Location: Surreality, Have Fun Will Travel, Past Midnight before a Workday
Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe in training, on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.
Because of school commitments and commute time, etc., I'm not doing Halloween this year, regrettably (although we had a fun time at a friend's party Saturday night). But you don't have to be a workaholic just because I am.
Chief among those normal processes is our neurons' habit of filling in the blanks. The brain takes messy, incomplete input and turns it into a meaningful, complete picture. Visualize four Pac-Man-like black shapes arranged so that the wedge removed from each seems to form a corner of a white square. Neurons in the brain's visual regions, whose job is to fire when the eyes see a square's edges, do fire—even though there are no edges to see. The mind also sees patterns in random data, which is why the sky is speckled with bears and big dippers. This drive to perceive patterns—which is very useful in interpreting experimental data as well as understanding people's behavior—can also underlie such supernatural beliefs as seeing Jesus in the scorch marks and flecks of grain on a grilled-cheese sandwich. "If a stain looks like the Virgin Mary," says Hood, "then it is a divine sign and not a coincidence. If the wind in the cave sounds like a voice, then it is a voice." ... As scientists probe deeper into the brain for what underlies superstition, they have found a surprising suspect: dopamine, which usually fuels the brain's sense of reward. In one study, two groups of people, either believers in the supernatural or skeptics, looked at quickly displayed images of faces and scrambled faces, real words and nonwords. The goal was to pick out the real ones. Skeptics called more real faces nonfaces, and real words nonwords, than did believers, who happily saw faces and words even in gibberish. But after the skeptics were given L-dopa, a drug that increases dopamine, their skeptical threshold fell, and they ID'd more faces and words as real. That suggests that dopamine inclines the brain to see patterns even in random noise. Boo!
That reminds me of the scene in A Passage to India.
An investigator discovers the true identity of a "ghost" in a courthouse in Albuquerque.
My busy life caused me to miss an anniversary of sorts. It has been 40 years since the footage of an alleged Bigfoot was shot by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin in Bluff Creek, California, on October 20, 1967. (This is actually incomplete footage; there is another intriguing ten seconds or so of a straight-on shot of the creature crossing the riverbank before Patterson runs with the camera and takes the above footage, but I cannot find a clip that includes it. These seconds of footage show the "creature" beginning its walk from a standstill. The significance of this is made clear in the article about Bob Hieronimous, linked here and below.)
The belief in Bigfoot is certainly the most harmless and, in my opinion, the most fun, of the popular American pseudosciences. The legend commands a certain respect for having a place in Native American beliefs – although, truth to tell, the descriptions among the various tribes do not all gibe with the gigantic, hairy, five-toed, bipedal creature. (Sasquatch, Omah, and Bookwas, being part of the Pacific Northwest cultures, gave modern Americans our popular, commercial images of Bigfoot, but there are others, including a three-toed tiny creature said to wander the Everglades).
Even President Theodore Roosevelt, in his book The Wilderness Hunter, recounted a horrifying tale told to him by a grizzled old trapper named Bauman (although Roosevelt pooh-poohed the story as the product of a latent superstitious mind, rather than believed it as Peter Graves would have you believe in his 1970s “documentary” The Mysterious Monsters). The story itself is impressively frightening - probably due in part to Roosevelt's excellent rendition (imagine that we once had a good writer and a conservationist as our President!) - and is one of my all-time favorite campfire tales. Check it out! Fun stuff, whatever its reliability.
I have tried to locate the spot on maps, and located what I think are several good candidates; Bauman certainly existed and I do believe that something happened to him, although I am inclined to suspect more mundane explanations. However, I admit to still being fascinated by the Bigfoot legend. As Eugenie Scott said in an interview, many people, including scientists, would love to believe that there is an undiscovered humanoid or anthropoid out there.
However, I am a big believer in facing facts, and there are some disturbing facts surrounding the Patterson film. One of these is the unusual process used to develop the Patterson film. (He did not take it to the nearest film developing business, but had a friend - a very good friend - mail it to a personal developer.) Another is the fact that Patterson "forgot" which speed his camera shot the film, which was rather conveniently shot at the end of the film roll. (Patterson and Gimlin were in fact filming a documentary about Bigfoot with the intent to sell it when they fortuitously encountered the creature - they were not just two cowboys out for a ride that day with a film camera in hand!)
Yet another is the fact that Bob Gimlin "happened" to be present at a later so-called Bigfoot sighting near the Dalles, Oregon. Hmmm. Then there is a man named Bob Hieronimous, who for years has been the prime suspect in the "Where is the zipper" hunt, before finally confessing to being the Bluff Creek monster.
Gimlin, who avoided the spotlight for years, has since come forward and stated emphatically that 1) the Bluff Creek creature could very well have been a hoax; and 2) that he had no part of it. I recall an interview with Gimlin that stuck in my mind, in which he stated "The adrenaline was rushing," and "had it turned and rushed me, I would have shot it." In response to queries about a possible hoax, Gimlin stated, "I'm an older man now, and I've seen a lot of things, and yes, it's possible." I am inclined to find Gimlin sincere, although of course I cannot know - liars are liars because they are convincing.
And because people want to believe; as I did, when I was twelve.
What can I say? I told her that life begins at 40. Egg on my face, fo' sho'. Because Bigfoot is REAL! The footage below proves it!
Okay, seriously folks. This episode of "Ancient Mysteries" has the missing footage that I mention above, with the "creature" starting from a still position (it starts around 1:30). It's quite shaky, though.
While “The Intelligent Design Weblog of William Dembski, Denyse O’Leary and Friends” continues to allow moderator DaveScot [the charmer means Rubenesque, and he's talking about me] to post more conspiracy theories about how global climate change is a “hoax” [nothing Rubenesque about Patrick Buchanan!], now comes the news that the White House “eviscerated” the testimony of the director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before Congress in order to downplay the effects of global warming on the spread of disease.
You may view the transcript of the unedited climate testimony here.
Well, I’ve also figured out how to finally drag answers out of William Dembski (after considerable effort and rebuffs) regarding his view of the link between HIV and AIDS. (Dembski continues to champion the “research” of Moonie Jonathan Wells, who denies that HIV causes AIDS, but refused to answer my questions as to Dembski’s personal views on the subject.) Just look at who else he quotes: Tom Bethell, the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science, a book sure to be filed on the shelf with Mein Kampf and The Bell Curve:
The AIDS epidemic in Africa: how it has been trumped-up (requiring the imputation of Hollywood lifestyles to rural Africans) to support the media’s myth of heterosexual AIDS and exponential increases in funding for AIDS research [emphasis mine]
"Myth of heterosexual AIDS"? So, no children are getting raped in South Africa due to the superstition that sex with a virgin cures AIDS? There is not even one case of children contracting AIDS from an infected and untreated mother, nor even one case of children being spared the disease when the mother is appropriately treated? This is all a conspiracy by liberals, too? Are you $%&#@ kidding me?
Not a proud moment for either Tom Bethell or William Dembski.
When I see people pushing this stuff because of their religious beliefs (and it's always because of their religious beliefs) I have no clue what religion is (other than nonsense), what it means to them, and what it should mean to me. I look at this behavior; then I look at what scientists have to say. There’s just no bridging this gulf. I see "how the actors act."
They act irrationally, and in my mind, selfishly. What's the purpose? What's the point? What am I supposed to learn from their example? It's just meaningless!
This is a gulf between people, too - of all shapes. And it’s one that will be finally resolved when the young people take control of the workforce – these same 16-29-year-olds who, according to a recent study, are now so turned off by the anti-gay Christian furor that they refuse to call themselves Christian even when they are.
Majorities of young people in America describe modern-day Christianity as judgmental, hypocritical and anti-gay. What's more, many Christians don't even want to call themselves "Christian" because of the baggage that accompanies the label.
I doubt they’re going to look with admiration at the global warming deniers in the future, either.
UPDATED: Oops. Ben Stein and Bill O'Reilly publicly call Intelligent Design "the idea that a deity created life," prompting the ID folks to send out a clarification (because intelligent design is supposed to just be "science," you know). What a flipping mess.
Shimmies to Pharyngula. May these shimmies keep going long after someone's lips stop moving.
When I tell people that I don't have any children, they typically say things like, "Well, you're still young..." (No, I'm not.) "Oh, that's too bad!" (No, it's not.) "Hopefully things won't remain like that!" (I certainly hope they do!)
And when I tell people that I don't want to have any children, they think it's their business to "correct" me. "You don't really mean that!" (Want a bet?) "Every woman wants a baby!" (But I'm not a woman - ask all those women and girls in my life who told me, "You're just a calculating machine!" and "Why don't you pretend to be a girl for a change?") "You must have had a terrible childhood!" (It wasn't so bad - but I couldn't wait to grow up and be an adult!)
Now I've stumbled upon a blog by a childfree woman who asks the question: Were you an "early articulator," or did you realize only later in life that you would have no children and would be happier that way?
I'm really not sure what I am. I do remember writing things like, "I don't want more than three children," in school essays. I do not remember writing, or saying, anything like, "I want at least one [or two, or three, etc.] children." I do remember writing and talking about my educational goals, my career dreams, etc., and dreaming of meeting a man (like Humbert Humbert - the closest thing to a real family man if there was one in that novel!) for the sake of romance and adventure - but not dreaming of having children with him!
I just had a run-in online (don't ask) and got accused of reacting "emotionally" to being identified with a YEC IDist. Well, I'm not a scientist, but that was really unfair, and scientists never get emotional when their ideas are shot down, of course. (Ever gone to a convention? I did back in college - mercifully for only a few hours. The proceedings are almost inert, but break into small groups and start debating - eeeaauuughh! I'm sorry to say that it turned me off, because now I realize that probably every conference in every field is the same.)
Now I'm trying to get back to work and for my paper (yes, I really have a paper to write) I'm reading about the question of whether or not librarians in academic institutions deserve faculty status.
Few issues inspire such heated debate among academic librarians as the issue of faculty status. A recent example is Blaise Cronin's article, "The Mother of All Myths," in which Cronin calls library faculty status a "mockery of the professorate" and generally asserts that librarians have no place in "the academic calling." This article met with numerous letters to the editor in subsequent issues of Library Journal. Mark Herring agreed with Cronin, saying that tenure turns librarians' minds to "muddle." Others felt that Cronin was relegating librarians to the status of "contented handmaidens" and "'the help' on campus." Stephen Karetzky wrote that Cronin's definition of faculty status implied that Cronin himself should abdicate his professorship. Lisa Dunn wrote that Cronin's assessment was "overgeneralized and politically naïve." Even Robert Eno, a colleague of Cronin (both are professors at Indiana University, Bloomington) and president of the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors, wrote to disagree with Cronin. The debates are heated and often personal [emphasis mine]. --D.B. Hoggan. (2003). Faculty status for librarians in higher education. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 3(3), 431-445.
We don't relinquish any legitimacy in our arguments because we get hot under the collar for being called a name. (In my case, a particularly insulting name.) It seems that librarians get called names, too - with the requisite assumptions, about how you are individually because you happen to be a woman, thrown in. Oh, goodie.
Many librarians believe that faculty status provides a higher level of stature and recognition within the university community than does staff status. Librarians who do research are thought to have better relationships with other faculty on campus. Thus, faculty-status librarians may find it easier to win the respect of faculty in other departments. A good rapport with the faculty is important because the effective teaching of information literacy skills is facilitated by collaboration between librarians and professors.
Ironically, while many librarians view faculty status as an asset to the professional's reputation, others feel that it detracts from the librarian's image. Blaise Cronin writes that faculty status seems "petty and vainglorious" to outsiders and that the justifications for faculty status are "downright embarrassing." However, the majority of published opinions support the idea that faculty status improves the stature and image of academic librarians.
God damn it. The stereotype of the elderly spinster who ended up as a librarian because she (it's always a she) couldn't get a man is childish. When are we going to revise this ridiculous misconception? I'm thinking of going into technical services and/or online system development and/or digital archiving and/or science reference librarianship. These fields have largely been dominated by men.
(Grad school is one of the few places where I end up in a room with a bunch of women. I was at an orientation, and one speaker made reference to "Dr." Phil. "And we all love Dr. Phil, don't we?" The students yelled, "Yes!" I yelled, "No!" I mean, what is that? Can't I even escape from so-called female pop culture at grad school?)
I'm looking forward to my first ALA conference! :-D
Seminary President Paige Patterson and his wife, Dorothy -- who goes by Mrs. Paige Patterson [no duh?] -- view the homemaking curriculum as a way to spread the Christian faith. In their vision, graduates will create such gracious homes that strangers will take note. Their marriages will be so harmonious, other women will ask how they manage. By modeling traditional values, they will inspire friends and neighbors to read the Bible and then, perhaps, to follow the Lord.
I read the above excerpt at Aetiology regarding the bizarre new curriculum at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, but you have to read the entire article to believe it. It reads like a Gong-Show reject:
God values men and women equally, any student here will tell you. It's just that he's given them different responsibilities in life: Men make decisions. Women make dinner.
This fall, the internationally known seminary -- a century-old training ground for Southern Baptists -- began reinforcing those traditional gender roles with college classes in homemaking. The academic program, open only to women, includes lectures on laundering stubborn stains and a lab in baking chocolate-chip cookies.
Philosophical courses such as "Biblical Model for the Home and Family" teach that God expects wives to graciously submit to their husbands' leadership. A model house, to be completed by next fall, will allow women to get credit toward bachelor's degrees by learning how to set tables, sew buttons and sustain lively dinnertime conversation.
As offensive as this is to thinking women, I have always suspected that this "gracefully submit" bullshit is really all about controlling and emasculating the men. And, to my not-surprise, it turns out that all this passive-aggressive suckiness is for the emotional manipulation of men:
Laney Homan, 30, drew excited murmurs with her talk on meal planning, complete with a recipe for a surefire "freezer pleaser" -- a triple batch of meatloaf (secret ingredient: oatmeal). Thanks to a computerized system for generating grocery lists, Homan said, "I've actually trained my husband to shop for me.
"Laughing, she threw her palms toward the heavens and added: "Praise Jesus!"
How very "submissive." Add to this the disgusting sight of women talking of their role as homeschooler for their children, with the requisite Godly Calculus and a good dose of mincing, worse-than-quiche creationism thrown in, and you can just about imagine what a barrel of monkeys childhood is going to be for the average boy (and the average tomboy, as I was) under this femin-nancy dictatorship. But the men are starting to get wise to these tricks - they're even starting to (gasp!) think for themselves - carefully:
Many male graduate students at Southwestern take a class in masculine leadership, where they are admonished to put their wives' needs before their own even as they flex their authority. [Does this sound suspicious to you?] But there's no broader curriculum on a husband's role, leading Dusty Deevers, 30, to wonder what he and other male students might be missing. Labs on mowing the lawn? Trimming hedges? Balancing a checkbook? "Many, many men would be well-served by something like that," Deevers said.
Andy Cecrle, 42, takes it one step further: He would like to see a homemaking class for men, or at least a survival boot camp. He happens to know his way around the house and is proud that he changes his children's diapers. But he knows many guys don't even have a clue how to start the washer.
"What if my wife is sick and my kids need clean clothes? It may not hurt to have some basic tips," Cecrle said. Then he added cautiously: "A lot of people would take great exception to what I'm saying."
Felts is one of them. The whole point of taking college-level homemaking, she said, is to ensure that her husband won't ever feel that he has to darn a sock or do the laundry. Those are her jobs. [emphasis mine]
Yep. First it's helping the wife with the poopy kid - then it's running the dishwasher when the wife is sick - and the next thing you know, you have a flour-fingered pinko liberal male on your hands! Aaauuuughhh! ;-)
Crack the whip - er, the whipped cream, ladies. Don't let up on the emotional blackma - I mean the emotional mauvemail one instant!
(Shimmies to Aetiology and to Vladimir Nabokov. Bitch-slap to SWTS.)
I found this commentary to be a useful guide in sorting out the complex relationships of Muslims, who are diverse, to Islam, which is monolithic. Hirsi Ali identified five different types of Muslims.
The first group includes those Muslims who leave the faith because they cannot reconcile it with their conscience or with modernity. This group is important for the evolution of the Islamic world because they ask the urgent and critical questions believers usually avoid. Ex-Muslims living in the west are just beginning to find their voice and to take advantage of the spiritual and social freedoms available to them.
The second group is comprised of genuine Muslim reformers, such as Irshad Manji, who acknowledge the theological out-datedness of the Koranic commands and the immorality of the prophet. They tend to emphasize the early chapters in the Koran urging goodness, generosity and spirituality. They argue that the latter chapters wherein Islam is politicized and the concepts of sharia, jihad and martyrdom are introduced should be read in the context in which they were written, some 1,400 years ago.
The third group is made up of those Muslims who support the gradual perpetuation and domination of Islam throughout the world. They use the freedoms offered in democracy to undermine social modernity and, though initially opposed to the use of violence, foresee that once the number of believers reaches a critical mass the last remnants of unbelievers may then be dealt with in violence, and sharia law may be universally implemented. Ayatollah Khomeini used this method successfully...
The fourth group is the most obvious and immediately threatening. In this group we find a growing number of hard-line Muslims who have defined martyrdom as their only goal...
The fifth group is largely ineffective and only threatening in their refusal to acknowledge the truth. Here we find the elite clergy who make a show of trying to reconcile Islam with modernity...
MSNBC is reporting that a Minnesota judge rejected the Senator's appeal to withdraw his guilty plea for disorderly conduct after soliciting an undercover officer for sex in the men's room of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. No linky yet, but it will be all over the internet soon.
I notice that many black Americans are highly religious, to the point of superstition. (I know I'm going to piss people off saying this, but I have worked alongside a lot of African-American women and I know what I'm talking about. Everything is about God to them.) I also notice that Peter Popoff is back.
Why does the Black Entertainment Television (BET) network host this charlatan? Look at his audience today, twenty years after being exposed as a fraud. Most of them seem to be black. What motivates them to follow a modern-day Massa? Isn't this the "slave mind" all over again?
Shame on Black Entertainment Television. Shame on Peter Popoff. And shame on all the people who prefer to have a tizzy about atheists rather than speaking out against real problems, like those who would fleece the gullible of their money. "I'm not a fundamentalist, but..." Well, I'm not a fundamentalist at all, and I stand for the true liberation of all people, not their continued enslavement to superstition. That means that all Americans, black and white, rich and poor, must finally adopt critical thinking and personal responsibility, and quit blaming con-artists like Popoff for "brainwashing" them. Yes, shame on Peter Popoff, but "Fool me twice...shame on me."
UPDATED: I recently reread this article, "The Homecoming: Paranoia and Plague in Black America," which has haunted me since I first read it, in 1995. HIV denialists assail the article and its author, Hanna Rosin, as “racist” - which is an outrage, since it is the denialists who are perpetrating a racist crime on black America and in Africa with their HIV-doesn’t-cause-AIDS/AIDS-is-a-white-conspiracy balderdash.
Each time Otis tells the truth [that he has AIDS], he becomes a pariah. He says his wife left him when people found out he was positive and started calling her a "diseased bitch " His 14-year-old niece, visiting from Georgia with her son, "freaked when she found out, started sereaming, 'He's been using the same bathroom, he touched my baby.'" When he confided in his minister, the man poinied at him the next day in church and preached about the sins of bad living. Otis won't go to an AIDS clinic, even for a prescription: "Nope. No way in hell. That's, you know ... a homo place, and your mama or your cousin or anybody could see you go in and then you're branded for life." ...
"One thing about corporate medicine is they find a way to make money off you until you're in your grave," he [Ron Simmons, who runs an "alternative" AIDS clinic] jeers, holding up a copy of his bible: Poison by Prescription: The AZT Story. "Black folks have what I call a healthy paranoia. After all, they did it once, so they can do it again." "They" is the U.S. government—specifically, the Public Health Service...
Black clergy, the community natural leaders, only feed the paranoia. When a clean-needles program was first proposed in New York City in 1989, Calvin O. Butts of the Abyssinian Baptist Church decreed he was "not in favor of cooperating with the devil," meaning those who might perpetuate addiction. Leading the national charge was Reverend Graylan Ellis-Hagler, who now presides over the Plymouth Congregational Church in Washington. "First, the white establishment pushes drugs into the community," he told the Atlantic in 1993. 'They cripple the community politically and economically with drugs. They send the males to jail. Then someone hands out needles to maintain the dependency."
Religious opposition killed needle-exchange programs in every city except New York, which squeezed through a trial program in 1991. The result is the only unqualified success story in the prevention war. In a city where half of intravenous drug users test positive, the program cut infection rates by 50 to 75 percent, according to a study of its 2,500 participants. Now, Ellis-Hagler is willing to relent, he says, "because there aren't strong enough feelings from the community to create a hysteria,"although he still finds the program "a pitiful last resort, and racist." It may be too late. By now, momentum has died down. Washington, for example, has only enough money for a tiny pilot program inconveniently located in a downtown federal building. The vacuum has been filled by a kind of generic sermonizing, drained of any urgency.
Ten years ago, ministers routinely refused to preside over funerals of people who died of AIDS, and funeral homes refused to bury them. That kind of disgtist has mostly been replaced by evasive homilies, expressed by a scattered few, such as Washington's Reverend Pervis "Fireball" McKenney, who takes pride in insisting, "I preach against all sin and that's one of them. I'm with the Bible on sin, and all sin is against God, period, whether it be homosexuals or whatever." In milder forms, ministers presiding over funerals will say "this person was a sinner, but he renounced that world at the end of his life," or they won't mention how the person died.
--Hanna Rosin, "The Homecoming: Paranoia and Plague in black America," (The New Republic, June 5, 1995, pp. 21-31).
I've been watching this company, Zion Oil, for a while. Ed has the full story of this guy, another poor, deluded man [John Brown, probably a brother of Charlie - wink!] wrecking his finances and his reputation and his life over some wild god chase, because he believes Israel has oil based solely on some sophomoric interpretation of a bible verse. Pathetic - but guess who else is in on the scheme? And he wants people to invest, so that his own stock holdings in Zion don't go to, um, hell.
UPDATED: Hey! I've got a solution for John Brown. He needs to employ Uri Geller.
He [Geller] claims that he has accumulated wealth in part by performing dowsing services to find commodities such as oil, gold, and minerals, but that the companies he has worked for are reluctant to admit it. In recent years, he has performed demonstrations such as spoon-bending much less frequently in public.
Yep, a good ole American tall tale, old Geller! He's coming out with a new show.
NBC has announced Phenomenon, a new reality competition series that will follow mentalist Uri Geller and Criss Angel Mindfreak illusionist Criss Angel as they search for "the next great mentalist," will premiere on Wednesday, October 24 at 8PM ET/PT.
Just great. This will keep those twits on The View in ecstasy for weeks.
I keep hearing the argument that "atheism and the idea that science can solve every problem [for the record I don't believe that anything can solve every problem] is an idea from the Seventies!" Well, now a fraud from the Seventies has his own show again, despite being humiliated by Johnny Carson and James Randi. I guess people think that's better, somehow.