Archive for February, 2008
Like many people I watched the documentary film Super Size Me and was amazed at the effect that Spurlock’s 30-day McDonalds only diet had on him. It nearly killed him! What a dude for performing such an experiment! Stick it to the man! etc…
About a year later I turned on my television to see him hosting this vile show called I Bet You Will, where he hangs around college campuses and offers idiot students 20 bucks to eat their own vomit or perform other such stupid gross-out activities. I couldn’t reconcile how this dude with principles could involve himself in such execrable nonsense.
Until now. Brian Dunning of Skeptoid talks about follow up studies that did not demonstrate anything like the effect that Spurlock claimed in the movie, and busts a few myths about evil fast food vs regular normal food. It’s not that fast-food is particularly good for you; merely that if you can resist the urge to force-feed yourself then it’s really not [necessarily] so bad for you either.
This was a lot funnier in my head…
This is my attempt to exorcize a sexy demon who has lingered in the back of my mind for more than ten years, creating an impossible benchmark against which all others would be measured. I can’t guarantee that my recollections are accurate, but this is how I remember things…
It was a bright and sunny day in late ’96, and there, framed in the doorway of my home and wearing a loose fitting cotton dress, was the most gorgeous girl I have ever met. The morning sunlight silhouetted her figure perfectly through the thin fabric, practically burning the image into my soul, and all at once I knew that I totally desired this person while never standing a chance in hell with her. Not least because I was living with my partner at the time, as well as a friend of hers from university.
The girl in question is the sister of said friend, so she would drop in from time to time. Once or twice I even saw her in pyjamas when she stayed over and slept on the couch. She would of course look even more attractive when she got up in the morning, just like sexy girls in movies with expensively rumpled hair pretending like people can look that good as they roll out of bed after a big night out. Now at this point my memory may be just filling in the gaps… but I’m pretty sure she even did that thing where she would sit at the breakfast table munching toast with her feet pulled up on the chair and her knees tucked under her chin.
Not only was she blessed with stunning good looks, she also had a voice and accent that could turn me to jelly. So on top of occupying the spot in my mind reserved for girl most hottest, she also holds the honour for sexiest phone conversation I ever had.
She called late one night to talk to her sister, who was out, and so we made idle chit-chat for a while, as was the custom in the olden days when people often had to answer phone calls that weren’t for them. I have absolutely zero recollection of the actual content of that conversation, but I recall that there was at least an element of playfulness about it, since after hanging up I felt incredibly good, with my neck tingling like I’d just had a great massage. I was and still am jealous of her ability to do that magic (she has since done professional voice-over work, not surprisingly).
Oh, and she was smart. Very smart I believe, although it’s not like I ever sat down to evaluate her IQ, but it’s pretty easy to tell these things (well okay maybe the fact that she was utterly desirable in every way made it slightly easier to notice her towering intellect). At the very least she had a quick, razor wit. In conversation she would frequently break into a evil manic grin, and her amazing electric smiley eyes would just nail me to the wall. She could ask ANY favour of me and I would bend over backwards to accomodate. To merely serve would have suited me just fine, as long as I could sleep at her feet (well ok I probably would have pushed for a slightly better deal over time).
The thing is, as I stated previously, I didn’t stand a chance with her. I had nothing with which to impress her, because I was just a nerd with a computer who never did anything even slightly reckless or exciting, and she was interested in something else, though exactly what I cannot say. I supposed that she was drawn to dark, brooding, self-destructive types, but I really don’t know, because to seek out such information would of course reveal my interest– which now that I think of it would probably not have been such a big deal, because anyone in their right mind when pressed would have had to acknowledge that they wanted to shag her; I wouldn’t have trusted anyone who said they didn’t, be they male or female. Maybe my feelings were obvious anyway from my conspicuous lack of interest in conversations about her. I really don’t know, and would be embarrassed to ask.
So anyway, I did what any normal person would do in that situation. I sought out tiny opportunities to be near her while completely ignoring the very real needs of my own relationship at the time. I listened intently to any conversation in which her name was mentioned. I either tarried or hurried if I thought it might increase my chances of bumping into her. And to what end? Did I think something was going to happen? No. What if something had happened? Well it wouldn’t have, but even if somehow hypothetically it had… the guilt would have destroyed me.
Seriously, I run on guilt, it drives me, but I need to keep it within safe levels otherwise I will explode in a babbling fury of apology and self-recrimination. Ultimately this crush did contribute in part to the break up of my own relationship some months later, although of course I could not admit it at the time (just admitting this now has my guilt levels elevated to unpleasant heights).
And so, for my sake and the sake of those who would be unfairly compared to you… blow out your candles, sexy demon, blow out your candles– and so, goodbye…
Or call me. Either is fine.
One of the things frequently discussed in New Zealand is the absence of nasty spiders that can kill you. Australia is of course notorious for having spiders, jellyfish, snakes and even ants that can kill you in abundance. But New Zealand is safe, as in, roll-around-in-the-undergrowth-and-fear-nothing-more-than-a-bit-of-itchiness safe. At least that’s what they tell you here.
Well say hello to my leedle friend…
I met him while putting on my pants this morning. More specifically, he was in my pants while I was pulling them on. At first I thought he was a scrunched up ATM receipt, but as he fell to the floor with a rather obvious thunking sound I looked down to see this evil little flurry legging it across the carpet. So, after saying a quick morning prayer– Jesus Fucking Christ! – I grabbed an empty jar and caught the bugger.
Now I just have to work out if he is the kind of spider whose venom causes paralysis leading to asphyxiation, or merely the common-or-garden necrotizing flesh wound variety.
UPDATE: Oh alright it’s just a stupid house/window spider. But it is a big one!
On Sex – My favorite podcast by a mile these days is Dan Savage’s Savage Lovecast (iTunes link). It is joyfully vulgar, funny, honest, sometimes heart-breaking and generally eye-opening. It answers questions I’d never even thought to ask and routinely makes me laugh out loud on my way to work. Of course it also reminds me of all the fun I’m missing out on right now, what with my relatively ascetic lifestyle [ascetic means "not getting any"].
On Skepticism – There seem to be a lot of skeptically themed podcasts around these days, but my favourite is still Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe (iTunes link), for its humourous and mostly geeky banter, and for great mix of personalities headed up by Steven Novella, president of the New England Skeptical Society. A great complement to SGU is Skeptoid (iTunes link) a tightly focused show with each short episode devoted to a straight talking dissection of a pseudoscience or other supernatural phenomena. Listening to both of these podcasts is probably more than enough to shock you on a regular basis at the amount of bullshit even intelligent people will tend to swallow.
On [American] Life – Although it’s still more a radio show than a podcast, This American Life (iTunes link) continues to be my favourite source of stories. About people, place, politics, anything. It’s the sort of show that makes neo-conservatives puke, and so it should, being a celebration of everything that makes us human.
On History – Ok, in truth this is about the only historical podcast I listen to, but if you remember that senile old movie star who used to be president, I recommend listening to his speech at the Berlin Wall via Great Speeches in History (iTunes link). Everyone thought Reagan was an idiot didn’t they? Compare his speech with anything delivered by GWB and suddenly he seems like Abraham Lincoln. (only updated every month or so)
I’m currently interested in finding some new podcasts to listen to, so if anyone has any suggestions please leave them in the comments. As long as they are not religious, because I’ve sampled a few of these and found them exactly as boring and pointless as attending church. Atheist offerings can be a little boring too, as they tend to comprise people feeling pressed to explain for the ten millionth time that yes, atheists have morals too, and yes they are openly discriminated against like no other minority.
I must admit I have pondered the idea of having a podcast, but have yet to come up with a suitable theme or source of material for it. A panel/discussion type of thing would probably be fun, but so easy to stuff up and requiring of so much organization that it will probably never happen. Also, 90% of podcasts aren’t really worth the time it takes to listen to them. Just as it’s probably better that every person doesn’t get to go on the radio and say what they think, it’s probably best that most people not bother producing podcasts (a nightmare scenario many evangelists seemed to think was the medium’s future). You can skim a blog entry in seconds, but you can’t skim 5 minutes of someone breathing into a mic going ummm and complaining about the media.
Spirited biologist PZ Myers recently debated Geoffrey Simmons, a clueless twit who seems to know almost nothing about evolution and yet has written an anti-evolution book titled What Darwin Didn’t Know.
PZ posts about the "debate" here:
I was shocked for a moment when, after I’d mentioned the recent discovery of Indohyus, he went on to claim that there were no intermediates between that deer-like artiodactyl and modern whales … and when I tried to mention Pakicetus, Ambulocetus, Rhodcetus, Basilosaurus, etc., he seemed to have never heard of them, claimed his information came from a Scientific American article some months ago (way to plumb the depths of the scientific literature, Dr Simmons!), and then started making up stuff about them not exhibiting dorsoventral flexion in swimming, and not having dorsal blowholes. He wrote a whole book about "Billions of missing links"! His other book, What Darwin Didn’t Know, needs to be retitled in a new edition, What Geoffrey Simmons Doesn’t Know. It will be a very large book.
Fortunately the radio station provides online access to its audio archives, so you can listen to the good Dr Simmons swallowing his tongue as PZ politely tears him to pieces.
PZ has always come off as pretty forthright on his blog, so I was quite surprised at his softly spoken manner and the admirable restraint he showed during the debate. He could have easily added the words "…you idiot" to the end of everything he said, and I still think it would have been a fair exchange.
If you think Dr Simmons is getting a raw deal here, bear in mind he claims to have studied evolution for 40 years and understand it well enough to call out huge problems with it (having written at least two books claiming everyone else has it wrong) yet he appears unaware of the current state of the literature and offers no evidence or suggested mechanism for any alternative theory. He keeps harping on his point that no one is allowed to question Darwin’s evolution, even though there is significant debate within the field of biology on the details and mechanisms at work, and evolution belongs no more to Darwin than gravity does to Newton or Einstein. Simmons deserves about as much respect as someone standing in the middle of the room shouting about how maths is pointless and doesn’t explain anything.
Below the fold is a transcript of Intelligent Design fans listening to their champion go down in flames. Sooooo delicious :) It is provided here in the spirit of fair use, and also because it was disappeared from the site where it was originally posted (ie they deleted it because they were embarrassed by it).
There’s been a few items popping up this week to fan the flames of my rational indignation… For one thing we have Pope Ratzo (aka Palpatine) whining about the "seductive" power of science wooing people away from the dignified human values instilled by religion, like worshipping an invisible sky fairy, pretending to eat his flesh and drink his blood, and inserting penises into no orifices other than vaginas– apparently God only likes to watch his children have vanilla sex (missionary style one would also presume).
"When human beings in the weakest and most defenseless state of their existence are selected, abandoned, killed or used as pure ‘biological material,’ how can one deny that they are being treated not as ‘someone’ but as ‘something,"’ he said.
Yes, you probably weren’t aware of this but at this moment hordes of scientists stalk the land snatching defenseless babies from the womb in the course of research directed to the eternal preservation of the body of Richard Dawkins.
"In an age when scientific developments attract and seduce with the possibilities they offer, it’s more important than ever to educate our contemporaries’ consciences so that science does not become the criteria for goodness," he told scientists.
Actually, science makes no claim to "goodness", and religious dipshits often construct this straw-man argument: if science observes that strong organisms tend to perpetuate their lineage more effectively than weak ones, therefore people like the handicapped and infertile should be killed because they are "weak" from an evolutionary perspective. Funny, science also tells us that microorganisms can kill us, but rather than saying that is a good thing, science helps us come up with ways to stop microorganisms killing us. Unlike religion, which in its various guises has suggested that sickness was caused by demons, witches and God’s displeasure with us, science is a tool we can use to measurably improve the lives of billions.
The Catholic church especially is not equipped to "educate our contemporaries’ consciences" – they can’t even educate their own priests well enough to discourage them from sexually interfering with children. Oh, was that a cheap shot? Sure, not all priests are child-molesters, but if the church really holds this magical moral highground, why are any of them child-molesters? If God is the font of all the love and justice in the world, then surely being so close to him should displace such foul proclivities? If you were to pick a random priest and a random person off the street, I seriously wonder who is more likely to have abused children…
While science is essentially amoral, I think its adherence to the principal of seeking objective truth has a lot more good to it than the insidious sophistry of religion, which promises everything and delivers nothing. Which makes absurd claims which are untestable, then lauds the fact that these claims are somehow beyond scrutiny.
The other thing I was going to bitch about here was that an Athiest & Agnostic group on Myspace– 35,000 members strong– was deleted with no explanation or consultation, but that has since been restored, taking the hot air out of my sails somewhat, so if you want to know more you can just go read about it here and form your own opinion. God, I hate MySpace.