Archive for October, 2009

‘What would you say to God?’ quotes

October 31, 2009

“And suppose God was about to pass judgment on you, what would you say?” I would say to Him, “Do unto others as you would that others should do unto you.”
-Robert Green Ingersoll

“Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence.”
-Bertrand Russell

“I’d quote Bertrand Russell: “Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence.” But why is God assumed to care so much about whether you believe in him? Maybe he wants you to be generous, kind, loving, and honest – and never mind what you believe.”
-Richard Dawkins

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Happy Halloween

October 31, 2009

Stuff

October 28, 2009
  • Michael Shermer on whether intelligent extraterrestrial life would look like us: Scientific American
  • An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All, by Amy Wallace: Wired Magazine
  • Richard Dawkins on the Catholic Church’s attempt to incorporate conservative Anglicans: Washington Post
  • Obama administration opposes Islamic nations’ bid to outlaw religious defamation: MSNBC
  • You want to watch this video in HD and full-screen mode: Hubble
  • The 6 creepiest places on Earth: Cracked Magazine
  • Obama’s Declaration Of Swine Flu Emergency Prompts Pro-Swine-Flu Republican Response: The Onion

Today is John Cleese’s 70th birthday

October 27, 2009

So here is the funniest scene from a movie ever:

CNN’s “expert” advice on ghost hunting

October 26, 2009

It is available here.

I will go through the main points and translate them into normalspeak.

First tip:

“Nighttime is good for ghost-hunting because the absence of noise, people, and other distractions of the day helps your sixth sense stay in tune with your environment.”

-Garrett Moffett, tour guide and author

If you are reading this, your ancestors were good at Hearing Things Go Bump In The Night. Earlier in human history, it was better in terms of survival and reproduction that someone be more sensitive to sensory input than to be indifferent. Those hominids were better at hunting prey and escaping predators, and they were able to pass on their genes more successfully than others. There was no evolutionary consequence for overreacting to a faint noise or something in one’s peripheral vision, but failing to react to such stimuli could have life or death consequences. Because our species has lived for so long as basically nomadic hunters and gatherers in the wild, there is an asymmetry in our psychological evolution where instant fear pays off in the historically wider sense where critical inquiry does not.

What I don’t understand about ghost stories is why this alternative story I just explained doesn’t seem to be catching on as more satisfying in just about every possible sense, because it really gets down to who we really are. Sure, we sometimes hear stories about the dead closing doors and turning lights on and off and stuff like that; but it’s so much more interesting to learn about why we find those kinds of stories compelling in the first place.

A tour guide in Savannah, GA named Roger Edgerly pretty much made the case for an evolutionary psychological explanation for allegedly paranormal claims himself, but doesn’t seem to realize that any possible explanation for his hauntings other than OMG ITS A GHOST are possible:

“You feel a presence, your hair stands on end, you hear sounds or feel a touch, and then you turn around and nobody’s there.”

That presence you feel is a false positive, and the reason your hair stands on end is because you appear to be larger when that happens.

So CNN’s “expert” advice is to wait until nighttime when you’re tired and more subject to hypnagogia. You will be surprised how many things you will see which you wouldn’t otherwise notice. And make sure to be somewhere very quiet, where every little noise and motion will make you jump. That’s right, we really do have souls and they survive our physical death in some form – but it just happens to manifest itself in this half-assed way that appears to be nothing more than people hearing things going bump in the night and pissing themselves over it like they were primitive cave dwellers or something.

“When I go to a historic (and therefore possibly haunted) spot, I’m fascinated and ready for anything. I believe the ghosts sense that you’re sincere, that you want to see them.”

-Robert Edgerly, tour guide

I find it very difficult to believe that, with all the wildly diverse types of human personalities just amongst people I happen to know, ghosts of all persons who have ever lived would cling so tightly to this particular personality trait of only wanting to make contact with people who already believe in ghosts. Isn’t there even one who wants to prove us smart-ass skeptics wrong? Houdini said that he would try to break through from the other side, at least to contact his wife. But he never did. Maybe he got distracted at a really great party in Afterlifeland. Or maybe all people go through some personality shift when they die so that they suddenly don’t want to prove the existence of ghosts anymore. But if that’s the case, it would be difficult to say how Harry Houdini could be said to be the same person he was when he was alive.

And why is it that only historic places are “therefore possibly haunted?” Don’t people who live boring and mundane lives get to become ghosts too? Why do all these hauntings have to be by someone with a tragic life and death? Why are some ancient and “historic” places haunted while average places aren’t? People die everywhere, so the distribution of ghosts and hauntings and whatnot should be more or less uniform. With all the white trash rednecks who have lived, you’d think at least one of these ghosts would have left an old Buick on cinder blocks on someone’s lawn by now.

“Digital recorders are a really good, basic tool. Cheap ones are great because they generate white noise, which spirits speak within.”

-Nick Groff, Travel Channel TV

Wow. Yeah, he really said that. Make sure to buy the cheapest audio recorders possible because the ones that don’t generate white noise and really do record what’s actually there don’t seem to pick up the “ghosts.”

This is an example of something you see often with these people. As they’ll tell you, ghosts and other alleged paranormal phenomenon are limited in the physical world in one way, but not others – and the distinction is made post hoc in order to justify the evidence as compelling even though it’s pure failure. On the one hand, ghosts can speak in an audible (and therefore materialistic and detectable) manner, but they have to do it through noise generated by cheap audio recorders. A psychic can tell you the color of a kidnapper’s hair, but they can’t give you an address where the missing child can be found.

“You’re not hunting rocks. You’re not hunting seashells. Provocation is very serious. Things can follow you home.”

-Zak Bagans, Travel Channel TV

Ghost hunting = SERIOUS BUSINESS. SRSLY GUYS.

Expecting “things” to “follow you home” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s vague enough that it could apply to pretty much anything, and so whenever you notice some “thing” – whatever that might be – and remember that “things can follow you home,” you’re likely to put the two together.

Anyway, if you’re really planning on hunting “ghosts,” try to incorporate a realistic perspective into the fun of being scared of things. And don’t be a jackass who does something stupid and hurts themselves, and don’t run to the media with every little anomaly that happens around this time of year with a “ghost story.” No matter how pro-establishment they might seem (like, for instance, CNN), there is apparently no depths to which they will not sink for “news” like this.

Guys named Al

October 25, 2009

Here are some political videos from last week of guys named Al getting all up in the right wing’s grill on ACORN and health care costs.

Here is Al Franken going after someone from the Hudson Institute:

And here’s Allan Grayson raising some questions about the de-funding of ACORN. It starts out a little boring, but he gets all WHAT DOES MARCELLUS WALLACE LOOK LIKE? towards the end.

Hero

October 25, 2009

I feel inclined to start a new kind of award here in honor of an anonymous man in a place called Iowa City. Unfortunately, the police see his hero status in a different light.

Iowa City police are investigating an early morning assault in which a man accused another of being a zombie, then punched him twice. Police said the assault occurred at 1:17 a.m. Sunday at an Iowa City restaurant south of the University of Iowa campus.
A man was ordering food when he was approached by another man who called him a zombie, then hit him in the eye. When the victim tried to call police on his cell phone, the man punched him again, breaking his nose.
The man then ran out a back door.
The victim was taken by ambulance to a hospital.

This is a miscarriage of justice. The police should be looking for this man, but to thank him for his quick actions in the face of a zombie invasion – not to arrest him for assault. The vigilance of citizens such as this man is the price we must pay for a world in which the living dominate over the undead.

And taking the so-called “victim” to the hospital is the worst idea ever. A hospital is the last place you want zombies. There are lots of injured people, many of them unable to leave their bed. So the zombies will feed on them and gain strength. And there are all kinds of potential weapons lying around for zombies to possibly use. And what if one of them can read and gets into the drugs? Then what? Tripping, speed freak zombies armed with scalpels and feeling no pain – that’s what.

Correction

October 25, 2009

Due to a slight error a retraction must be issued for the previous post. The portrait shown is not the real official Obama family portrait. For that, you will need to click ‘below the fold,’ as they say.

(more…)

Obama first family portrait released

October 24, 2009

Scientists mess with memories again

October 22, 2009

A while back, I wrote about scientists creating false memories in humans via digitally altered video. Just a few days ago a similar report came out dealing with fruit flies, except it was using lasers and genetic engineering. Now scientists are experimenting on the memories of mice.

Unlike the fruit flies experiment, the triggered memories are actually real ones. But it similarly uses genetic engineering in order to fine-tune the details. The main finding here, as far as I can tell with my semi-retarded understanding, is that only a small number of neurons in the brains of the subjects needed to be activated in order to trigger the memory. Here is what I believe the lead author of the paper in question looks like:

Michael Häusser of the Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research at University College London (visual approximation)

Michael Häusser of the Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research at University College London (visual approximation)

Of course the memories so triggered had to be ones of mouse torture, for well known reasons.

“So far all manipulations of neural activity have targeted local clusters of neurons or certain neural cell types,” adds Michael Brecht at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Berlin, who studies neural circuitry. “If the conclusions turn out to be correct, such highly selective manipulations suggest that the brain might actually compute with small, precisely selected sets of neurons.”

Huh.

Well, that’s that. It’s only a matter of time before we’re all manipulating each others’ memories with lasers and stimulating select patches of neurons until everything we know is just lies based on more lies and then a speed freak will write a story about it which will then be made into a hit movie starring the future governor of California.

The drunkest guy ever meme

October 21, 2009

Here are two great variations on this drunk guy trying to buy beer at a convenience store meme. First we have the silent film version:

And here’s it’s incorporated with an MC Trebek Mash-up:

LOL INTERNET.

Stuff

October 21, 2009

Shpongle – Ineffable Mysteries From Shpongleland

October 21, 2009


I just got this and haven’t even listened to it yet, but I’m sure it will be good. Listen to it. Do it now!

And here is a video a weird fan made of a rare track:

Similar: Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma

Completely random thought

October 20, 2009

There is a billboard on the 190 north just before the Elm St exit for the Food Bank of WNY. It mentions that there are so many thousand children going hungry today in Western New York. To the right of the text, instead of a picture of a hungry child being fed by the nice people at the food bank, there’s a picture of the YOU GONNA GET RAPED guy.

Why?

Journalism is serious business

October 20, 2009

… in Greenport, NY:

A New York State Trooper pulls over a vehicle near the three-way intersection on Joslen Boulevard in Greenport Monday. The reason for the stop and the outcome of the investigation remain unknown.

That’s the entire article. Really.