of the members. It doesn't need to be a scam to be scammy.

The third most popular post was about DECT phones in particular and wireless products in general. Don’t be afraid.

My second most read post was a quick one along the lines of correct thanking, but referencing the plane that went down in the Hudson River.

But by far, my most popular entry is my post on atheist charities. I am happy to see this one is so popular. I am happy that people are linking to it. I am happy that it turns up first on a Google search. Thanks for making it that way.

Hello out there, I see you.

I also notice that I have some regular readers. While I do not post every day, I see you coming back every once in a while, so…

To my friends in Seoul, South Korea, welcome. I see you popping in once in a while. I am glad you check in. But to my friend in Taejon, I see you are checking in and spending time reading whole posts. I really hope you are finding things that are interesting. But looks like my friend(s) in Puchon visited me quote a bit a few months ago, but have since left me. You will be missed.

In Norway, both from Oslo and Alesund, I say I hope to visit you one day soon. My family is from Denmark and I hope to make a trip to see Denmark (again), Sweden and Norway. Perhaps there are some skeptic events at the time. Thanks for reading.

To the few readers in Wavre and Zedelgem, Belgium, I say Hoe gaat het? I hope I have that right.

Amazingly to me, there is someone in or near Tartu, Estonia, reading my blog. Hi there!

Something I wrote got some play in Bucharest Romania. Not sure what it was, but I’m happy you enjoyed it and passed it around.

The rest of my regular readers seem to come from places that are a little more expected, like the US, the UK., France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. These numbers are bigger and I don’t want to go through each city, but thanks for visiting anyway.

I realize the locations are probably not exact, but I just wanted to tell you that I am happy you read this and keep coming back even though I don’t write regularly. Please comment and tell me what you like or dislike.


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Tooting my own horn.

 

I like to write down my thoughts here. In fact, recently I am finding that I am discomforted throughout my day if I have not written something in a while. That is probably why my last post was so antagonistic.

I am continually amazed to see hundreds of people reading what I write (yeah, I’m no PZ or Orac). While I get very few comments, Google lets me see how many visits I am getting and if they are sticking around to read something. So anyway, I wanted to thank you.

Another thing that makes me happy is to see some of the bigger bloggers writing on topics that I have written on. It certainly legitimizes many of the things I write about, and I am happy to see that people who are more familiar  and more invested in a field than I am, write similar things as I have.

However, I have to admit, I understand many science topics, but am expert in few. My expertise lies in electronics, computer controls, and energy. The first two are hardly controversial, in fact there are many good engineers who can adeptly do the first two but are creationists and global warming deniers.

Anyway, I wrote a few posts about sCAM, over the last couple of months only to find that some of the big guys have written similar articles recently that are even better and more in depth. So I thought I would do a mini-carnival and bring them to you.

In February, I wrote about the fact that the CAM industry were putting real drugs into their so called “natural” medicines. Mark Crislip has recently done a fine Podcast that has included this information, but with more examples and specifics. Give it a listen.  This same subject was covered a couple of days ago at Science Based Medicine.

Back in march I wrote about how the use of CAM is simply immoral from the perspective of the way they were getting raw materials from animals. Mark also covered that in the same podcast, and again with more examples and more specifics than I covered in my short post on it. While I was making comparisons to animal experimentation for evidence based medicine, Mark portrays it as an environmental issue, and he is right on. He has a blog post on it at SBM also.

In January, I discussed the fact that CAM practitioners love nothing better than to equivocate Homeopathy and Natural remedies or herbalism. I discussed what each of them are and how herbalism may have some evidence of efficacy for some things (but for the most part, we can synthesize the active agents), but the homeopathy provides nothing of the sort. OK, nothing recent from the big guys, and as I wrote back then:

This is not going to be a unique post about homeopathy or natural remedies, or equivocation... I am not the first to point out that homeopathy is bunk, I certainly won't be the last

Anyway, I hope you use my blog as a spring board for more in depth reading.

Be well!

Learn something new every day.

Do something meaningful every day.


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Dear Mrs. Palin


Do you have any brains at all? Or did that get sucked out at your last liposuction session?* Do you have the smallest desire to educate yourself on anything resembling a scientific subject? How can you get through life without the smallest ability to understand a topic at the most basic level. The absurdity that can escape your lips when you quack continues to amaze me.

Somehow you have reasoned that the way to curb global greenhouse emmissions is to drill more natural gas.

Palin said that relatively clean-burning natural gas could supplant dirtier fuels and slow the discharge of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Wha, wha, what?!? Have you bothered to check what the term "clean", as popularized during the Bush era actually means? Do you understand that The "Clean Air Act" only deals with particulate, sulphur compounds and NOx emmisions and has nothing to do with carbon reduction. Do you even realize that when you burn a pound of natural gas, you get about 2.75 pounds of carbon dioxide?

Do you understand that when you drill for natural gas you waste millions of gallons of water per well and add huge amounts of chemicals to the groundwater including large amounts of carcinogens? Worse yet, as it stands now, the drilling companies consider the additives to be proprietary and do not have to disclose what they are sending into the ground.

Do you understand that you are trying to propose to shift over trillions of dollars worth of energy generating equipment (from cars to electric power plants) to a new process? If we are going to spend that kind of money, why would we do if for an exhaustible energy supply that hurts our atmosphere?

OK, now that I calmed down. Here is what she is getting at:

Fossil Fuel Emission Levels
- Pounds per Billion Btu of Energy Input
Pollutant Natural Gas Oil Coal
Carbon Dioxide 117,000 164,000 208,000
Carbon Monoxide 40 33 208
Nitrogen Oxides 92 448 457
Sulfur Dioxide 1 1,122 2,591
Particulates 7 84 2,744
Mercury 0.000 0.007 0.016

Yes, natural gas burns cleaner and produces less CO2 per BTU than other fuels. But your proposal is the same as saying that in order to get off heroin, we should start smoking crack, because you use less needles. You are also ignoring the energy density of the other fuesl which makes them easier and cheaper to transport. Although NG pipelines help, that totally depends on the infrastructure of the country and does nothing for anyone not living near a city.


























Yes, cars can be modified to use NG, but then they have lower ranges, isn't that what you car nutz dislike about battery operated vehicles? Yes, we could get power from NG. But we can also get power from non-polluting nuclear**, we can get fuels from high energy density oil producing algae. We can decentralize our power needs with CHP, solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, energy efficiency, conservation, and so many other methods that the crack you are offering is only a short term, non-essential and damaging high. All you are proposing is to drill more so we use more.

No thanks. Go back to your dark hole.



*unsubstantiated accusation on my part
** yeah, I know about nuclear waste. But nuke technology is far more advanced now, we can produce far far less waste, and we can store it in solid glass as well as with other methods. Nuclear waste is not the issue with nuclear. The issue with nuclear is that it simply shifts us from one exhaustible resource to another. But at least we get most of our foreign nuclear material from countries that like us.


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TechBit: Nice


OK. This is not science or technically related. And I realize this has gotten over 4.4 million views so far. But, to me, this is just wonderful. A whole audience being shallow and judgmental who then had their presumptuous asses kicked with some talent.

I hope they all feel stupid.

Watch.

Enjoy.


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TechBit: Body Count

I promised I wouldn't do another Vaccine and Autism post...and I wont. However perhaps you noticed the new widget over there to the right.

I'll just do another little boost for the Jenny McCarthy Body Count site. I am another blogger who is completely disgusted by her actions as much as I am angry at Jim Jones who also lead large numbers of people astray, completely throwing away any of their own thinking skills, and at the parents who brought along their kids, many to their eventual death.

But in this case, even the people who follow her ignorant drool, can in fact, hurt the children of the parents who kept their head on straight and vaccinated their kids (like me!). Vaccinations work great, but never 100%. By vaccinating your kids you have greatly increased their chances of escaping infection, but not totally, having idiots around you keeping their kids unvaccinated increases the chances of infection to the children of parents that were responsible. See Herd Immunity.

OK, 'nuff said.


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Cast off from the ranks of the True Christians


I have a small child. I have no idea how these poor parents can recover from this. If you have a child you know what I mean. If you don't have one, you can imagine what I mean. Can we please stop pretending that the Bible or religion leads to morality?

The pastor's daughter,Melissa Huckaby, who taught Sunday school, and took care of little Sandra (shown here), she...

"was booked on charges of kidnapping and murder," Tracy Police Sgt. Tony Sheneman said on "Larry King Live" on Monday night. "And we're informed by the district attorney that she'll be charged with abduction, murder, rape with a foreign object and lewd and lascivious acts with a child."
Sandra's body was found April 6, stuffed into a suitcase and submerged in a pond at a dairy farm.

ah...ahem...allegedly.

This sort of thing really twerks my insides.


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TechBit: Bad Science free chapter

I have been a little quiet recently. Its been the result of a lot of real life things. I have 5 posts half done and I'm trying to find some time to get them finished.

If by any chance you read my blog without reading Pharyngula or Bad science (I put that likelyhood at about zero).

Anyway Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science, has made it to paperback. In it is a new chapter about Matthias Rath, Master of Vitamins. Its a good read.

Go for a read yourself!


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Skeptic’s Dilemma

I’ve always had trouble being taken seriously. I have never really had the confidence that what I said was right. All through grade school and high school when I was studying subjects that I hated (history, english), I hated to be calle don. But when I was I always tried to squeak out the minimum answer possible.

But as I grew older and could focus my studies to be more in line with my interests, like in science and engineering, I was able to be more sure of what I was saying and doing because I could always look something up and check things.

More recently, as I have become interested in, and involved in “the rise of skepticism”, I have educated myself on many subjects that range from technology, to religion, to medicine, astronomy and other areas.

I was introduced into what I could call a formalized atheism when someone told me to read “the end of Faith”" by Sam Harris. It was not new to my thinking, I was never religious. The part that was new to me was the damage, danger and suppression involved with allowing a government to be anything other than secular. So I read more.

Somewhere on that trip, I my interests in atheism stalled and I became more interested in skepticism, and truly looking at how so much of the information we digest is based on logical fallacies. I read Sagan's, Demon Haunted World and I realized how sad a shape most of the population is with respect to science.

So, now I have researched a lot, and gathered my opinions and I almost always ask for support for what I end up thinking are baseless claims. I point out fallacies when they come up and help the people who I am talking with think about their position.

But I never think I am right, first.

When in discussion, my very first reaction is to distrust myself. I work out the possibilities of what the other person is saying. I often take in the possibility of the other persons point of view, over the probability of my own.

This happened recently at work. At lunch the subject of BPA leeching out of plastics came up. There is no bought that BPA is a bad actor. Its an endocrine disruptor and can mimic estrogens. The point was brought up that they detect it leeching out of the plastics that we drink out of. I pointed out that that is true, and there may very well be manufacturers that are producing bad products, but in general, we can measure concentrations of BPA that are far lower than are relevant to our health and it is not bioaccumulative. To not only would we need to be exposed to it, we need constant exposure for it to be bad.

So one of the people in the room, who had never heard of BPA before, said (not asked), “There is no safe level of BPA”. I said there are. He asked, “Well, what is it?”.

Off hand I didn’t know. Now I see that its 50 ug/kg/day. That is 50 parts per billion for every kilogram you weigh. But in my hesitation, “I said, I’m not sure”

The thing is, this number that is published by the EPA is not some magic number where concentration above this are a death blow and concentrations below this are fine. 100 PPB might be OK for me for days on end, while only 10 PPB may be all you can tolerate before seeing effects.

Further, in my hesitation, he presumed that since he had never heard of BPA before, that it was not studied, and that is why there is no toxicity level. In fact, there are over 5000 medical studies about BPA lasting over decades. Its been studied, and tested, and poked and prodded. We have a pretty good idea of the level seen in our environment, safe exposure level, symptoms, and so forth.

These are complex matters, and how do you delineate this information what someone is looking for the same sort of concreteness as creationists look for when defining when life starts?

So I let it drop. I shouldn’t have, which is why I am writing about it now.

This goes on ad nauseum. People say stupid stuff every day around me. The other day, this woman I met told me that she heard that cell phones can pop popcorn. My boss told me that a town in England had high concentrations of aluminum in their water and lots of the residents came down with Alzheimers symptoms. He then said that when they removed the aluminum by chelating, the symptoms went away. I made a joke that this was great, now they have a homeopathic cure for Alzheimer's! But to understand that comment, you have to understand that homeopathy is not herbal remedies, which of course no one in the room knew. And then they proceeded to tell me about ancient chinese medicine and how they have been using it for 2000 years.

Keep in mind, these are engineers and scientists I work with. Good ones! They just don’t know anything.

Why is it that someone can say, “There is no known toxicity level for BPA”, and people in the room will just go with it?

I think I understand why. They say it with confidence. A person who is doing a cold reading, will tell you stuff about you that you know is wrong or simply can’t know. They have many tricks they use to accommodate when they are dead wrong, like for example “Just remember that for later, you will see what I mean!”. But the big power there, is that they say it with confidence. That way it is said delivers more influence than the data

As a skeptic, I know that almost everything has a caveat. Newton's laws of motion have a caveat that they only apply at speeds that are no where ear the speed of light. Parallel lines do in fact cross if you coordinate system is hyperbolic. The second law of thermodynamics allows for local decreases in entropy. So when I say something about work, or about guaranteeing a time schedule, I tend to put in the caveats I can think of.

The act of caveating your statements looks like a lack of confidence.

The act of pointing out fallacies and irrationality makes you look like a dick.

So that is my dilemma. To me it feels like lying when I do not give out all the information (the caveats) when I am making a conclusive statement. On the other hand, I am pretty sick and tired of having to back up each and every thing I say with data, when all I have to do is say it differently.


Submit to Skeptical Blog Anthology 2009


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