Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Bit of Fun

My brother has a couple new posts up. One dealing with a sign I mentioned to him (which he almost immediately went out to photo) and the other with a bit of a caption contest.

I may try getting a photo of the other side of that sign later today.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Doggerel #133: "Belief"

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

Today's entry has been bumped up on the schedule from an arbitrarily special round number because my brother got the seed of a mini-rant. As he put it, there are people out there with a "one-word epistemology". That one word is today's entry. There are a lot of definitions people use out there, and no shortage of woos who will equivocate between them to put their favorite woo on rhetorical par with science.

All too often, woos beliefs are maintained because they make the believer comfortable. That, in fact, is often the first attempt to justify the belief, especially in religious cases. Unfortunately, the universe doesn't seem particularly interested in being comfortable for squishy organics. Otherwise, there'd be no unpleasant truths.

Other woos do give some attempts at justification, often involving anecdotes. That may work reliably enough for low-stakes everyday things, but nothing to bet your life on, which is what a lot of quacks are asking you to do. Psychics often ask people to do it with the memories of their loved ones, or just large amounts of money. Science works with much higher standards for such matters: Anecdotes don't have many controls for removing bias and minimizing chance. That's what experimental controls and blinding are for. Throw in independent replications, where unrelated people try the same experiment to double-check, and that's why scientific "belief" is much more justified than anything woos commonly claim. You justify belief with the high standards of science. That's when it becomes reasonable to call it knowledge. If you're not interested in doing that, you might as well just call your belief for what it is: Wishful thinking, or if it's bad, paranoia.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Call for Doggerel

I've been stuck in a little bit of writer's block in regards to skepticism, lately. Would be nice to have some ideas for Doggerel in the pipe.

Also, for you medical types, I was thinking about offering a chance to do some guest Doggerel entries. I've been thinking of doing "mercury" and "toxins" for quite a while. Lot of anti-vax woos out there who broaden the former beyond all meaning, and general alties who almost never get specific about the latter. It'd be helpful if I had someone with more expertise and knowledge at their fingertips to do those entries. It'll save me a little time on research.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pointless Fun: The Animated Series

It's been a while since I've run one of these. Been dinkering around with some console games, rather than online flash, indie games and such, but I've found some decent stuff. No pointless 3D CGI in this edition.

Hey, Stinkoman! Everyone says you're The Guy. I Wanna Be The Guy, too!: Like the TIGSource says, it's really hard. I haven't gotten the full version, yet, but I've watched some videos. Warning: This guy gets IWBTG-genic coprolalia down the line, so you may want to turn down the audio if there are sensitive ears about.

Synapsis: Kind of a Myst-like game where you're apparently stuck inside your own head. I'm stuck at the moment, but that was just my first ride through. I'll be giving it another shot, soon. Beat it.

ZunderFury: Nice little Flash shooter.

Hat tip to Nodwick for most of the links.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Thuggery Strikes Again

You've probably seen this elsewhere, but it seems Le Canard Noir's ISP has shown its abject cowardice again in the face of an altie. Expect me to provide copies below the fold after a little ranting.

Though you probably know from my rant about the last incident, I'm not the least bit afraid to use the term 'thug' to describe woos who place themselves in the role of Thought Police and book burners. There is no defense for their behavior. They're acting as bullies, throwing around their legal weight to get what they want, instead of reasoned argument or even token fake diplomacy. They only understand threats and intimidation.

Here are the articles the thug tried to burn down:

Right Royal College of Pompous Quackery - Dublin, Thursday, September 28, 2006

I had to share this with you. Following on from my recent Quack Word 'Doctor' blog, I came across the Royal College of Alternative Medicine (RCAM) , a Dublin based - well, I'm not sure quite what it is...

What caught my eye was just the shameless aggrandisement of the site. It is quite hilarious, if not a little repetitive at times. Calling yourself 'Doctor' is somewhat pompous when all you have done is paid for some international postage. However, the man behind RCAM has absolutely no shame and titles himself as the:

Distinguished Provost of RCAM (Royal College of Alternative Medicine) Professor Joseph Chikelue Obi FRCAM(Dublin) FRIPH(UK) FACAM(USA) MICR(UK)

Wow! Probably, just Joe to his mates. Naturally, when you Google the qualification FRCAM(Dublin), there is only person who appears to revel in this achievement. I'll leave the rest as an excercise for the reader.

The distinguished provost looks like he is just another pseudoscientific nutritionist, his spin being "Nutritional Immunomodulation". This is obviously a lot more clever than Patrick Holfords mere 'Optimum Nutrition', but having only one 'omnipill' is probably a poorer commercial decision that Patrick's vast range of supplements.

Obviously, Professor Obi has had a few problems with what probably amount to bewildering comments about his site as the legal threats and press releases concerning his 'ethical' responses to criticisms cover more space than anything else. 'Ethical' is a favourite word on the site.

The most recent press release states,

7th September 2006 : The Distinguished RCAM Provost, Professor Joseph Chikelue Obi FRCAM(Dublin) FRIPH(UK) FACAM(USA) MICR(UK) has formally accepted appointment as Chief Professorial Examiner for the Doctor of Science (DSc) programme in Evidence Based, Alternative Medicine (EBAM) of a highly respected International University in one of the British Commonwealth Protectorates.

This new qualification is primarily aimed at Medical Graduates, Physicians, Surgeons, Pharmacists, Dentists, Osteopaths, Chiropractors, Opticians, Wellness Consultants, Herbalists, Acupuncturists, Naturopaths , Healers, Podiatrists , Chiropodists , Scientists , Healers ,Therapists, Homeopaths, Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Nurses wishing to ethically upgrade their current Qualifications in Alternative Medicine over an exceedingly intensive 12 - 36 month period of study.

British Commonwealth Protectorates? Could that be Dublin?

I really have no idea what this organisation is all about. But it looks like it could be getting quite big soon...

RCAM currently has International Vacancies for One Million (1,000,000) 'Foundation Fellows' ('Movers and Shakers') ; who will independently play a highly pivotal role in diligently mentoring (and regulating) it's future Global Membership.

So if you really think that you seriously have what it takes to become a 'Leader' in Alternative Medicine , then (perhaps) RCAM may definitely be exactly what the Doctor ordered for you.

One million. That's a lot of quacks! And they are just to mentor (and regulate) the wider quack membership! This man has ambition.

The Big J really hates real doctors. This is his most recent press release...

RCAM would like to warmly commend the various Chieftans of the National Health Service of the United Kingdom for ethically and appropriately ignoring utterly misguided calls (from a rather amusing Group of thirteen Clinical Yestermen) to compel Hard-Working (and Tax-Paying) British Citizens to additionally pay for Life Enhancing Alternative Medicine Interventions out of their very own pockets - rather than get such treatments free via the NHS. RCAM would like to also categorically state that such exceedingly flawed 'G-13′ demands that the National Health Service of the United Kingdom expediently abandon Alternative Medicine altogether (in total favour of Conventional Medicine) be diplomatically treated with the very utmost contempt which such unguarded verbal flippance duly deserves ; as none of these 13 'Eminent UK Scientists' behind such calls has professionally attained Globally Acceptable Fellowship Qualifications in Alternative Medicine and as such cannot be deemed competent enough to make such sweeping 'Shilly-Shally' statements about the noble independent specialty of Alternative Medicine.

RCAM therefore publicly advises the General Public to lawfully go about their normal Wellness-Seeking Behaviour as usual - without any unwarranted prejudice or fear resulting from such highly self-serving, morally unethical , abjectly crude , totally unprofessional, utterly unstatesmanly, morbidly barbaric, wantonly uncivilized, profanely undemocratic and unspeakably sacrilegious perpetual affronts on the therapeutically formidable institution of Alternative Medicine.

Now, I do not have 'Globally Acceptable Fellowship Qualifications' in Santa Clause Studies to know he does not exist. But hey. I must be a morbidly barbaric and profanely undemocratic, unethical duck.

So, struggling around the acres of pomposity I find one place where Prof Joe might be making some money. You can call him to seek his wisdom, after pre-booking an hour's slot (and handing over your credit card) for a mere 300 Euros. Alternatively, you can pay by the minute on the contact line for a trifling $10 per minute.

Its going to cost you $20 just for Joe to say Hello and to read out his numerous titles, qualifications and names. Not bad 'ethical' work.

Ethical Quackery, the Monarchy and Kate Moss - Thursday, October 12, 2006

No, this is not about our Defender of Quackery, our Quack-in-Chief His Royal Quackiness, Prince Charles, but about the Distinguished Provost of the Royal College of Alternative Medicine, Professor Joseph Chikelue Obi. And yes, it is just a rather lame story written solely to get a picture of Kate on my blog.

I've written a rather lazy blog on the distinguished professor before that was just a bit of a gawp at his quacktastic website and what looks like a health phone-line scam.

Well, I've done a little more digging with Google and it has revealed a few quack gems. It has been pretty hard work, since Google returns some 6,000 pages, the vast majority just appears to be Prof Obi's self-promotion. However, if you persist in digging a few interesting facts turn up.

So, what has the little black duck found out about the "most Controversial Retired Physician and 'A-List' Medical Celebrity, Dr Joseph Chikelue Obi"?

Here we go...

1. The Irish Independent reports that his college does not exist at the Dublin address given on the web site. There's a surprise! It's just a front.

2. The Independent goes on. "In January 2003, he was suspended by for serious professional misconduct at South Tyneside District Hospital. Among the allegations made were that he failed to attend to patients, wrote strange notes about colleagues and at one point gave a dating agency phone number to a psychiatric patient."

3. He was being investigated by the police for taking thousands of pounds of a 58 year old woman to in order to cure a long standing illness.

4. The GMC strike Dr Obi off their register for "serious professional misconduct". So much for him being retired.

5. On another tack, Dr Obi has been involved in a little cyber-squatting. This looks as if it took place while he was a doctor - always after a few quid!

6. Since then, now self-titled Prof Obi, a few new avenues have been opened, including trying to entice Kate Moss away to one of his 'safe-houses' in Ireland. Hat's off!

He is quoted as saying:

Under the European Convention on Human Rights, Miss Moss still has fundamental rights, just like anyone else out there, and as far as I am concerned, she is not guilty of anything until an Ethical Jury says so.

(I mentioned before that 'ethical' was one of his favourite words.)

7. Prof Obi has been developing a Penis Enlarger (watch out Kate) that his own Royal College has now endorsed.

8. At least one person (out of the targeted million) has paid Prof Obi the fees for his college to accredit them. Dr Michael Keet (8 Canards) of the Central London College of Reflexology handed over 'hundreds'. Do we feel sorry for out-quacked quacks? I guess we ought to.

9. For those of you wanting to see behind the grand titles and see the real human being, Joseph lists his interests as Comedy in London, Whole Food Nutrition and Christian Music. On this 'Meetup' site, he describes himself as "Just a very ordinary guy . . .". That's nice.

10. His name appears very often on the blog Abolish The General Medical Council (GMC), often reporting something he has got up to. The blog describes itself as:

An ethical blog for those who publicly feel that the General Medical Council (GMC) should be Statutorily Abolished in favour of a Medical Licensing Commission (MLC) to solely register and revalidate Doctors who practise Conventional Medicine in the UK. The Blog also recommends that the GMC/MLC hands all disciplinary functions over to an Independent Clinical Tribunal (ICT) in keeping with the EU Convention on Human Rights ; to avoid (both) Institutional Bias and Multiple Jeopardy.

Oooh. There is that word 'ethical' again. And 'European Human Rights'. No name is given for the blog author but the avatar is a portrait of the queen. Another apparent obsession of Prof Obi - royalty. Could the author be none other than the Professor himself, a little agrieved for his ticking off? I hope you all click through to the blog. Maybe we will show up in his stats and whoever the writer is can get in contact and confirm one way or another.

I rather hope it is, as the final thing I turned up would just be fantastic...

11. Is the Distinguished Provost of the Royal College of Alternative Medicine, Professor Obi now selling ethical ring-tones? I do hope so.

Watch out Crazy Frog! Here comes the Crazy Provost...

Friday, January 18, 2008

78th Skeptics' Circle

It's up at the Skeptical Surfer's place.

Open thread as usual, but talking like a surfer stereotype is FORBIDDEN, dude.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pointless Question #16

Technology has advanced to the point that high quality robotics are commonplace, everyone's got a cyberbrain, and a trip to the Crab Nebula is a good five minutes in your jalopy spaceship. Why then, do so many mooks come equipped with laser weaponry that fires projectiles so much slower than, you know, bullets?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

We've Reached the Target Area. Deploying Rant

I've run into a couple hit-and-run trolls on other blogs over the week that just push a few buttons with their prejudices. They've probably spent their lives being lied to about skeptics because their role models were lied to, and so on and so forth to the point that Hollywood believes the same crap they do and aren't afraid to broadcast propaganda.

What makes it so irritating is that all the propaganda seems to consist of projection: Everything they make up about skeptics more accurately describes woos. One particular example that's stuck in my mind right now is the woos' heavier use of "impossible." They're much more likely to use it in an absolute sense, whereas most skeptics I know will give the word appropriate caveats. Those who don't will likely feel the annoying sting of nitpickery. I chose to put "impossible" into the Doggerel series precisely because woos are so much more fond of it.

To me, that's just one thing indicative of woos being the real naysayers in life. Another is often between the lines: They always seem to believe that it's arrogant to see sense and order in the universe. Whenever a skeptic describes how much we know about the world around us, the woos always seem to pipe up, claiming that some fundamental knowledge we have must be wrong, even though it's accurate enough to give us great advances, technology, and even art. The pessimistic attitude of woos would have humanity stagnate while nearly every skeptic I know has an optimistic attitude towards technological and scientific progress. We just wish woos would get over their basement sulking and let humanity get on with making the world a little bit better.

I once glanced over a start of a woo essay a few years ago, going on about the evils of technology. He used "technology" in his rant, but who knows how extensive he really meant the term to be. He'd rant about the ideal Egyptian society when they used telekinesis to build the pyramids, rather than technology (which leads me to wonder if he included things like the wheel, lever, pulley, wedge, and inclined plane as 'technology'). He'd claim that giving technology to humans is like giving a gun to a child and rant about how pathetic and immature humanity is. Funny that he wouldn't claim the same for the various forms of magic he claimed were available. I find misanthropes like him to be particularly likely to spend their time sulking in their basement. Arguably worse are those who claim many ancient wonders were built with magic or by aliens because the natives were too stupid. That falls right into racism.

The most fundamental aspect of woo pessimism I routinely encounter is the attitude that we can NEVER understand something they claim to be weird. That's just about as pure as defeatism can get, especially since it usually turns out the scientists or magicians investigated the topic decades ago and came up with answers. The most boring puzzle I can imagine is one that you've already solved. That's where a lot of my rage against woos come from: They want us to dwell on boring, solved puzzles for eternity, rather than get on with the real mysteries in life. I, for one, resist stagnation like that.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Stuff I'd Like to See Sometime

Mostly orienting towards characters who go against clichés at the moment. Been reading a bit of TV Tropes, lately, so I've got a few things in mind:

1. A hacker/cracker who compulsively overdresses and over-grooms, insisting on keeping his appearance absolutely perfect. He's so straight-laced, looking at him is almost suffocating. Think Roger Smith with Radical Edward's skills. Somehow manages to fix himself up almost immediately after any action sequence. Takes advantage of the 'coding in their underwear' stereotype to avoid suspicion.

2. A Chessmaster who prefers Go. Why? Well, did you see that story about how some programmers "solved" checkers? He took it to the next logical step.

3. A benign Virus / Hive Mind that only assimilates the willing and has a good pension plan.

I'll add more if I remember some.

Doggerel #132: "Transcendent"

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

Today's entry has been so overused by woos, it's lost all meaning for me. Well, just about. Transcendence is supposed to relate to going above or beyond something, like previous limitations. Woos love to use it like "transcending to a higher plane" or stuff like that. I wouldn't be against having smart people move up in the world, but I don't think that's quite what they mean, if they mean anything at all.

Often, that 'higher plane' will be described as above the material or scientific world, which kind of ends up in a contradiction: If it can do stuff, it'd pretty much going to be included in materialism and be explored by the scientific method. In short, it seems they're claiming to transcend truth. Escapism's fun, but it's not supposed to be a way of life.

On another front that's more often vitriolic, I bump into my share of fundies who claim that atheism/evolution/gravity/whatever doesn't provide "transcendent" morals to follow, which is why us evilutionists go around eating babies and kicking puppies when no one's looking. Aside from crazy non-sequiturs worthy of a couple more doggerel entries, just what is this supposed to mean? How are "transcendent" morals any different than the usual humanist/secular/whatever values nearly all the skeptics I know go by? The differences I'm usually told about go down several very twisted avenues, including textbook examples of "might makes right" or outright moment-by-moment moral relativism. Bizarrely, the people who practice these depraved ethical theories have the gall to assign their values to us and claim that they're "lowly," "empty," or whatever qualifies as "non-transcendent."

So, fair warning to woos: If you say "transcendent," I'm going to look at you as if you said "flarschnikit."

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Bloggin' From Bed 3

O Companion Cube
My burden is so weighted
You don't deserve death.

Bloggin' From Bed 2

I'm glad I'm a sounder sleeper than Bert.

Bloggin' From Bed

Those not familiar with Texas should know there's a saying over here, at least in the eastern portion: "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes." Well, cold front came in, left with mild summer in its wake, and all the resulting peaks and dips played havoc with me. Now, some bug apparently decided to be opportunistic.

So I'm bloggin' from bed for today.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

I'm Thinking About Making a Hive Mind

My brother's getting some experience wielding a soldering iron, and has a growing pile of transistors, resistors, eyes of newt, and other arcane components. Mentioned getting some toy robots to build, and it kind of fits in with something I saw this morning:

It was a show talking about ants and other social insects working without a distinct leader, based on simple programmed rules and the patterns that emerge from having several members following them, often without communication. They went on to an example of robots sorting out black and white pucks based on a handful of rules. I recalled an example from much earlier involving smaller robots sorting wooden pegs.

So, anyone know some robot kit to build critters like that? I'd like to have something where I can rearrange the rules to see what emerges from different rules. Haven't talked about it with my brother, but seeing some recommendations for robot kits might be interesting anyway.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Do Over! Trekkie Edition

Well, it's a new year, which means you'll be filling out checks incorrectly. Also an excuse for people to start stuff over. But in this case, you'll be starting over something from decades ago: You're Gene Roddenberry, the pilot's been approved, and you've got a bigger budget than you originally expected: How'd you do Star Trek differently?

I've got a few ideas:

The Original Series:

1. Nerf the transporters. In this contrived setup, I've eliminated the original reason they existed: Budget. If Star Trek had more money, they would have done shuttle landings. Here's how I'd have the nerfed transporters work, if at all: It's primarily an emergency system. Repeated use on living things eventually leads to transporter psychosis like Barclay was worried about during bouts of hypochondria.

2. Rubber foreheads for the Klingons. The retcon just didn't sit well with me. Oh, and sort things out with the Trills ahead of time while we're at it.

3. Make a map in advance: Keep distances consistent, so you don't have the Enterprise jumping from one side of the galaxy to another in a manner that later embarrasses a certain Skipper, I mean female captain.

4. Episodes to kill: Spock's Brain and And the Children Shall Lead. Never happened. Really.

5. Episode to keep absolutely unaltered: The City at the Edge of Forever.

6. Fewer super-powered godlike aliens. Yeah, Kirk can talk his way past them. I don't watch Star Trek to see the crew flail helplessly for most of the episode.

7. Make Phase Two.

The Next Generation:

1. Keep the Borg insectine: The body snatching critters from that one episode that went gory were originally intended to be related to the Borg. Cyborg bugs would be cool.

2. Make the Ferengi proceed directly to comedic adversaries. They just didn't work out as real villains.

3. Take down the idealistic preachery down a few notches.

Deep Space Nine:

1. On the last episode, stick in the following scenes: Morn talks, Captain Boday makes an appearance, and Chief O'Brien discovers what a self-sealing stem bolt does.

I'll think of more, later.

77th Skeptics' Circle

It's up at WhiteCoat Underground.

Open thread as usual, except pointing out all the super-secret underground editions of the Circle I didn't link to is FORBIDDEN by the evil microfascist materialist conspiracy under pain of getting bapped by a rolled up newspaper!

... Ow!