Phenomenon October 31, 2007  

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Welcome to the spooooky Halloween edition of Phenomenon, where all tricks are performed live. The host reminds us at least 8 or 9 times during the show that all of this is live and mistakes can happen.

First the contestants from the previous week each perform a short trick with the audience.

Short Tricks
Jim, the bear trap guy from last week, has a lady imagine one card. Then he throws a deck of cards at her chest. He asks her what card she chose and she says the two of hearts. He has her pull the card out that has gone down her shirt and it's the two of hearts.

I don't know how this one is done, but I'm sure it's a common card trick. Again, feel free to post if you have any ideas.

Eran, the nail gun roulette guy from last week, performs next with Raven and Shandi. He first has the two women rub their palms together to generate heat. Then he has Shandi take her sunglasses which she mentions she conveniently has. He sets the sunglasses down on the podium and then has each of the women rub the palm of one hand against each of his hands. Directing the energy, the sunglasses begin to rise... except it's easy to see the fishing wire that's lifting them in the background.

Gerry, the phone book trick guy from last week, is up next with a mind body connection. He chooses an attractive woman in the audience. Then he shows us a white card that is blank on one side and has an outline of a human body on the other. He marks the card and then asks her to pick a part of her body. She points to her shoulder (just barely bypassing her breasts). He shows the card and it has a little tick mark on the correct shoulder.

I think he used little marker or pencil connected to his thumb probably to mark the card after she revealed the part of the body.

Ehud, the PK Touch guy from last week, borrowed Ross's credit card and did a few card spinning tricks with it around his hands and body. I imagine he used a magnet or magnets or perhaps a wire for the trick.

Then we get to meet the six other contestants that are going to perform tonight.

Jim asks Shandi to think of something. He then tells her it's a dead person and a singer. She looks like she's about to argue with him, but then agrees. He then tells her to write down the name of the person. He also writes the name, revealing Elvis. And, in fact, she reveals Elvis as well. Since he guided her to think of a dead singer I don't think Elvis is much of a stretch to be the first person she selects.

Angela, the only female contestant, as we are reminded often, is up on the stage. She pulls an earring from her ear that looks to be glass. She puts it on the podium and pretends to hit it with a hammer. In actuality she's hitting behind the earring and not hitting it at all. Then she pinches it between her fingers and shatters it.

Jan, pronounced Yon, has three flowers in a vase. He picks a female contestant. He says that he can influence her to pick a flower. He offers her a $100 bill if she chooses any flower but the one he wants her to choose. There is a rose, a carnation, and a lily. She selects the lily. As she pulls it out of the vase there is a note attached that reads, "I will lead you to the lily." She doesn't win the $100 bill.

I'm not sure how he did the trick. Matt suggested that he might have had three tags between his fingers that he could stick to the flowers depending on which he chose. It'd take dexterity, but it's possible. Any ideas?

Guy asks Ross to pick a number from 1 to 10 and hold it in his mind. Then he touched Ross on the jaw then he takes a pad and a pen and holds it behind his head and writes a number "so that even I can't see it." Then he asks Ross the number. Ross says 10 and the guy reveals a 10.

The guy is holding the pad away from the audience with his thumb on the paper unable to be seen. As soon as Ross reveals the number he writes it with his thumb. It's sloppy, but he covers because he's supposed to have written the number behind his head.

Mike does a card trick where he has the cards float up and cut themselves. He asks Raven to pick a card. She picks the three of spades. He then reveals the three of spades. I don't know how he got the right card again, but I know it's a trick that magicians perform often. I do know how he moved the cards though because as he turned to walk off stage you could very clearly see the wire contraption over the back of his jacket.

Wayne asked Ross to pull change from his pocket. He took a quarter and then palmed it very badly as he deposited it in his pocket and pulled a pen out. He then wrote the letter "R" on a trick quarter and handed it to Ross. He asked Ross to rub it and told him it should bend. Surprise, it bent!

Uri's Challenge
Next we have Uri's Challenge. He walks over to a display of the sun with the nine planets arranged around it like below.

The viewers are asked to choose a planet and then count the number of letters in that planet name around clockwise to end up at a new planet, and then count again when he asks, etc. until he has us stopped and guesses our planet. I chose Pluto and Matt chose Neptune. We had to count starting at Jupiter corresponding to the first letter. Both of us counted around until we ended up on Saturn and Mars respectively. Then we counted around again until we ended up on Earth. From there we were always on the same planet. I'm sure if you try this with every planet you end up with Earth being the third planet selected. Then it was simply a matter of Uri removing plants one by one that the user couldn't be on at the moment until finally he picked the final planet based on what the viewer would be on last.

So, for Matt and I here were our selections:

Me: Pluto, Saturn, Earth, (Pluto removed) Uranus, (Neptune removed) Mars, (Mercury and Uranus removed) Venus
Matt: Neptune, Mars, Earth, (Pluto removed) Uranus, (Neptune removed) Mars, (Mercury and Uranus removed) Venus

Random Person #1: Jupiter, Mars, Earth, (Pluto removed) Uranus, (Neptune removed) Mars, (Mercury and Uranus removed) Venus
Random Person #2: Venus, Saturn, Earth, (Pluto removed) Uranus, (Neptune removed) Mars, (Mercury and Uranus removed) Venus
Random Person #3: Mars, Mercury, Earth, (Pluto removed) Uranus, (Neptune removed) Mars, (Mercury and Uranus removed) Venus

See how the first two selections you make will always add up to 11? Wow, what magic there!

Last Week's Results
Then we have last week's results. If you don't remember these guys, Ehud performed the PK Touch routine, Jim performed the dangerous animal trap routine, Eran performed the nail gun roulette routine, and Gerry performed the phone book routine. Eran unsurprisingly moves on. And Gerry surprisingly joins him.

Now we move on to the new psychics (or mentalists as some label themselves).

This Week's Contestants
Wayne is up first. He's the "fun guy". He's going to perform a trick of mind reading and influence. He calls Shandi up and asks her if they've ever met before. She says no. He says, "I'm a skeptic." Yeah, of course you are guy. He then asks her to pick an image at random. Then he asks her to forget that and pick another. Then he asks her to forget it again and think of a third image. He then asks her to draw that image on a board that he can't see. We are shown video footage of him getting a tattoo because he's really committed to this trick. Finally she shows the image and it's a yin yang. He shows his "tattoo", which is really just grease paint, and it's a tattoo.

I don't know how he did it. Maybe she was in on it. Maybe he gave her a "tell" about what she should draw. Any ideas?

Chriss says he has good energy and commitment to his trick and that he did a great job.

Uri says he has lots of charisma and positive energy and also that he has a really stylish, cool image (which made me laugh because Wayne wasn't cool at all) and that if he continues the trick he'll run out of body space.

Which, of course he won't, because the tattoo isn't real. Matt and I wondered why Chriss didn't point that out, but we would find out later.

Angela was up next. We were reminded again that she was the only woman in the competition and she talked about how she wanted women to be taken seriously as magicians. She said her specialty was subliminal influence.

Her trick was similar to Eran's from last week. She called Ross up and then showed the audience a knife. She cut a silk hanging to show it was sharp and then had Ross cut an apple in half. Then, with five bases lined up on the table, she selected the middle base and stuck the knife into it blade up. She covered each of the bases so that the knife couldn't be seen and then raised a partition and had Ross shuffle the bases. While Ross concentrated on the bases that didn't hold the knife she smashed her hand down on each base until one was left that had the knife. She even did a quick "fake out" at the end to make us think she was going to select one and then selected the other. It was dramatic.

I think the base she chose was marked so she had no trouble knowing which one the knife held.

Uri said that she proved she could do tricks as good as any of the men. My husband added that a toddler could do tricks as good as any of the men. He [Uri] also said she was gripping, sensitive, and sensual.

Chriss said he was happy to see girls in mentalism and thought that she had a huge personality but that she should bring it out even more.

Guy claimed to be connected to the unknown and said he always felt different growing up (didn't we all). He was a fat kid. His trick was to stop his heart and then restart it. A nurse took his pulse and a doctor was standing by with an EMC and a defibrillator. He asked for silence and had Raven join him on stage. He was hooked up to an EKG machine. Then he had Raven check his pulse on his neck. He asked if she could feel his pulse and she said she felt something like an electrical charge. He smoothed over that and then he had the nurse and Raven sit on either side of him. He rested his arms on two podiums and had the nurse and Raven feel his pulse and ring a chime to his heart beat. Then we could see the EKG and hear the chimes as he started slowing his heart. The chimes and EKG were out of synch, but maybe that was human error (although I doubt it).

The EKG started at 60 and then started changing 59, 57, 59, 60, 47, 52, 36, 45, 42 <15 (flatline). The chimes only started slowing down when the EKG hit 36 and it started a flat line signal at 45. After 23.4 seconds the EKG went crazy showing no number and then suddenly flashed up 59, 60, 61. Raven jumped out of her seat, jewelry flying and ran away, genuinely scared.

I think he used an electrical charge to simulate his pulse for the two women and also used a charge to disrupt the EKG. Raven jumped up probably because she was shocked by the electrical charge. Guy smoothed it over by explaining that sometimes the energy gets away from him. What did our judges think?

Uri said he was a master of mind over matter and it all looked genuine. He called it breath-taking and heart-stopping.

Chriss called it dramatic and intense, but said that maybe it wasn't the best demonstration due to the time constraint. I think he thought the heart stoppage should have been for a bit longer.

Jan, pronounced Yon, was up next. He gained fame in Belgium by predicting the national elections.

Matchboxes were passed out to the audience. Then Jan had Shandi pick up a deck of cards that represented all of the numbers in the crowd. He asked her to show some of the cards randomly. She showed 396, 76, 227, 272, and 395. Then he asks her to shuffle the deck while he asks the audience to randomly pick out some of the matches and then throw the matchboxes up onto the stage. After they've all thrown their matchboxes Jan comes down and rests a pendulum on the top card of Shandi's deck. He then has her select that card and hold it against her chest so he can't see it. The pendulum guides them up onto the stage where it "circles" above the correct matchbook. He says it's 256, but it's actually 257. Shandi shows her card and it's 257. He holds the pendulum over the matchbook and says there are fove matches in it. He has Shandi open the matchbook and count out the matches and there are five.

I think there were matchboxes planted on the stage. It seems like the audience had numbers printed on both sides and so the matchboxes that didn't reveal numbers were his plant. He was also obviously moving his hand to get the pendulum to "reveal" which matchbox to select, so he knew where he was going. Maybe there were only a certain number of cards in the deck and they were marked. Then he knew exactly where to go on stage to find the matching, marked matchbox. That's just a guess though. Any ideas?

Uri said he was quirky and eccentric and that he thought he would make more money using the pendulum to find oil. Jan responded that he wasn't there for the money.

Chriss said, "We all know it's not possible to find oil or water with a divining rod." But then complimented Jan on his original method.

Jim, a paranormalist, said he could communicate with the dead and had been in contact with a spirit named Raymond Hill that died 1980. Raymond will be back in 2045 according to Jim.

While a taped video showed behind him narrating the encounter, Jim, was supposedly possessed by a the spriti of Raymond. He jiggled around very unconvincingly. At one point my husband asked, "Is he masturbating?" and then, "God, this is stupid." There was a ring of salt around him, to keep in the spirit, I'm guessing. Before the break Raven picked an item from a collection of 100 items and it was placed in a box of salt. As Jim was jiggling around, he started to write something on a card. Finally, he fell out of his chair from the exertion and the spirit of Raymond "left him". He was still quite worn out, or so he wanted the viewers to believe.

The box was then unlocked and Raven pulled out a yellow toy car. On the card was written (backwards, but conveniently there was a mirror next to the box (conveniently) has "metal, rectangle, 4 wheels" written on it. Raven seems like she's acting impressed. I don't buy it. Jim acts very, very tired and out of breath. The host calls him controversial and asks him what he thinks about people who don't believe. Jim says, "I'm also a skeptic. This is America. I think people should make up their own minds on what they believe and what they think." He's wearing an ear piece.

Maybe he saw what was missing from the room before the act or someone told him?

Uri says his "display of supernatural powers were controversial" and also that his "flair of honesty" lent "credibility".

Chriss called it comical. Then he pulled out two envelopes and offered $1 million of his own money if Uri and Jim could tell him what was inside. Chriss and Jim started yelling at each other. Jim called Chriss an idealogical bigot (in between gasped breaths) and Chriss said "don't give me this bullshit" (censored out). Uri said nothing. Then Jim acted like he was going to attack Chriss, but after he got away from the host, he hooked his arm around the host and pulled him in between.

I think at least part of it had to be an act. Jim acted like he was going to attack Chriss, but he didn't really want to, of course. I think Chriss must have had the envelopes prepared and probably planned to expose Uri and Jim as frauds, but I don't think the show knew he was going to pull them out and challenge Uri and Jim. It was a pretty interesting scene though and we're taken to commercial break.

When we get back the host says that all of this is live and anything can happen and that no, this isn't Jerry Springer.

Chriss's Homage to Houdini
They then show a clip of Houdini, with a voice-over by Chriss talking about his hero. Then they show Chriss performing the same tricks as homage. Chriss then gets a chance to advertise season four of Mindfreak.

Mike is the last contestant. He used to call himself "Johnny von Awesome". Yeah, it's a good thing that he dropped that moniker.

He's going to solve a mental murder mystery. He shows a box hanging from the ceiling. He says inside there is a clear plastic tube containing a rolled up piece of paper with details of a made up murder mystery he had a premonition about earlier.

He has Ross come up to assist him. Mike shows three pictures of three serial killers - Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Charlie Manson. He then asked for anyone in the audience with the names of Ted, John, or Chuck, then added Charlie, stand up. 10-15 people stood up. He had Ross pick three people at random.

Then Mike asked one of the guys (the second guy that Ross selected) to choose any item in his house. The guy, named John, selected a dresser. Mike had Ross write that on a white board as the murder weapon. Mike then asked another guy (the third guy selected by Ross) for the most exotic spot he'd vacationed. The guy, named Ted, said Hawaii. Ross wrote down Hawaii as the location. Then Mike had the final guy (the first guy selected by Ross) for his favorite celebrity that wasn't currently there. The guy, named Charlie, selected Tom Hanks. Now it's a bit suspect that Ross randomly chose three guys that each had one of the names. Why not two John's and one Ted? John is a much more common name. But it's possible to get one of each, suppose.

Mike then had Ross pick a time, any time, and that would be the time of the murder. Ross selected 3:13. The locked box was opened and the clear tube was pulled out and the rolled up paper from there. It said:

It will be Tom Hanks
It will take place in Hawaii
It will be done with a dresser
For the time of death, the truth will be in their HANDS

Then he had the audience hold out their hands and with UV light had them reveal 3:13 on their hands.

Matt thought some of the guys could have been plants. Hawaii seemed like an especially suspect random answer. I think that when the box was brought down and placed on a table the scroll was put in through a false bottom. It was all written up as people said their random selections. I don't know how the 3:13 was done without Ross being in on the trick. Any ideas?

Uri said he had a great name (Mike Super instead of Johnny von Awesome) and that his stage presence was good, like a big party, and a bit over the top.

Chriss said that at least he wasn't claiming to have psychic abilities and that he was more entertaining than the last act.

So who will go on to the next round? I think Guy, Jan, and Angela will continue and the other three will be kicked off. Find out if my prediction is correct in the next post.

P.S. It's late and this is long (2 1/2 hours of writing) so I haven't proofread it. It may have mistakes. I'll check through it again in the morning and update it if I notice anything. I'll make sure to use strikethrough so that you can see anything that's been updated.

Update the next day: Below is a clip of Jim's trick on You Tube. Also, Rebecca has a review up on Skepchick.

Related Posts
Phenomenon October 24, 2007
Phenomenon November 7, 2007
Phenomenon November 14, 2007

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Reading List for November  

Read in October
Dexter in the Dark - Jeff Lindsay
Heart-Shaped Box - Joe Hill
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff - Christopher Moore
Horus Rising (The Horus Heresy) - Dan Abnett
The Complete World of the Dead Sea Scrolls - Phillip R. Davies, George J. Brooke, Phillip R. Callaway

October was a productive month for me as far as books. It probably helped that I read a lot of fiction. It's easier for me to get lost in a story and read for hours. Non-fiction I have to set down after a while even if it's a fascinating discussion. My brain gets full and I have to digest the new ideas.

Currently Reading
The World Without Us - Alan Weisman (Audiobook)
The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russell

Maybe I'll finally make a dent in these this month. ;)

Coming Up Next
Darwin's Ghost - Steve Jones
Seasons - Robert Frost
A History of the End of the World - Jonathan Kirsch
Spirit Gate - Kate Elliott
Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea - Carl Zimmer
Dark Tower - Stephen King
The Lucifer Effect - Philip Zimbardo
The Android's Dream - John Scalzi
The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science - Natalie Angier

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Carnival of the Godless 78  

Monday, October 29, 2007

The 78th Carnival of the Godless is up at Greta Christina's Blog with a Haunted House theme: The Godless House of Horrors!

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Americas Psychic Challenge October 26, 2007  

This week had the highest score I've sen thus far, but does that mean I've been convinced? You'll have to read further to see.

Task #1:
The first task was finding a person in the trunk of a car in a car lot with 30 cars. The the person was hiding in his own car disguised to look like it belonged in the lot. But, why not use a random car in the lot? The psychics were given a picture of the guy and a personal effect.

Catherine kept saying that she was picking up on other energies. She approached a green car and chose it after 5 1/2 minutes. It was the wrong car. She was awarded no points.

Michelle didn't want to even know what the challenge was. She said her spirit guides had already told her that they wanted her to find a body in a trunk. The show showed her walking straight to a red GTI and selecting it. It was the correct car. Later in the show the host mentioned she had gone to a yellow car as well and she said "orange too". Was it a lucky guess or did her spirit guides guide her? She was awarded 25 points.

Joseph had a vision of a scratch and the number 32. He selected a blue car, which had 32 in the VIN and a scratch. It wasn't the correct car and he was awarded no points.

Tori also selected the same blue car after walking around a bit. She received 0 points.

Task #2:
The second task was matching up 5 brides with 5 grooms. All of them had been married from 1 to 10 years. The host said that it was a 1 in 120 chance of guessing all 5 correct. Well, actually they could get 0, 1, 2, 3, or 5 correct, so it's not really that high. There are more than one combination of 1, 2, and 3 correct matches, but certainly not enough to be 1 in 120. And I'm not sure we're worried about combinations here, just rather they get a certain number correct or not.

Catherine matched up 3 correctly for 15 points.

Michelle matched up 1 correctly for 5 points. Hmmm.. I'm not sure I can be impressed with her anymore. But, as she said, she'd never done it before. I guess her spirit guides weren't very helpful.

Joseph talked to the couples a lot, matching up names out loud and looking at the expressions on the faces of the participants. It was purely cold reading. Still, he only got 1 correct, for 5 points. He said that he was getting past life connections or correct connections whether or not those were the people married to each other in this life or not. Uh huh.

Tori matched up two couples correctly for 10 points. She didn't talk to any of the couples much, but seemed to be matching them up based on clues like tattoos and piercings.

Task #3:
For the third task the psychics are taken to a house that is a crime scene. That's all they are told. It's the scene of a murder where a woman was stabbed to death by a hit man hired by her husband. The police had been called by a neighbor and were in the front yard. They caught the killer as he was running away and he is currently serving time in jail. The husband is on trial.

Both the judge, who was an investigator, and the host walked around with the psychics as they gave their information. I'll stick to what the contestants got wrong since they all made some hits.

Michelle said two people were killed, but she got most of the other things she said correct.

Catherine believed a little boy in the boy scouts had been drowned accidentally. Maybe the mother wished he was dead. At one point the host gave her a confounded look and she backed off what she was saying. At the end she said that during her meditation before the task her father came through and it disturbed her because he hadn't passed yet.

Tori also read a drowning and a shove to the back of the head. She also said Mike or Michael or an "M" was involved. They gave her points because the husband's name was Manfred. Yep, that's Michael alright.

Joseph didn't get anything wrong that I remember. I do remember at one point the host was nodding at him as he got something particular close to what happened. That confirms my suspicion that this is cold reading and educated/lucky guessing based on the scene.

The Results
Catherine only received 3 points on the reading, bringing her total to 18, the lowest score I've seen on the show so far despite the fact that she did the best on Task #2. The reiki master won't be going on.

Michelle received 29 points for Task #3, bringing her total to 59, the highest score I've seen so far in the competition. She is moving on to the next round.

Which left Joseph and Tori. Tori scored 25 points, bringing her total to 35. Joseph needed at least 31 points to beat her since he only scored 5 points up until Task #3. And he got 34 points, putting him in second place and making him the first male to move on in the competition. He was absolutely glowing.

Viewer Participation
And how did your reviewer do this week? Well, not as well. The first viewer participation quiz showed a woman about to order from a coffee shop. Would she order a sandwich, soup, or a beverage. I chose beverage because I couldn't remember the third choice (but noted it after the break) and I was correct. That brings my total up to 6 out of 7.

The second test was to guess the occupation of a woman - lifeguard, waitress, or sales clerk. I guessed sales clerk because she didn't look tanned enough to be a lifeguard. I was wrong, she was a waitress.

The third test was a woman walking to her car. Which car would she choose, the white car, the blue car, or the gray car? I chose the white one. Matt chose the black and then changed his mind to the white. Well, he shouldn't have second guessed himself because it was the black car. So my overall score is 6 out of 9. I'm down from almost 100% to about 66%.

And that's all for this week. The show is definitely falling into a pattern. Next week they help people get closure after a tragic death. I think I'm going to go puke now.

Related Posts
Americas Psychic Challenge October 12, 2007
Americas Psychic Challenge October 19, 2007
Americas Psychic Challenge November 2, 2007
Americas Psychic Challenge November 9, 2007
Americas Psychic Challenge November 16, 2007
Americas Psychic Challenge November 23, 2007

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What kind of monster are you?  

Sunday, October 28, 2007

You Are a Witch (or Warlock)

You are deviously brilliant and a perfect manipulator.
You somehow always end up getting what you want - without anyone knowing you're working behind the scenes.
Crafty and cunning, you can work your way out of any jam.
And it's easy for you to get people to do what you want, whether you're working for good or evil.

Your greatest power: Mind control

Your greatest weakness: Making people your puppets

You play well with: Ghosts

(via Fate)

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This Week's Reader October 27, 2007  

Saturday, October 27, 2007

This series post is evolving. Hopefully eventually I'll have something more interesting, but for now, here are some articles that I enjoyed reading this week.

Book Reviews
The Spanish Inquisitor reviews Natalie Angier's The Canon.

John posts another excellent video by Sean B. Carroll, From Butterflies to Humans, at Evolutionary Middleman.

Eric discusses a study that found hormone levels are closely tied to mother-child bonding at The Primate Diaries.

Denialism blog tackles "The Eugenics Temptation" in an article by by Mark Hoofnagle.

Astronomy Picture of the Day has astounding pictures of Comet17P/Holmes.

Bob Novella discusses why long-term weather prediction will never be accurate at The Rogue's Gallery.

Chris Hoofnagle explains why the wireless industry restricts innovation, consumer choice, and entrepreneurship at denialism blog.

Jonathan Rowe exposes two bad arguments against the ENDA and two ways to fight terrorism at Positive Liberty.

At Trent Stamp's Take, Trent talks about the Gap's (PRODUCT) RED apparel campaign.

Culture and Religion
The romance of the self-denying woman is discussed at Kafr al-Hanadwa.

At Evolving Thoughts, John Wilkins gives several explanations for religion and also defines what religion is.

Norm at onegoodmove discusses the demands of reason.

Human Interest
Mamacita Chilena continues her series with her story of "Not Chubby Anymore: How I got off my butt and lost 50 pounds" in Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

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Skeptics Circle 72  

Friday, October 26, 2007

The 72nd Skeptic's Circle is up at the quackometer blog and they're all in detention. What did they do to face such punishment?

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The Misunderstood Language of Music  

First off, apologies to anyone who reads this blog who might understand the real lyrics behind these songs. I can only imagine how funny an English song may sound in a different language.

The music videos below are not in English, but they have been subtitled with English purely based on phonetics, not on an actual translation.

My Loony Bun is fine, Benny Lava

Moskau, Moskau

Boten Anna

(via Winterfleur)

P.S. My punishment is that these songs are now stuck in my head.

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Phenomenon October 24, 2007  

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Phenomenon opened with a little background on Chriss Angel and Uri Geller, the two celebrity judges. I don't know much about Chriss, but I've heard he does camera tricks that are edited to look good, similar to David Blaine.

Then they showed Uri Geller, Mr. Spooky Eyes. Seriously, Uri, you don't need to try so hard. They even showed Uri on Carson and gave credit to that embarrassment to bringing him down.

There were ten mentalists on the stage, four of whom would perform in this episode. Two of the four who receive the lowest number of phone and internet votes will be eliminated. The math of showing four doesn't make sense to me. If four perform and two are eliminated that means you have a 50/50 shot. If six perform next week, then maybe three are eliminated? It's an odd split. I've seen a lot of reality shows and I've never seen anything done this asymmetrically before.

Three celebrity guests - Carmen Electra, Ross Matthews, and Rachel Hunter were also on hand to assist the mentalists.

Ehud was up first. We learn that he had a dream his brother was killed and ten years later he was woken up with news that his brother was killed. The show doesn't say if he was killed in the same way as in the dream.

Ehud performs a PK Touch routine. He had Carmen and Ross on stage to help him out. First Ehud told Carmen to close her eyes. Then he said he was going to touch her. He ran his fingers over his forehead and asked her to point out where he touched her. She pointed to her forehead. Next he tickled Ross under the chin and asked Carmen where he touched her that time. Carmen tickled herself under the chin. Then he had Ross touch himself on the nose and asked Carmen where Ross had touched her. She said "nose" and then touched her nose. Last he asked her to imagine herself touching herself and he wrote something down on a card. He asked her where she imagined and she said "my chest" and he turned over his card which had "chest" written on it.

I wasn't impressed. First, he never claimed that he hadn't worked with Carmen or Ross before the show. To me it seemed like a complete set up and that they had rehearsed it ahead of time. I just didn't buy it.

Chriss judged first and said his stage persona was OK but that he wasn't committed to the act. He said his routine was average and advised him to do better like Banacheck.

Uri was impressed and felt that Ehud had "real power to manipulate mind energy at your will."

Jim K was up next after a commercial break. He once had a dream of winning lottery numbers and those numbers (222 on 12/22) won someone the lottery. Not him, of course. I guess he didn't believe in his own skills. He said that sometimes he scares himself with what he can do. Uh huh.

Jim called Ross and Rachel up to assist him. He had Rachel put on protective eye gear and step back. Then he teased Ross by saying he was going to put his finger in a fox trap. Ross, of course, didn't. Jim used a pencil instead and the pencil snapped. Then Jim pulled out a wolf trap and had Ross set it by stepping on it. He misdirected for a while by trying to get Ross to stick his hand in the trap. Then he had Rachel write down a celebrity on a card that was facing away from him. After a bit of playing around he stuck his fingers in the trap and the trap didn't hurt him. Surprise! It didn't look like it had much oomph behind it. He also guessed that Rachel had written down Jeff Goldblum, which of course, she had.

I don't know much about mentalism, but I can tell what happened - fake trap and a mirror to read the celebrity Rachel wrote down. What a crock!

Chriss said the trick was funny, but disjointed.

Uri thought the trick was challenging. Challenging??

Then we had an interactive challenge with Uri. He pulled out five ESP symbols (square, star, circle, plus, and waves) and set them out on a stand. Then he picked one silently in his mind. He then projected that symbol to America three times and then stuck a card with that symbol in an envelope, sealed it, and put it in a locked clear box to be opened later. America was encouraged to call in and say which symbol Uri had picked. My husband chose the circle because it was the most visible when looking at Uri while he was "projecting" the symbol. I chose the wavy line because it was wavy. To be fair I chose it before Uri "projected" because I didn't realize I was supposed to wait.

Eran was up next. He almost drowned sailing once and became entranced by the thrill of near death experiences. He also had many other near death experiences that were not listed (according to him).

Eran's trick was basically Russian Roulette with six nail guns. An ambulance was standing by just in case. Oh my! He showed one nail gun working (number six, I believe) by shooting nails out of it at a board. Then he put up a screen, handed Carmen a cartridge of nails (from gun six supposedly) to load into one of the guns. He blindfolded himself and asked her to open each gun whether she planned to load it or not and leave it opened. She went down the line opening the guns and presumably loading one. Then he asked her to close the guns. She went down the line closing the guns.

Then he had her count from one to six and then count backwards six to one. After listening to her (not part of the trick, I'm thinking) he shot his head with the first three guns. No nails. Then he asked her to count 4, 5, 6 and she did. Then he picked up four, put it down, and then quickly shot at his head with six. Six was empty, of course. Then he asked her to say five then four. She did. He held four up to his head and five to the board and then asked her to say it again. She was saying four very quietly. He quickly switched and shot five at himself (empty) and four at the board (nails).

I thought it was a decent trick, but he might have palmed the cartridge of nails or something. My husband, who works with nail guns all the time, said there are a bunch of things he could have done from having special triggers, to being able to tell which gun was loaded (usually visible on a nail gun). Anyway, we both agreed it was more interesting than the first two.

Uri said he liked the suspense and he felt Eran took a major risk and that it was "mind blowing."

Chriss said it was dramatic and a good demonstration of a trick and applauded Eran.

Gerry was next. He was adopted, but his adopted father left them and he ended up in a broken home. From that he learned how to control situations.

Gerry picked six people from the audience and had Rachel, Carmen, and Ross up to help him. He had Gerry throw three frisbees out to the audience randomly to three people. He had the first person pick a telephone book (from four) off a table. The man picked four, which turned out to be the Atlanta phone book. He then had the next person pick a number between 1 and 949 (or something like that number). He referred to a paper on his hand for the number of pages in that particular phone book. She selected 333. He then had the next person pick a number between one and four for the column number. The man picked two.

he handed out seven cards to the six earlier volunteers from the audience and Carmen. Then he ran his hand down the column in the phone book and said stop at a certain point. (My husband and I disagree here. He thinks one (Gerry or Rachel) moved the hand and the other said stop, but thinking back I think he did both.) Anyway, he said that the NBC wouldn't let the full number be read out and so she had to use an X in the place of a number in first part of the number (the exchange) and in the second part of the number. He encouraged Rachel to use X as the first number and then read the second two. Then he told her to use X in the second half of the number. The number she read out was X23 259X.

Then he had the people holding the cards to reveal what was in them except for the X's. They had the same numbers 23 259. Then he had the first and last people reveal their numbers, both X's.

I don't know how he did the trick. Maybe he picked the number or used the paper to tell Rachel what to read out? I'm sure someone could easily explain it that knows how this stuff works.

Uri said the presentation fell flat.

Chriss said he needed to raise the bar to stay on the show.

The fact that both Chriss and Uri were unimpressed confirmed that it wasn't a difficult trick. You just need to know how it's done.

Then Uri's ESP symbol was revealed. 28% of Americans picked the star (27% picked the circle). The star was the second symbol in the list, right next to the circle. This trick may be something like what America's Psychic Challenge does with suggesting the option to choose or selecting the option most people are visually drawn to. In any case, the symbol on the sealed envelope was indeed the star.

And that's it until next week.

Update: Also be sure to read Mark Hoofnagle's review here.

Related Posts
Phenomenon October 31, 2007
Phenomenon November 7, 2007
Phenomenon November 14, 2007

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Google Search First Hits Meme  

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

This meme is about search terms that return your blog as the #1 hit on Google.

I'd like to suggest a meme, where the premise is that you will attempt to find 5 statements, which if you were to type into google (preferably, but we'll take the other country specific ones if need be), you'll find that you are returned with your blog as the number one hit.

I am Lars Vilks
moloch dexter
girl and flat tire
delete pandora radio station

The fourth term someone actually used to find my site. No idea why.

(via Pharyngula)

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Americas Psychic Challenge October 19, 2007  

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Last night I watched the episode from Friday and it was just as unscientific as the first one. I think all of them are going to follow the same pattern. At least they didn't have a grieving family for the psychics to take advantage of this episode.

The four contestants this week were Joe, Lynn, Sylvana, and Nerysa. The three tasks were picking out a criminal from a lineup, matching dog owners with their dogs, and reading the scene of a celebrity death in Hollywood.

Task #1: Criminal Lineup
For the criminal lineup, one man with a criminal past and four men with clean records were each put in a jail cell. The psychics had to pick which one they thought was a criminal. They had a 1 in 5 chance of correctly guessing the guy with the criminal past. Let's see how they did.

Joe was up first. He walked down the row of cells looking at each person. I don't think he touched anyone, but I can't remember for sure. He picked the guy in the third cell, who turned out to be the guy with the criminal past. Joe was awarded 25 points.

As the guy stepped out to talk to Joe my husband pointed out that his tattoos looked like prison tattoos. That might be a give away. Maybe it was just a lucky guess. Let's see how the other psychics do.

Sylvana went next and she decided she didn't want to touch any of the guys in their cells. Her explanation later was that she might pick up on the energy in the cells and not on the energy that the guys were projecting. Nice excuse! After a few minutes she touched the guys anyway when she didn't feel comfortable with her decision. In the end, she picked the motivational speaker, not the guy with the criminal past. When asked she said the guy just seemed to have a false aura about him. Sylvana was awarded 0 points.

Nerysa went down the rows tentatively, although she ruled out the first guy, a preacher, right away. In fact, everyone ruled out the preacher right away. In the end she picked a special ed teacher incorrectly and was awarded no points.

Lynn was last and she pulled out a notebook of automatic writing to look at before she walked down the row of cells. She had written something about a brother with drugs, 4 years and 4 months, and a tattoo with wings and a snake. The narrator lets us know that in fact the guy with the criminal past had spent 4 years and 4 months in prison and he had a brother with a drug problem. Would her automatic writing help her pick the correct guy? No, obviously the spirits didn't give her enough information to go on like telling her, "he's in the third cell" or something more obvious like that. She chose the therapist. She looked more closely at the guy with the criminal past and his tattoo (SUR, I think) and said she should have associated it with the snake image she had been getting. She was awarded no points even though she thought she should get partial credit for her automatic writing.

So each of the psychics chose a different person. The spirits must be favoring Joe and giggling maniacally about the other psychics that they've misled.

Task #2: Match Pets to Pet Owners
For the next task five pets are lined up next to each other in a park and five pet owners stand nearby with cardboard standies of themselves that the psychics have to place next to their dogs. Of course this is perfect for cold reading and all of the psychics look back at the owners each time they place a cardboard standy to see his or her reaction.

Also, as Rebecca pointed out last week, there is a 1 in 4 chance of getting them all correct. They can either get 1 correct, 2 correct, 3 correct, or 5 correct. It is not possible to get 4 correct and 1 incorrect.

Sylvana was first and she placed all of the standies correctly. At one point she got on the ground on her knees and tried to feel what the dogs were feeling. But before making her choices final she switched two of the standies. She ended up scoring 3 out of 5 correct, or 15 points. When questioned later in the van by the other psychics she claimed to get 5 out of 5 correct, but failed to mention that officially she only got 3 out of 5 correct because she changed her guess.

Joe or Nerysa went next. I can't remember which, but they both got 2 correct, or 10 points. Both of them correctly guessed a lady with a white dog and another guy. Both of them used methods that seemed like cold reading. They'd make guesses and then look over at the owners for a reaction.

Lynn was last and she was babbling about how fluffy dogs have to go with girls. The host asked her at one point if it was all just logic and she replied, "I only get what I am supposed to get." In the end she only matched up one dog with its owner and scored 5 points.

Task #3: Celebrity Death
The last task was to identify as much information about a room where a celebrity death occurred as possible. Each of them were blindfolded and led into a room. The viewers are told that this was the room that Janis Joplin died in from a drug overdose. A man familiar with the case walks us through what happened that night. Each of the psychics are allowed to hold a sealed envelope with a picture (poster from the size) of Janis during their time in the room.

I'm skeptical. This room is probably visited or at least the hotel is pointed out on numerous tours in Hollywood. The psychics might be blindfolded, but they know they're in Hollywood and they know this is a celebrity death. It's not hard to generalize details like that.

Nerysa went first. Points to her for crying and identifying emotionally with the guy judging her. She pointed out the place that the body had been found which was between the beds. She also said it had happened in September. It actually happened in October, but the judge gave her points for getting "the fall" in general. He also gave her points for saying that the woman had written a journal because she was a song-writer. He obviously wasn't very skeptical.

Sylvana was next. She pinpointed how the body had been found and gave general themes that surround most Hollywood stories (drugs, alcohol, rock 'n roll). Gee, do think because they were in Hollywoood that she might be able to make some reasoned guesses.

Joe was shown third and he missed the ball completely. He said that a man had murdered a woman with a gun and then killed himself. He pointed to the area between the beds as the place of death. Then he asked for a glass of water and said he was too shaken to continue. I think he suspected he missed the mark when the host didn't respond to his psychic observations.

Lynn went last and she also guessed the place of death was between the beds. She also guessed it was a female, drugs and alcohol were involved, and a few other general facts. In the end she kept saying she was getting the name "Anna" and a "J". The judge, of course, said "Anna sort of sounds like Janis and the J is definitely true." How about actually getting the name correct?

The Results
The points were revealed in the end. Nyrisa received 24 points for a total of 34, but it wasn't enough to move on. She was eliminated from the competition. Sylvana received 28 points which was enough to give her the highest overall score of 43. She will be competing in the next round. The last spot was between Joe and Lynn. Joe had the most points from the first task, but he completely missed the mark on the last task. He was only awarded 4 points, bringing his total to 39. That meant that Lynn needed a 40 to move on. And my husband was the psychic predicting she would get 40, and she did. Wow, maybe he should try out for the show! Poor Joe was eliminated.

Viewer Participation
At each commercial break they show items and ask the viewers to use their psychic powers to determine the outcome. I don't know how this is done, but I feel like the show is suggesting one of the outcomes to the viewers and then selecting that, maximizing the number of viewers that will get it right. Last week I guessed all three correctly. Let's see how my husband and I do this week.

At the first break they show a woman deciding between three dresses - a pink sun dress, a beige dress, and a white sun dress and ask the viewers which one she will pick. Matt and I both say pink. After the commercial break it's revealed that she picks the pink dress.

At the second break they show three identical red candles and ask the viewers which one will be blown out. Matt and I both guess the right candle. After the commercial break it's revealed that the left candle is blown out. I guess you can't win them all, even with my super-duper 4 out of 5 psychic intuition so far.

At the third break they show three bottles of nail polish and ask which bottle the woman having her nails painted will choose. I select the red bottle since she has a red stone in her ring and it will match that way. Matt won't select because he doesn't know anything about nail polish. After the commercial break it's revealed that she picks the red nail polish. I'm right, I'm right!! I'm psychic!!

OK, so I know that there has to be another reason why my lucky guesses are mostly always correct. I'll have to do some research.

Related Posts
Americas Psychic Challenge October 12, 2007
Americas Psychic Challenge October 26, 2007
Americas Psychic Challenge November 2, 2007
Americas Psychic Challenge November 9, 2007
Americas Psychic Challenge November 16, 2007
Americas Psychic Challenge November 23, 2007

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Technology Triumphs!  

Monday, October 22, 2007

Those of you who know how backwards I am when it comes to my old, comfortable ways of keeping around software that is old, but you know, works, will be happy to hear that after I installed the Hellgate London demo I couldn't play because it requires Service Pack 2.

I suppose I might finally have to upgrade. I have been resisting, but listening to Matt play for the past three days knowing I could be too has been painful. Of course my video card may also be too old, but I bought a new power supply this weekend so that I could re-replace it again with one I bought several months ago, but never bothered to check the power requirements on until I started having sporadic problems with my components not operating. And, I upgraded to the latest video drivers then, so I might be OK without having to do another upgrade.

In other news, I recently updated iTunes because my free Herbie Hancock download required 7.4. I had a change of heart before the installation, but for some reason my installation of iTunes disappeared after I downloaded the patch (although it wasn't yet installed). I guess an updated version is better than no version, the bastards!

Bonus points if you can name that case. I'm salivating over it, but there's no way I could afford it.

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The It's Its There Their They're Quiz  

You Scored an A

You got 10/10 questions correct.

It's pretty obvious that you don't make basic grammatical errors.
If anything, you're annoyed when people make simple mistakes on their blogs.
As far as people with bad grammar go, you know they're only human.
And it's humanity and its current condition that truly disturb you sometimes.

(via Mike's Weekly Skeptic Rant)

It's and they're are easy if you test whether "it is" or "they are" will work in the same sentence. And I do make a lot of grammatical mistakes, but mostly because I'm a lazy proofreader.

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This Week's Reader October 20, 2007  

Saturday, October 20, 2007

For your reading pleasure, here are some posts that I enjoyed this week.

John at Evolutionary Middleman posts a link to Dan Dennett's talk about his book Darwin's Dangerous Idea.

Mamacita chilena tells us about her Crazy Chilean Wedding in part 1, part 2, and part 3.

BC at Horror Movie a Day reviews Diary of the Dead, the last installment of the series (probably?) by Romero.

Richard Carter, FCD posts about a strange twig growing out of a fence at The Red Notebook.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali at the Atheist Alliance International 2007 in two parts: part 1 and part 2.

Greta Christina answers the question, "why are atheists angry?"

Steven Novella discusses the fallacy of why atheists have no rights in his second part of the series.

Fareed Zakaria talks about sanctions in Burma.

Jonathan Rowe explains good history vs. bad history in his post about the validity of America founded as a Christian nation.

My husband loves to watch QVC, HSN, SNBC, basically all of the home shopping channels. And the Beer Blog shows you why.

Jay Novella examines a study that found theists are more moral than atheists at The Rogues Gallery.

BC at Horror Movie a Day reviews 30 Days of Night.

Steven Novella discusses hypnotism at NeuroLogica Blog.

Greta Christina weighs in on the meaning of life.

The Exterminator at No More Hornets reports on a a disturbing case of unconstitutional usurpation of the justice system.

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Music Friday  

Friday, October 19, 2007

OK, I have an admission to make. Lately I've been a Starbucks whore. I'm not really a coffee drinker, but I've been going almost every day and getting a small mocha (skim, no whip). I think they might know me by now. And the reason? They're giving away a download a day through iTunes.

Now this isn't an advertisement. Most of the songs have been OK, but I can't help looking forward to the next. So far I've only enjoyed one enough to buy the album - A Fine Frenzy.

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Performance Reviews  

We're not allowed to talk about our job online according to our employee manual, but I think that mostly applies more to specific projects and company information. I think this is general enough that it won't violate any rules.

Performance self-evaluations are due. I hate these. I never know how to handle them. Should I rate myself the way I think I should be rated? What if I rate myself too high or too low? I feel like I'm walking into a car dealership and haggling over a price every time I look at one of these. I always feel like I'm giving the company I work for ammunition to use when explaining why raises weren't good or my performance wasn't above par (thought I seem to always do well on reviews). Or I'm underselling myself.

I worked for one company that rated employees on a scale from 1-5 except they never gave anyone more than a 3 because they didn't think every employee should be rated exceptional. OK, that's fine. Not every employee is exceptional. Managers were given the directive to not give greater than 3's unless the employee had done something beyond exceptional. Which is BS, of course. It is possible to have a group of exceptional employees and making a manager select whether 1 or 2 can get a few 4's is silly politics. Of course not all managers listened so the ratings were lopsided across departments.

So, what do you think? If, say, I had a scale of 1-10 should I rate myself a 10? A 9? If I think I did really well. What would you consider average? What are the benefits and detriments to rating myself too high or too low?

P.S. I already turned in my review, but I wanted to get feedback to know if I did the right thing. Don't think you're influencing my actual review.

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America's Psychic Challenge October 12, 2007  

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I watched Friday's episode of America's Psychic Challenge last night and found that Rebecca Watson at Skepchick had summed up the show perfectly, so I'm not going to go into a lot of details about the episode. I'd like to add that

1) Bowl Cut is very creepy. Not in a cool kind of creepy way, but in a kind of socially-inept creepy kind of way.

2) Hearing psychics try to one-up each other as they're riding together in a van is strangely funny and uncomfortable all at the same time.

3) The best part of the episode was seeing the cardboard cutout host dismiss Bowl Cut as she's trying to read him after dismally failing to read the person behind the wall in the second challenge. No extra points for walking around the host in a creepy manner!

Related Posts
Americas Psychic Challenge October 19, 2007
Americas Psychic Challenge October 26, 2007
Americas Psychic Challenge November 2, 2007
Americas Psychic Challenge November 9, 2007
Americas Psychic Challenge November 16, 2007
Americas Psychic Challenge November 23, 2007

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Fabulous Prizes!  

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

OK, well, maybe not fabulous, but definitely good.* Why am I offering you a prize?

Eric, at The Primate Diaries has offered to send me a gift.

By the end of the calendar year, I will send a tangible, physical gift to each of the first five people to comment here. The catch? Each person must make the same offer on her/his blog.
So, in the spirit of giving and as a thank you for reading, the first five of you to post will get a tangible gift mailed to you from me if you make the same offer on your blog.

* No, I won't send mice. :)

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Humanist Symposium #9 is up at Greta Christina's Blog. It includes discussions on

Humanist Ethics (We have them. No, really.)
The Humanist Meaning of Life
The Value of Science
Humanist Living
Humanists on Religion
Humanist Community and Philosophy

And also the Carnival of the Godless #77 is up at the Skeptical Alchemist with the theme of morality. Are atheists more or less moral than theists?

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Your Daily Principles  

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mojoey at Deep Thoughts has tagged me with a meme about principles.

It’s meme time for me again, this one coming straight out of my own brain! I got to thinking recently about the idea that all of us, as humans, have principles we live by daily. These aren’t your over-arching beliefs neccessarily, but rather the things that you do daily as a part of those beliefs. So, for example, it’s not that I’m an anarchist, but things I do daily in line with that. I’ve kept it to 5 on my own, but there’s no hard rules on this meme; name as few or as many as you’d like! Likewise, no limits on how few or how many (if any) people you tag… do whatever is comfortable!

Hmm... so here's the principles that I try to live by daily.

Help those in need
A big part of my charity "epiphany" was to look for those who need help and help them, whether it's as simple as giving someone I work with a stamp or change or noticing the homeless people around me and giving them something whether it's food, money, or just listening to their story and sympathizing.

Be considerate
In stead of jumping to conclusions when someone is rude or unkind I try to be be understanding and polite in return. I don't always succeed and sometimes I get angry and then act rude and unkind. But it's not just trying to treat people well, it's also considering what that person may be going through. As a friend of mine once said, "Everyone has a bad day sometimes." I don't think people are assholes because they find me repulsive (though some may), but because they're just having a bad day. Maybe if I can make it a little better they'll stop being assholes.

Own up
I had this huge problem as a kid of never wanting to own up to my mistakes. You know, like I didn't make mistakes. It was someone else or there were extenuating circumstances, or, or ... Now I try to just admit I make a mistake without an excuse and when I say that I'm sorry I mean it. And I know sorry doesn't fix the damage that's been done or force anyone to forgive me.

Slow down and enjoy
I'm the type of person who gets so caught up in what's happening next that I forget to enjoy what's happening now. So I try to enjoy the moment. Sometimes it works. Sometimes I still find myself hating every car in front of me as I rush home to do absolutely nothing.

Appreciate people
Of course I appreciate my husband and I try to show him how happy I am to have him in my life and tell him. But how often do I tell my co-workers, friends, or even strangers. When someone makes my day I try to let them know how much I appreciate it, even if that person is standing behind a counter at a store and I'll never see him or her again.

I'm tagging:

Life is a PB Sandwich
Cafe Philos
Just Married Chilean Style
Janet, Keith, Matthew, and Josie

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Homeopaths Censor Blogger  

Monday, October 15, 2007

Both Orac and Skeptico have posted articles about how the Society of Homeopaths have successfully convinced a blogger to remove a post from The Quackometer.

The quackometer is a project based around the automation of debunking quack medicine on the web. The web is full of pages supporting dubious medical claims and inflated capabilities for cures. The freedom that the web gives us to express our views, entertain and do business also gives quacks a way to make a living by promoting nonsense treatments to unsuspecting people.

This society is filled with the same people who claim that there's a conspiracy by big pharma to suppress the truth of their claims. Isn't it odd that they're using the same tactics that they say are unfair?

The original post has been replaced with details about the action taken against the blogger. In the interest of free speech I have reproduced the article below.

The Gentle Art of Homeopathic Killing

By The Quackometer

The Society of Homeopaths (SoH) are a shambles and a bad joke. It is now over a year since Sense about Science, Simon Singh and the BBC Newsnight programme exposed how it is common practice for high street homeopaths to tell customers that their magic pills can prevent malaria. The Society of Homeopaths have done diddly-squat to stamp out this dangerous practice apart from issue a few ambiguously weasel-worded press statements.

The SoH has a code of practice, but my feeling is that this is just a smokescreen and is widely flouted and that the Society do not care about this. If this is true, then the code of practice is nothing more than a thin veneer used to give authority and credibility to its deluded members. It does nothing more than fool the public into thinking they are dealing with a regulated professional.
As a quick test, I picked a random homeopath with a web site from the SoH register to see if they flouted a couple of important rules:

48: • Advertising shall not contain claims of superiority. • No advertising may be used which expressly or implicitly claims to cure named diseases.

72: To avoid making claims (whether explicit or implied; orally or in writing) implying cure of any named disease.

The homeopath I picked on is called Julia Wilson and runs a practice from the Leicestershire town of Market Harborough. What I found rather shocked and angered me.

Straight away, we find that Julia M Wilson LCHE, RSHom specialises in asthma and works at a clinic that says,
Many illnesses and disease can be successfully treated using homeopathy, including arthritis, asthma, digestive disorders, emotional and behavioural difficulties, headaches, infertility, skin and sleep problems.

Well, there are a number of named diseases there to start off. She also gives a leaflet that advertises her asthma clinic. The advertising leaflet says,
Conventional medicine is at a loss when it comes to understanding the origin of allergies. ... The best that medical research can do is try to keep the symptoms under control. Homeopathy is different, it seeks to address the triggers for asthma and eczema. It is a safe, drug free approach that helps alleviate the flaring of skin and tightening of lungs...

Now, despite the usual homeopathic contradiction of claiming to treat causes not symptoms and then in the next breath saying it can alleviate symptoms, the advert is clearly in breach of the above rule 47 on advertising as it implicitly claims superiority over real medicine and names a disease.

Asthma is estimated to be responsible for 1,500 deaths and 74,000 emergency hospital admissions in the UK each year. It is not a trivial illness that sugar pills ought to be anywhere near. The Cochrane Review says the following about the evidence for asthma and homeopathy,
The review of trials found that the type of homeopathy varied between the studies, that the study designs used in the trials were varied and that no strong evidence existed that usual forms of homeopathy for asthma are effective.

This is not a surprise given that homeopathy is just a ritualised placebo. Hopefully, most parents attending this clinic will have the good sense to go to a real accident and emergency unit in the event of a severe attack and consult their GP about real management of the illness. I would hope that Julia does little harm here.

However, a little more research on her site reveals much more serious concerns. She says on her site that 'she worked in Kenya teaching homeopathy at a college in Nairobi and supporting graduates to set up their own clinics'. Now, we have seen what homeopaths do in Kenya before. It is not treating a little stress and the odd headache. Free from strong UK legislation, these missionary homeopaths make the boldest claims about the deadliest diseases.

A bit of web research shows where Julia was working (picture above). The Abha Light Foundation is a registered NGO in Kenya. It takes mobile homeopathy clinics through the slums of Nairobi and surrounding villages. Its stated aim is to,
introduce Homeopathy and natural medicines as a method of managing HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in Kenya.

I must admit, I had to pause for breath after reading that. The clinic sells its own homeopathic remedies for 'treating' various lethal diseases. Its MalariaX potion,
is a homeopathic preparation for prevention of malaria and treatment of malaria. Suitable for children. For prevention. Only 1 pill each week before entering, during and after leaving malaria risk areas. For treatment. Take 1 pill every 1-3 hours during a malaria attack.

This is nothing short of being totally outrageous. It is a murderous delusion. David Colquhoun has been writing about this wicked scam recently and it is well worth following his blog on the issue.

Let's remind ourselves what one of the most senior and respected homeopaths in the UK, Dr Peter Fisher of the London Homeopathic Hospital, has to say on this matter.
there is absolutely no reason to think that homeopathy works to prevent malaria and you won't find that in any textbook or journal of homeopathy so people will get malaria, people may even die of malaria if they follow this advice.

Malaria is a huge killer in Kenya. It is the biggest killer of children under five. The problem is so huge that the reintroduction of DDT is considered as a proven way of reducing deaths. Magic sugar pills and water drops will do nothing. Many of the poorest in Kenya cannot afford real anti-malaria medicine, but offering them insane nonsense as a substitute will not help anyone.

Ironically, the WHO has issued a press release today on cheap ways of reducing child and adult mortality due to malaria. Their trials, conducted in Kenya, of using cheap mosquito nets soaked in insecticide have reduced child deaths by 44% over two years. It says that issuing these nets be the 'immediate priority' to governments with a malaria problem. No mention of homeopathy. These results were arrived at by careful trials and observation. Science. We now know that nets work. A lifesaving net costs $5. A bottle of useless homeopathic crap costs $4.50. Both are large amounts for a poor Kenyan, but is their life really worth the 50c saving?

I am sure we are going to hear the usual homeopath bleat that this is just a campaign by Big Pharma to discredit unpatentable homeopathic remedies. Are we to add to the conspiracy Big Net manufacturers too?

It amazes me that to add to all the list of ills and injustices that our rich nations impose on the poor of the world, we have to add the widespread export of our bourgeois and lethal healing fantasies. To make a strong point: if we can introduce laws that allow the arrest of sex tourists on their return to the UK, can we not charge people who travel to Africa to indulge their dangerous healing delusions?

At the very least, we could expect the Society of Homeopaths to try to stamp out this wicked practice? Could we?

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This Weeks Reader October 13, 2007  

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Here's a grab bag of posts that I really enjoyed this week. I hope you enjoy them too.

Horror Movie A Day reviews The Descent.

The Kansas City Star has an article on Atheists on the rise, which I at first had hope for, but after reading I think had a decidedly negative spin.

Steven Novella explains the fallacy of why atheists have no rights at the Rogue's Gallery.

A Chinese company and maker of the MMORPG King of the World is requiring female players to prove their sex via webcam in order to play a female character. No men will be allowed to play a female character.

Jason Kuznicki at Positive Liberty writes about Digital Piracy of the State-Sponsored Variety about the first case of copyright infringement to go before a jury. The judgement leveled? This single mother will have to pay $220,000 for sharing 24 songs. The RIAA threatens this could happen to anyone who doesn't settle with them out of court.

John at Evolutionary Middleman posted a video of one of Sean B Carroll's lectures on evolution.

Rebecca Watson at The Rogues Gallery and Memoirs of a Skepchick wrote a pre-review of the new Lifetime series "America's Psychic Challenge."

Nigel Warburton at the virtual philosopher argues why science teachers shouldn't handle questions about creationism sensitively.

PZ Myers at Pharyngula has an article up about Left Behind Games threatening reviewers who gave their game poor reviews with lawsuits, including a Christian charity.

Christopher Heard at Higgaion posts a video of what music may have sounded like 4,500 years ago in Summeria. It sounds a bit more Casio than ancient to me, but I know very little about music theory and can rarely pick out subtleties. It was fun to listen to and think about in any case.

Jessica Snyder Sachs explains why you should get your flu shots this year.

Richard Dawkins pays tribute to Dan Dennett.

PZ Myers writes about DonorsChoose , a charity that helps poor kids in the classroom.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Lifetime has a new show titled "America's Psychic Challenge" starting tonight. Both Skepchick and Mark Hoofnagle have posted about it on their blogs. (Actually Mark posted about "Phenomenon", but it sounds like the same show. Edit: It's not the same show. I hope to watch both.) I've set the show to record and I hope to comment on it over the coming weeks and with the scouring of the web post what skeptics are saying about the show.

Here's a bit from Mark's post that I found very interesting:

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Skeptics Circle 71  

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Infophile at Infophilia is hosting the 71st Skeptic's Circle. The theme is logic puzzles. If you figure them out you may learn these exciting tidbits.

* H2O2 cancannot cure everything!
* Ethanol is in essence greenwash!
* Bans on radiation exposure can be bad for you!
* UFOs seen in space by Apollo crewmen identified!
* Personalize your perfume with your DNA!

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Skeptics vs. True Believers Debate Dragon Con 2007  

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Someone who was filming the Skeptics vs. True Believers Smackdown at DragonCon this year has posted the debate in six parts. It's long, but worthwhile if you're interested in this sort of thing.

Have patience with Part 1. The sound gets much better about 2-3 minutes in. You can very briefly see me in Part 5 if you squint and look really hard. OH NOES THE INTERWEBS STOLE MY SOLE!1!! I was sitting behind the guy that asked a question about dualism and materialism. I thought it was a great question, btw.

P.S. Doesn't Alison look awesome?

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What strengths shoud a writer have?  

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Nita at A wide angle view of India tagged me with a writing meme "What strengths should a writer have?" I've borrowed most of my points from the two sources listed below because they were important lessons I learned and am still learning (organization!).

Write clearly to avoid confusing your audience. Provide specific detail. Answer the questions who, what, when, where, why, and how. Use easily understood words. Be specific instead of general in your use of words.

Nearly every writing problem you have can be solved by making things simpler.2 Don't waste your reader's time by writing large amounts of text that can be written in smaller words and shorter sentences.

Avoid grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and incorrect punctuation. All of these things make you look stupid or lazy. Some tips for finding these errors in your own writing are to let someone else read your draft, let it sit for a while before re-reading to check for errors, and read the text out loud. Don't use words that you don't know.2

Organize your thoughts so that readers can better understand your writing. Before writing think through what you want to convey and how you're going to make your point. When editing, make sure that your central ideas are clear and won't be missed by the text.2

1 Technical Writing: Process and Product. Sharon J. Gerson, Steven M. Gerson, pp. 47-66.
2 Writing Tips for Non-Writers Who Don't Want to Work at Writing

And I definitely encourage you to visit Jon Scalzi's blog, Whatever.

Now for the tagging, which is always tricky for me. Most people I know read this blog don't like to be tagged.

Just Married Chilean Style
Evolutionary Middleman
No More Hornets
This Week in Evolution
Female Science Professor
the next chapter

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Blog search  

Monday, October 08, 2007

I was bored yesterday and started looking through the search terms that led people to my blog. I can see how just about all of them generated hits, except for maybe Gods Tube. Though I imagine I must have been pretty low on some of those hit lists. But they're sometimes odd terms and some gave me a bit of a laugh.

A few of them are posted below, both the ridiculous and mundane.

john stossel approach on ghost
randi fraud dragoncon
dragoncon zombies 2007
howto embed youtube in blogger
Girl in Vertigo
Gods Tube
chris clark not asshole guide pandragon
chris hoofnagle lakeside
a wide dream of an ordinary girl
I'm just an ordinary girl with a simple and happy life
ill wife
creative writing short story assignment
christian themed blogger
mark moffre
alison smith skeptic
received a verbal job offer but its been a week since and still haven't received a written offer
difference between magic and coincidence

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Most memorable alien of all time  

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Times Online rated the 40 most memorable aliens recently and guess who is #1?

Perhaps not the most obvious contender for a list of aliens but certainly not terrestrial in origin, possessed of some extraordinary abilities, and pervading popular culture like no other personality the God of the Christians, Jews, and Muslims is – irrespective of how you might feel about his existence – the most powerful alien intelligence imaginable.

He joins the ranks of Coneheads, Ewoks, ALF, and Cthulu.

(via venjanz)

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The Flying Spaghetti Monster  

Friday, October 05, 2007

This is great!

The national "Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster" has a local chapter at MSU, and it's sending a strong message to students on campus.

It’s the second-largest religious group on Missouri State's campus, with more than 200 members, including MSU staff.

Read more at Ozarks First.

(via onegoodmove)

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Crows and tools  

BBC News has an article up Clever crows are caught on camera about crows using tools in the wild. In the past scientists have studied New Caledonian crows in a captive environment and recorded them using tools, but with a new camera that they can attach to the tail of a crow they can now catch them in the wild using tools in ways they don't in captivity.

They can use their bills to whittle twigs and leaves into bug-grabbing implements; some believe their tool-use is so advanced that it rivals that of some primates.

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Ode to Tony  

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Vjack over at Atheist Revolution posted an Ode to Tony about a childhood friend who was forced to go through an exorcism. It's a sad and disturbing story.

Tony was told that he was possessed by demons and that the group was going to exorcise them by any means necessary. Prayers, threats, and physical abuse would ensue for several hours. They continued until near dawn. Tony was exhausted to the point where he could no longer resist. He broke. He told them what they wanted to hear, even acting out what he thought it must look like for demons to leave one's body. There was nothing else he could do.

I can't imagine being in that situation as a young adult. I know that his parents probably thought they were doing the right thing for him, but I can't imagine not having doubt over something so extreme and not having it tear you apart later when you realize what you've put your child through. Maybe with the confession they convinced themselves it was true.

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Evolutionary Meme  

John over at Evolutionary Middleman has tagged me for an evolutionary meme. The central theme of the meme is to write about how this blog has changed since I started it in 2006, but I'll probably go back all the way to the ancient livejournal days of 2004. :)

On livejournal 80% of my posts were private or "friended" posts meaning only people who I've friended can read them. They tended to be a lot more personal and often I didn't want the whole world to know what was going on in my head. I found one from 2004, Visit, Family issues, Travel that represented a lot of what I wrote at that time. I never did take that EarthWatch trip, but I'm starting to think again about going next October.

I vented a lot about work in those days, which was something I think I needed. I don't do that now because there is a policy against blogging about work at my current job, I have co-workers that read my blog now (*waves*), and I think I'm much happier not writing about my issues with work day in and day out. I still vent to people I know sometimes, but I think I handle the issues much easier if I just deal with them rather than complain.

When I moved to blogger it was a little different. I could no longer post private posts, though I cheated a little and sometimes wrote drafts that I never published. But for the most part, everything I wrote was for the public eye. Here's a post, spring is in the air, from early 2006 that I wrote about the feeling I was having at a particular moment. I later turned it into a poem and published it on my writing blog (which is now private). My poetry isn't good, but I might write again one day and re-open the blog.

Early this year I wrote a post about charity. The event wasn't that big of a deal really, but it did have an impact on my life. I changed a lot because of it, not just with helping out someone asking for money, but in general my perception of people. And I think the blog started to change about this time to talk more about social issues, the news, and science than so much about myself.

But, of course, it was back to me when I came out of the closet as an atheist in a post about How I became an atheist part I. I wrote more about atheism and religion in general, probably scaring off some of my regular readers, but being more honest about myself in the process.

In May I started keeping a book list of the books I was reading in Book list for May and starting posting more official reviews of books, movies, and music. All of which was a natural compliment to my eventual membership in the Nonbelieving Literati. My reviews are still sporadic and sometimes it's just more fun to write a little about what the book or movie meant to me rather than a formal review.

The last part of the meme is tagging 5 people to blog about how their blogs have changed since they started. I tag:

God Has Wheels
Life is a PB Sandwich
Cafe Philos
A wide angle view of India
Big Boned Movie

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