Friday, September 29, 2006

Fraternal Link Love

My brother's joining the skeptical blog-o-sphere. Didn't go for any of the cute names we dug up. Be sure to show him the ropes. Could use a little bit of help learning some html. I'll see about digging up the code for the sitemeter link. Imagine he'd like to know where his link love will inevitably come from.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

We Were ALL Thinking of Writing This

Via Steve_C on Pharyngula, I learn of this book, which is surely filled to the brim with good science, and maybe even good politics. Maybe I should see about getting a copy. If you do, be sure to tell me about it.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, here's a link.

Doggerel #40: "I Was a Skeptic, Once."

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

Whenever there's a "what is skepticism?" thread on the JREF forums, you can bet that there'll be a lot of debate, but I suspect that most of the people who use this bit of doggerel would be excluded from all the definitions, or at the very least, tucked away into a very weak sub-category.

To be simplistic about it, a skeptic is a person who wants to see evidence to back up a claim, especially "extraordinary" claims. For that reason, the claimant should be providing evidence, good arguments, etcetera. Unfortunately, this doggerel is often followed by appeals to other ways of knowing, anecdotes, and other spurious forms of (non-)logic.

A skeptic should know what it would take to convince him. By extension, ex-skeptics should know what it took to convince them. They should also know what wouldn't convince a skeptic. One example that comes to mind is dowsing and the Ouija board: They can be surprising, when they seem to move on their own, but you have to perform controlled tests to see if the answers they provide are accurate, and not the result of information leakage combined with an ideomotor effect. Not much point in positing a new entities when there's another known, probable explanation.

One thing I suspect contributes to the problem is the "Hollywood skeptic": Horror movies often have a contrarian straw man of a skeptic who doubts the existence of the monster right up until he's eaten by it. Fortunately for movie goers, reality is more often like the original Scooby Doo: It's always some guy in a mask. Unfortunately, however, it completely distorts what people think it means to really be a skeptic.

---

Doggerel Index

Monday, September 25, 2006

Please Stay Clear of the Blog...

...until we've confirmed it won't blow up.

Did some minor html dinkering to add to the blog list on the right. I'm probably worrying about nothing, but if any problems show up, don't hesitate to point them out.

Update: Testing something. Updated the Doggerel Index, and it seems to be taking a long time. Shouldn't it just be republishing that one page, rather than all of them? So, will I be stuck on this one, too?

Second update: Yup. Seems the system is intent on republishing everything when I update one entry.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Shocking!

Conservatives, PZ, and I all actually agree on something! Sub-zero temperatures predicted for Hell.
Promoting a secular view of the way the world works does not mean we are obligated to censor references to mythical entities. I think "VeggieTales" is tedious dreck, and my kids were never into it, but some kids and parents are…and they should have the privilege of watching it. Reducing what children watch to inoffensive pablum, where every possible controversy and opinion is eradicated so that the boring message they all get is a toothless "be nice", is not how we want to improve the boob tube...

Puréeing television content is going to hurt the minority views most of all. That kids don't get to see some talking broccoli thank God on NBC doesn't mean they aren't going to be saturated in religious messages in the home and church, but it does mean that spineless television executives will point to this decision as a rationalization for removing any atheist or non-Christian expression from their shows, too.
Like PZ says, this is not what secularism is about. Unlike one of the Big Lies told by the Religious Wrong, we aren't out to eliminate all mentions of deities and other mythical entities from the world. People like me just don't want those mythological beings having influence in a inherently coercive institution like a government.

Quote of the Time Being #5

Posted by "Gilligan's Sister" in a troll-heavy comment thread at Orac's. The trolls prompted this response by Orac.

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale,
A whale of a tale, whale.to
It started when the government bombed the WTC
And then it wasn't satisfied
So it started poisoning the kids

The secret chupacabre army in the underground base
Where they learned to fly UFOs
But the alien DNA experiment got out of hand
And they unleashed Lyme's Disease upon the land

Oh, the government's gonna get me soon
I can hear them knocking at my door
I wonder how the black helicopters found me
Mabye it was the tinfoil on my floor

So let's just not vaccinate
Let's shoot our kids with a Lupron bomb
Hold 'er down and listen to her cry
That's what the Geiers, Ayoub, AutismNotReality, and QuantumIdiot say makes me a good experimental Mom.

Nothing quite like the old appeal to ridicule to demonstrate just how ridiculous people's conspiracy delusions can get. What's especially silly is that there's no motive for a vaccine conspiracy: If it were money, they'd just go into decentralized quackery, which is much easier to cover up, and has a much larger profit margin. Just take a look at homeopathy. All I need is my reverse osmosis water filter and/or a bunch of "smarties."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Foamin' at the Mouth #3

Orac and PZ have the details. And I read this shortly after watching a DVR'd episode of Star Trek: DS9 where Chief O'Brien got stuck in a scripted Cardasian show trial that seemed particularly topical as well as reminiscent of McCarthyism, so I'm particularly foamy at the moment.

Well, I Gotta Blog Something.

There's plenty of other blog entries out there I could link to, but I don't quite feel like it. Think staying in the computer lab late the last two nights took it out of me. Also not quite in the mood for original skeptical blogging. So, I'll talk about one other topic I enjoy with a side of masochism: Videogames.

Well, the PS3 and Wii come out here in November. Better start bulking up my bank account again.

For the Wii, there's no contest: I need Zelda and Samus in order to have fun with my Wii... Does that still sound dirty? Mario Galaxies sounds like it could be fun, since I've been itching for another platformer. Curious about all the interesting things they'll program for the motion sensor in the controller. I was skeptical at first, but since it looks like they won't be half-hearted in their commitment to that sensor, I've gotten over that.

I'll probably delay on getting the PS3: The launch titles just don't catch my attention. I'll likely be holding out for Armored Core 4. Hope the guys at From decide to go full-on with the motion sensor in the PS3 controller like Nintendo: One of my biggest troubles with the AC: Nexus block is mixing together either dual analog, or the single analog with look up/down as buttons. If they can shift turn right/left and look up/down to the motion sensor, I'll probably be able to jump right in.

At least I'll likely be able to enjoy Okami for now, once I get it, as well as that soon-to-be-downgraded PSP on its way here.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Arrrrr!

Today be the International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Things are going well for me, me buckos. I've got a new 1.52 Firmware PSP and swag headed me way. Some games to trade in fer credit, and a sweet lass who swashbuckles ninja-style. 'Twould be an honor to cross swords with her.
Viking: "So, anyway..."
I be staying in the crow's net and keepin' an aye out for good homebrew software. None of that free movie and UMD game stuff. 'Twould be foolish to invoke the wrath of the navy, who sank that keyboard I was looking forward to. It's Talk Like a Pirate Day. Not Act.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Doggerel #39: "I Can See It, Why Can't You?"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

This particular bit of doggerel has many different contexts, since it's so general. Often, like "obvious," it's a sign that a person hasn't thought things through. This one is also closely related to "I know what I saw!"

Examples:

Intelligent Design: Many people claim that it's impossible not to see design everywhere. This strikes me as strange, since it seems "obvious" to me that the world wasn't designed, especially now that I know a thing or two about evolution. Some things work, and some things don't. The things that don't work die (natural selection) or get destroyed. (For instance, in the case of planets: If they aren't in an appropriate orbit, they fall into the sun or get flung out into the Kuiper Belt or wherever.) The world we see today is the result of a lot of self-pruning.

Psychic powers, Astrology, Tarot, etcetera: The perception of accuracy in these things stems mostly from the observer's mind, usually in the form of confirmation bias and the Forer effect: They're blinding themselves to mistakes and failures. For any of the believers reading this: This is one really good reason to make a recording of a reading. Your mind plays enough tricks with you, the psychic often doesn't need to.

Quackery: The appearance of improvement is not reliable when it comes to anecdotes. Human beings do not possess an infallible sense of status, or an infallible ability to determine the well-being of others. That's one reason the placebo effect exists: Anyone's perception can fail, especially in the direction of hope. You can see or feel what you hope or expect to. That's why things like double-blind placebo-controlled studies exist: Compare doing something to the illusion of doing something. If there's a big enough difference, it means you're really doing something. It's that simple.

Pareidolia "miracles": Try cloud-watching (or nebula-watching, see below) with a friend. You'll probably see a few things he can't, and vice-versa.
Data and Guinan are sitting at the row of windows, observing the spectacular view of the nebula.

GUINAN: I see... a Samarian coral fish... with its fins unfolded...

DATA: I believe what you are seeing is the effect of the fluid dynamic processes inherent to large scale motion of highly rarified gas.

GUINAN: No... first it was a fish... now I see a Mintonian sailing ship...

DATA: Where?

GUINAN: (points) Right there -- see how the two swirls come up to form a mast...

DATA: I do not see it... It is interesting that people try to find meaningful patterns in things that are essentially random. I have noticed that the images they perceive can sometimes suggest what they are thinking about at that particular moment... Besides, it is clear that this cloud formation most closely resembles a "bunny rabbit."
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Doggerel Index

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Pointless Tinkering

Bumped into a fun little "For Dummies" cover generator via King Aardvark of his Kick in the Nuts blog. Have fun.

Sit! Stay! Good Blog. #3

Via the 43rd Skeptics' Circle, I learn of the existence of the Action Skeptics. They have a little fun with ad homenims and non-ad homenims while showing plenty of link love. They had some piratical fun at a university, too.

So... Sit! Stay! Good blog.

Meanwhile, pardon me while I freak out. I dropped my PSP. Now the power switch is loose and unresponsive. :(

UPDATE on PSP: Seems I can get it fixed for $59 by getting the power system replaced... Or I can hope that the power switch was all that was broken and replace that myself for $10, shiping and handling, and a little labor... (Seems the whole power system is broken, not just the switch: The charger doesn't make the light come on.) Or I can hope that I can keep a low winning bid on eBay for a 1.50 firmware PSP for the next 3 days, 5 hours.

43rd Skeptics' Circle and Open Thread

Hi. I'm the Bronze Critical Thinking Dog, and when people use stupid arguments, that makes my friend sad.

Open thread. Discussion about whether or not I should be deported to the island of inappropriate mascots is FORBIDDEN.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Curiosity

I've noticed one strange thing on my site traffic: There's always a link from a Google image search for the crackhead from one of Ryan's old entries. Just why the [frell] is that? I want hypotheses, people!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

They Waste Their Time So You Won't Have To

Seems that comment I quoted the other day came from another source: Here. It's quite good. Pretty much debunks 9/11 CTs just by using common sense and some quick hankerchief math.

No need to get into things like what temperatures steel weakens (NOT melts, you straw men factories over at Loose Change) at, and the dB level of explosives.

My favorite bit is some not-unreasonable psychobabble near the end.
And that, is the conspiracy mindset.

It's not a belief in corrupt leaders. Hell, we all believe in corrupt leaders. It's a belief in a corrupt everybody. It's driving around in a world where every single person you see out of your windshield is utterly bloodthirsty and amoral, all except for you and a few, brave friends. What could make you feel more important than that?

You can see the attraction right away. Most people, to feel special, have to actually do something special. But why not do what these guys do, and just make the rest of the world out to be wretched? Hell, once we've painted everyone else as mindless or murderous, all we have to do to feel superior to them is roll out of bed.

Remember what I said earlier about Dylan Avery and how it was probably just a desire for fame that drove him to do all this? Look at the parallel here. At the heart of all this is that basic human need to feel special somehow, twisted in the most warped and corrosive way imaginable.

In conclusion, the 9/11 Conspiracy Guys aren't evil and they aren't liars. They're merely filling a basic human need, using their imaginations and paranoia to elevate themselves to a level the real world will never elevate them to. Also, they're retarded.
Bear in mind that most of this analysis applies equally to all large conspiracies: Sooner or later, an attempted large conspiracy will bump into someone who can't be paid off, and with the wonder of the information age, it's awfully hard to silence someone.

Edited to fix quote. And to add: I'm tired of being called a government-trusting sheeple AND a distrustful cynic by woos. If anything, these nuts are the ultimate cynics.

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11, Five Years Later

I've been having a hard time articulating my thoughts about 9/11, so this post'll have plenty of links to other people's thoughts as they come in:

Orac's thoughts.


One of the things that irritates me is the crowd of conspiracy nuts. Screw Loose Change is one of the good groups out there to take a stand for truth and logic. Here's some notable items of theirs:

A post detailing the big problem with massive coverups. Here's a good quote from the comment section:
Nutbar: "Well, the NIST "report" cost 20 million so that buys a LOT of "experts" (paid liars) and I'm sure you'd be happy with a fraction of that."

default.xbe: "its a general agreement among CTers that everyone has their price, and generally its assumed that prise is pathetically low

so ill ask a question ive asked before:

whats your price nessie? how much to buy you out so you never speak of the "truth" again?

if everyone has their price you must have one too, and if you are "above" that, why do you assume no one else is?"
One wonders how anyone could bankroll a world-wide super-conspiracy.

There's also this site, via Screw Loose Change.

There's also the Loose Change Viewer's Guide by Gravy of the JREF Forums.

Meet Molly the Moggie


Look what my family found in our back yard. She started out as a friendly anonymous cat. Turns out that although she looked well-fed, she was hungry. Then we started to suspect that she's pregnant and got dumped for getting that way.

Anyway, we got her a collar, and we'll be taking her to a vet to make sure she's eating for more than one. Squirt's slowly getting used to her being in the back yard, but I don't think we should let them bump noses just yet, so Molly'll remain an outdoor cat for a while.

So, in the meantime, if any of you out there have advice for dealing with a pregnant cat, feel free to drop it in the comments. If you happen to be in the east Texas area and are interested in a kitten at some as yet undetermined point in the future, drop me something in my Gmail inbox.

UPDATE: Seems Molly wasn't pregnant, just had a little pudge: She's already been fixed, so that's one extra bit of evidence for the dump hypothesis, though it pretty much falsifies the reason we had guessed as to why she was possibly dumped. Of course, the possibility remains that she's a runaway. Oh well.

Friday, September 08, 2006

I Luv YouTube. I Hate Anti-Vaxxers

Bringing out my +3 flaming anti-vaxxer bane tire iron to show you this, via Orac. It's simply amazing how dispicable the characters involved in the autism curebie industry are. And that's before you get to the problems with their research and such.

Anyway, here are the videos, for those who want to save a click or two:

Adblock


Adblock

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Doggerel #38: "You're Just Mean!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

This bit of doggerel is quite common, and functions as an ad homenim, appeal to motivation, and red herring combo platter. My motivatons for presenting arguments has nothing to do with the validity of my arguments. For that reason, talking about my alleged meanness serves only to function as a subject change.

But enough about that. I don't present arguments because I'm mean. I present them because I have a duty to the truth, and to sharing the truth. Some people may not find my arguments comforting, but that's no reason to jump to the conclusion that I'm performing some sort of emotional attack.

Often, I'm quite critical of things I like: If I complain about problems in a videogame to the producers, they may try to eliminate those problems in the sequel. It's often the same for the paranormal: I think it'd be supremely nifty if magic or psychic powers existed. The world would be a better place if diluted water could cure cancer.

The problem with those things is that the best proponents of them aren't doing a very good job, and actually make excuses not to do a good job. Science works because criticism drives improvements in experiments. I don't like excuses not to address criticism. It feels weird when people who are most vocal about their support for something are the ones doing the minimum to keep the idea alive, but still in critical condition.

As the Huntsman's signature goes, science is about crash-testing hypotheses. Bad hypotheses should die, and good hypotheses should thrive. An idea shouldn't be forced to remain in limbo just because someone likes it.

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Doggerel Index

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

WARNING: Anecdote Ahead

I haven't been visiting Quackwatch as often, lately, but I bumped into this over there. It's a letter from some people who joined a Multi-Level Marketing scam, and broke out of the cycle: They realized that the large number of failures couldn't be due to lack of drive, like MLM promoters are fond of saying, so they did the math, among other things.

Excerpt:

Searching for the Cause

The many American books written on the subject of MLM all indicate that the biggest problem in MLM is the constant attrition of people. It appears that many people who join a MLM organisation stop after a short while. We wondered what the cause of that might be. We could not accept that the thousands of Nikken Distributors who ceased their activities during the past eight years in Britain and the other European Countries were all lacking in talent.

On the face of it the sale of generally good quality products and the building up of a marketing organisation does not appear to be too difficult. Everyone with a bit of common sense, enthusiasm and perseverance must be able to do this. Why is it then that so few Distributors are able to create a reasonable income?

All MLM authors are unanimous in their opinion that if a Distributor is not successful that this is purely due to a lack of vision and perseverance. We doubted this viewpoint and we made a completely different assumption. We assumed that the lack of success was not because of the people, but because of the marketing system. If that assumption was correct, what was then the precise reason why people failed? We started to look at Nikken’s marketing methods very critically. After a while certain matters became clear to us.

We arrived at the following conclusions:

  1. Nikken does not concern itself with sales but is predominantly interested in the recruitment of people
  2. The customers are primarily the Distributors themselves
  3. The Nikken products are not officially approved and also expensive. This combination means that the products are very difficult so sell to ordinary consumers.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Under the Microscope #1: Sylvia Browne 08/30/2006

Welcome to the first edition of Under the Microscope, where I'll hopefully be cutting Sylvia Browne's most recent appearance on Montel to pieces. I'll be watching the show via DVR, so I'll be rewinding a lot to catch choice quotes as they happen.

WARNING: This is really long. Be gentle with your scroller-roller thingy if you want to read an earlier entry.

Already partway through the starting preview, and it's looking extra-silly, speaking of repressed memories by aliens. "Sylvia's clearest vision ever" is a featured line. How much do you want to bet nothing will come of it? Or even that it will ever be mentioned ever again?

2 minutes, 11 seconds: We're not off to a terribly good start, with Montel seeming almost proud of how shamelessly he promotes her book. I know that's a standard thing, but this seems a bit more excessive. I'm willing to suspect that's my bias showing. Not going to pretend I'm unbiased. At least he doesn't go into too much detail.

First other guest: A woman broken up about the ghosts in her house. Mentions a woman's head peeking around the corner. Yeah, and I always end up seeing fellow residents thanks to blurry peripheral vision. Some scenes are spookified by putting them in negative. Vague man in a suit and another in a hooded coat. Claims they were seen by her family, probably after she mentioned them herself. Wonder what would happen if they independently told some police sketch artists some descriptions. Probably would be a lot of variance.

Moving along, she mentions a physical attack. She says she was in bed, going to sleep and heard an electrical humming in her head and wound up paralyzed. Fellow skeptics probably know the most parsimonious explanation for that. A fairly typical description of one of the related nightmares/hallucinations follows, including fears that the ghost or whatever'll steal her soul.

It's situations like this that demonstrate that magical thinking and all that isn't gumdrops and lollipops, like woos are fond of implying.

~5:00 Sylvia says the ghost (which one?) is named Carl, along with a female named Darla. How we verify this, I don't know. Says that she's doing this to herself, describing it as "Astral catalepsy." Says the subconscious is powerful, which I don't doubt, but she's saying it's her trying to get back in her body or something. The guest doesn't seem to be very willing to accept it. Sylvia then waters down her assertion it was her fault by saying the ghost made her vulnerable or something.

~6:00 She describes a Native American ghost, and Sylvia manages to stutter out "Silver Dove" as his name (something that'll probably go unverified), probably because she's used to typical non-native American set of names. Says he comes and goes. Mostly concerned about Carl and Darla from earlier. Only after the vict guest asks if Carl is the one in the suit does Sylvia confirm that's who she was describing. After all, the one in the hooded jacket has more stereotype potential. Kept her options open like a good cold reader. Says the solution is to tell the ghosts to "go to God" or something. Montel interrupts to mention that how to do that is written in the book. I think I can hear the sounds of cash registers going off in their heads, but I'll wait until I can pass the Randi Challenge to ask you to trust me on that.

~7:00 Montel brings up a good point. If ghost attacks were so effective, wouldn't people be dying (literally) for a chance to get revenge on someone? Of course, this question seems to be raised to defend the whole "Astral catalepsy" hypothesis over the ghost attack one.

~7:30 In an abrupt change, and audience member asks if she'll meet "somebody" in her future. Great. We've got a woman spiralling downward as a result of sleep paralysis, and someone changes the subject to her love life. Montel comments with mock frustration about the commonality of the question.

Preview before first commercial break: Seems someone lost an hour in their car. My gut is already telling me that they forgot about daylight savings time.

Sweet annoying commercials. Takin' a break.

Return: She's going to find a Richard in 3 1/2 years. Turns out her ex is named "Michael-Richard." Weird name. Think we'll be seeing her again in 2009/2010ish to verify? No, I don't, either. I hope she doesn't take Sylvia seriously and pass on a soulmate because he isn't named "Richard." More likely, she'll keep doing what she's doing and will look for a tenuous "Richard" link to justify it.

Next guest is someone who went stargazing. Saw three stars in a triangle (along side a dramatization showing an equallateral triangle, though she didn't specify that, yet). As we all know, humans can perfectly perceive angles and recall them with exactitude. Joined together and went neon green. Saw some grays with a flashlight. And another sleep paralysis-like dream/hallucination-sounding experience where she has trouble escaping. She wakes up, has a little car trouble that probably got exaggerated, and manages to get going on the second try. Gets home and notices the clock indescrepancy, which was probably around since fall, assuming they remembered to set the in-house clocks.

Notices a large bruise in the morning. Nothing all that special about that. Sylvia says she did have an encounter, but wasn't abducted. Talks about her own experiences with lost time, says the guest got neuralized after talking with the alien. Doesn't really tell the guest what's up with her bruise, despite it being a primary concern.

Guest says lots of weird things happen with her kids. Describes a "perfect" triangular burn mark on one of them. I get the impression that this was a long time ago, and as a UFO/UAP woo, I doubt she kept her memory intact. Wonder if she'll show a photo. Says she has medical records, doctors couldn't figure it out (therefore, it's obviously aliens!), and something about heightened white blood cell count. Non-medical guess: An infection of some sort, in a roughly triangular shape, maybe?

~16:00 Says her body temperature went down to 34.2. No units. According to my conversion, that's about 93.5 degrees F, if the 34.2 was in Celsius. Probably looked at the wrong lines or something on the thermometer. Otherwise, I don't think she'd survive being just barely above the freezing point.

~16:30 Sylvia tells the guest that "You've always had a ticklish nervous system." And goes on about a friend who has a varying body temp... Were those thoughts related. Wants the guest to get in touch with her angels or something. Says that she's not questioning the UFO encounter... But what about the alien encounter? Anyone can see something unfamiliar in the sky.

~17:30 Audience guest member. She mentions health problems and stays thankfully vague, other than the doctors having trouble pinpointing it. Sylvia's diagnosis ...Fibermyalgia? That's a new one on me. Think I may save this for Orac or someone with more medical knowledge. She says that there are lots of tests that can't detect it. Says it comes with something called Candida, chronic fatigue (what doesn't come with that?) Says they can't find it in a fecal matter test, but they used to be able. Weird. This is definitely Orac's territory. She gives some advice that she tells people "again and again and again and again" to drink juice and up her protein. Juice, definitely. Protein, not so sure that's so near-universally good advice... Green juice? We know that tends to get associated with nonsense.

Commercial break preview: Mother wanting to know how her son got killed. I think we know where this may be going.

Sweet, sweet commercials.

~22:00 Back from break. Audience question. ([Possible sexism] Are there any males in the building? I'm not sure Montel counts. [/Possible sexism]) She wants to know the outcome of her mother's "condition".

Sylvia: "Um... It looks like there's some surgery going to be involved. Were you going to be worried about that?"

Guest: (smiles and nods.)

Sylvia: "Are you aware of that? Well, it's going to come out alright."
Such profound insight. Who would guess that a middle-aged woman's mother would be facing surgery?

Next guest: Mid-late 30ish woman. Mentions her marriage, wanting to know if there are going to be any more children in her future. Sylvia says it'll be a boy, which she seems glad about. I doubt we'll be hearing from this guest ever again. Sylvia estimates birth at 2 years, 4 months. I'll mark my calendar.

Now onto the woman with the murdered son. Understandably upset. Murder took place November 24th, 2004. Biography montage. He was coming home from work, got shot, his car veered to the right. Took place 3 blocks from home. $1,000 in his pocket, and other items of value, so it wasn't a robbery.

See if you can remember this name: Christopher Abraham Mader. I doubt Sylvia will be solving the case.
Sylvia: "Samantha, when I work, and I work with a lot of police..."
Last time I checked, Sylvia doesn't work with the police. "Psychics" work with the survivors, who tend to yank the police along wild goose chases. Note that to date, there has never been a case of a psychic being helpful in a police case.

Sylvia almost gives a name, but interrupts herself. Since this woman seems to be from a small neighborhood, Sylvia seems reluctant to name names, since she could get one very angry innocent on her. Tries to pass it as road rage. It's my understanding that road rage tends to get people out of their cars, and this guy's car was apparently in motion enough to veer off the road. Anyway, Sylvia says the argument started with unappealing food. Talks about getting aggrivated over stuff like that. Samantha seems hesitant to nod. Sylvia then talks about the son's dislike of injustice. (Who doesn't dislike injustice... Jambo?)

Says the cook was crazy/stupid with an elevator euphemism. Says the cook was passing by and shot him. I wonder if some innocent but short-tempered cook is going to wind up with the blame, now. Says the attack was car-to-car, which strikes me as a little on the unlikely side, unless we're talking about fairly ideal conditions or high rates of fire.

Of course, I don't expect to hear anything further about this from Montel or Sylvia.

They hand a guest the microphone. Our first XY chromosome member. Apparently the guy lost his vision for as yet unknown reasons. Montel spoke with him before the show, so we've got a probable big info leak. At least he admitted it upfront. Sylvia says it's part of a "macrodegeneration" (macular?) instead of neurological. "It assimilates that." Huh? Says they'll be able to fix it in a year or year and a half with some kind of lens transplant. The guy seems unimpressed to me, probably because it's not a lens problem. Montel will probably see to it that we'll never know. Keep your eyes open (Ugh. Pun not intended) for some kind of surgical treatment for macro/macular degeneration about a year from now.

Next guest: Woman mentions her old grandmother who can recall events from a hundred years ago but, with Sylvia accurately, and unimpressively interrupting with short-term memory loss as the problem. Guest asks if her grandmother will ever recover. Sylvia goes with the odds and says no, saying she'll about to die (big surprise.)

Next guest: Another marriage-seeker. Someone really great in early spring. Yeah. Real specific, there. I doubt we'll be hearing of a return.

Lovely commercials.

Back. Almost. 'Nother book mention.

Guest: Father passed away when she was five. Close to him. 40. Only recently got around to planting flowers at his grave. Wants to know if he's still looking over her. The answer is always yes. No need to prove it, though. Nope, nope.

~32:00 Another guest wants to know if Sylvia sees a "big move" coming up in her life. Sylvia says she sees a move to someplace warmer. Around Florida. Wishes her luck with the hurricanes.

Next guest: She could be Meg from Family Guy, or a plain woman with a young voice. Says she was diagnosed with scarred fallopian tubes. Got pregnant with twins. Lost the son. 29 weeks eruption. Wants to know if she can get pregnant naturally. Sylvia takes the safe bet and votes for adoption. Next question: How'd her son die? Sylvia says something about air flow. Doesn't strike me as an impressive guess. Doctors said he erupted and bled to death. Sounds like a definitive miss to me. First one I spotted, especially since Sylvia's been sticking with the big unknown and the perfectly reasonable so far.

Featured guest: Man with a wife who was murdered. July 2004. Fire department chief was the one who told him. Closed casket funeral. Death certificate said she was stabbed.

Delicious commercials.

Back with the husband. Montel asks if there was a computer in the office. No cameras in the store she was working in.

Sylvia determines the murderer was male. I don't know crime statistics, but that strikes me as the safe bet. Says he was a maniac and tried to get sexy with her. Big guy. Starting to gray, heavy eyebrows. Tail end of an argument. Husband seems to be getting incredulous. Fingerprints and DNA are mentioned by the husband.

Squeaky clean commercials.

Audience: Asking about career changes. Says she'll go into "media work". She doesn't seem convinced.

'Nother audience member: Has an anxiety experience getting worried about her kid, yet she implies that there was a big time between when she reacted, and when the problem showed up: Kid tried to tie a rope around his neck 9 times. When asked why, he said "the white man" told him to do it. Had nightmare experiences and more white man scenes.

Sylvia reasonably links hallucinations with mentioned seizures. Leans towards medical. Guess she does it now, to avoid sounding dogmatic.

'Nother audience: Soul being pulled out of her feet while she was paralyzed. Scroll way up. Sylvia says she's astrally projecting because she wants to travel.

Ad for Sylvia's website. Here comes a better one.

Scary commercials.

Mid-reading on return. Stuff about saying goodbye. Another book plug.

Audience member asking if her dead father wants to say something. Something about dropping coins. She hasn't found any mystery coins. She takes Montel's word for it that he's around.

Another audience member asking about her father. He was found in his car near a bar, drunk and then shot. Wants to know why. Sylvia says it was 3 men. Said that he knew them. Montel interrupts before Sylvia gives names. Talks about friends with him, as if it's weird for a guy to have friends at a bar. Website plug interrupts.

Wonderful commercials.

Back. Yet another book plug. Montel comments on the number of women and the divorce rate. Talks about male perceptions and that women should sometimes keep their mouths shut. Sylvia should take her own advice. At least I won't have to listen to her until I do the next episode.

---

The Big Sylvia Browne Thread

Two Infinite Things

Einstein devoted his career to understanding space.

This guy devotes his time to explaining stupidity.

Excerpt:

THE POWER OF STUPIDITY

It is not difficult to understand how social, political and institutional power enhances the damaging potential of a stupid person. But one still has to explain and understand what essentially it is that makes a stupid person dangerous to other people-in other words what constitutes the power of stupidity.

Essentially stupid people are dangerous and damaging because reasonable people find it difficult to imagine and understand unreasonable behavior. An intelligent person may understand the logic of a bandit. The bandit's actions follow a pattern of rationality:nasty rationality, if you like, but still rationality. The bandit wants a plus on his account. Since he is not intelligent enough to devise ways of obtaining the plus as well as providing you with a plus, he will produce his plus by causing a minus to appear on your account. All this is bad, but it is rational and if you are rational you can predict it. You can foresee a bandit's actions, his nasty maneuvers and ugly aspirations and often can build up your defenses.

With a stupid person all this is absolutely impossible as explained by the Third Basic Law. A stupid creature will harass you for no reason, for no advantage, without any plan or scheme and at the most improbable times and places. You have no rational way of telling if and when and how and why the stupid creature attacks. When confronted with a stupid individual you are completely at his mercy.

Because the stupid person's actions do not conform to the rules of rationality, it follows that:

  1. one is generally caught by surprise by the attack;
  2. even when one becomes aware of the attack, one cannot organize a rational defense, because the attack itself lacks any rational structure.

The fact that the activity and movements of a stupid creature are absolutely erratic and irrational not only makes defense problematic but it also makes any counter-attack extremely difficult-like trying to shoot at an object which is capable of the most improbable unimaginable movements. This is what both Dickens and Schiller had in mind when the former stated that "with stupidity and sound digestion man may front much" and the latter wrote that "against stupidity the very Gods fight in vain."

Monday, September 04, 2006