Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Home Made Candles

What do I do when home during a power outage, using candles for light? Make more candles of course. I used to make candles when I was younger so this was familiar territory. I used some paraffin lying around in the basement, a lump of beeswax and the melted bits form the candles I'd been burning. You can also use crayon fragments for color, but I didn't do that this time around.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

The audience loves this so much, there's a 15 to 20 second interruption for applause in the middle of the song. This is NOT your average "12 Days of Christmas"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Writing a Poison Pen Letter to CNN

Dr. Sanjay Gupta was once tapped as a potential Surgeon General. Today I learned it would have been somewhat catastrophic if he'd gotten the job, as he's easily swayed by con men, psychic surgeons and faith healers. On December 22, 2010 this idiot used CNN's AC360 as a forum for promoting the faith healer and psychic surgeon "John of God."

I sent CNN the following comment to express my disgust at their promotion of a faith healer and their inability to do even rudimentary reporting. Apparently CNN, like Oprah, feels its more important to produce a "feel good" story that gives false hope than to find and report the truth.

I'm writing to express my disgust over Dr Gupta promoting the con artist "John of God" on a December 22, 2010 episode of AC360. I found the alleged investigation to be shallow and pathetic. Is this really what journalism has come to at CNN, the uncritical promotion of a known con artist with nothing more than a few vague bits of hand waving and pretense at MAYBE having some doubts?

"John of God" is a faith healer, a con man whose antics have been vivisected by people who actually investigated the man. The only positive to come out of that promotion piece is knowing it's a damn good thing Gupta didn't get the Surgeon General job and anything he has to say about medicine or science in the future can be dismissed as the babbling of an ignorant and easily fooled kook.

CNN has a web form for sending them letters.

You can learn more about Sanjay Gupta and his promotion of quackery at the links below:

Faith-Healer 'John of God' featured on CNN's AC360

John of God on CNN with Dr Gupta

You can learn more about Oprah's promotion of "Psychic Surgeon" John of God on the December 01, 2010 episode of the The Skeptics' Guide To The Universe Podcast.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Racists Angry Over Thor's Black Sidekick.

One of my favorite things about new movies are the flame wars over casting. People grouse about the race of the actors, the fact that the actors portraying parent / child relationships don't have a large enough age gap to make it plausible, drug problems the actors have had in the past and just about everything else you can think of. For some reason people seem to forget that Hollywood routinely does things like cast Charleston Heston as a Jew and still produce a few really good movies.

Despite all the grousing, the nit-picking idiocy is generally unfounded. Yes, white supremacists and racist assholes got bent out of shape at the addition of a black character to "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves", but let's be honest here, Morgan Freeman pretty much carried the non-villain scenes. Without Freeman and Alan Rickman the film would have been virtually unwatchable, even if some racist idiot in congress groused about having to "explain why Sherwood forest was integrated" to his 9 year old daughter.

Enter Thor and the news that a black man will play a Norse God in a supporting role. Thor himself isn't being played by a black man, but Heimdall is going to be far darker than most the people who ever worshiped him. Theologically, there is a vague rationalization. If these were in fact Gods, instead of imaginary friends created by Norse people to get them through cold winter nights, then it makes sense for the races of the Gods to reflect to a certain extent the races of the people of Earth. More to the point, the Marvel character of Thor is already pretty well divorced from Norse mythology.

Regardless, people are outraged. Neo-Pagans who claim to worship Thor aren't the ones who are outraged. Minority rights activists aren't outraged that the main black character to be announced is only a glorified bouncer. No, outrage from those groups would at least make some vague sort of sense. Conservative Christians are the ones who are outraged a Norse God is being played by a black man.

Take a moment to wrap your head around that. Christians are upset over the race of an actor in a movie about Norse Mythology. At first glance that makes about as much sense as Ted Haggard getting bent out of shape over the a Bollywood movie where Shiva is being played by an Indian actor who isn't from the Brahmin caste.

The Council of Conservative Citizens web site has the following article:

Marvel Studios declares war on Norse mythology

Norse mythology gets a multi-cultural remake in the upcoming movie titled “Thor,” by Marvel studios. It’s not enough that Marvel attacks conservative values and promotes the left-wing, now mythological Gods must be re-invented with black skin.

It seems that Marvel Studios believes that white people should have nothing that is unique to themselves. An upcoming movie, based on the comic book Thor, will give Norse mythology an insulting multi-cultural make-over. One of the Gods will be played by Hip Hop DJ Idris Elba.

The online campaign to boycott Thor by Marvel Studios has begun. Visit Boycott-Thor.com

Keep in mind, this outrage is coming from people who, due to their religious views, are unlikely to see the movie anyway. People who were not going to see the movie because it depicts a pagan religion are calling for a boycott because one of the actors is black. As you can see in the quote above, they try to write this off as outrage at multiculturalism, but there's no good way to whitewash it any anything other than plain old racism. A "white" character will be played by a black man and these jackasses have gotten their panties in a knot over it.

At least the overt and admitted racists over at the stormfront forums have the intellectual integrity to admit they're pissed off for racist reasons. The fact that white supremacists are displaying more honesty and integrity than the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC) doesn't bode well for the CofCC.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Oddest Beer Yet

Last year I made a pale IPA with artificial spruce flavoring. The bottling date was August 1, 2009. Most of it was consumed within the first few months. It was novel, tasty and well worth repeating. I saved a few bottles to see how the brew aged. Last night, December 15, 2010, I opened one.

A year ago the spruce and the hops balanced nicely. As experienced brewers are likely suspecting as they read this, the hop aroma and flavor had faded over the past year, leaving the spruce VERY prominent. The tasting notes I wrote included the text "Strong spruce flavor and nose with aspects of pine pitch. This is NOT a beer for aging."

Fearing the remaining two or three bottles in the basement would end up down the drain instead of in my belly, I sprinkled some cinnamon over the beer to see if that helped. The dash of spice took a virtually undrinkable beer reminiscent of sucking a hunk of conifer into a pleasant, light Winter beer. It was more like drinking a frothy cinnamon beverage next to the Christmas tree, as opposed to chewing on said tree.

I offered some to my lovely wife, but she declined. We did however discuss the beer before going to bed.

"Honey, you're weird," she said.

"How so?" I asked.

"Spruce and cinnamon beer. Face it, you're weird."

"No argument there."

Monday, December 13, 2010

What is Anonymous?

"Anonymous" consists of a collection of people who act based upon conversations on the marginally moderated 4chan.org /b/ forum. /b/ is the site's "Random" board. It usually features pornography and efforts to get 4chan readers to harass a particular individual. Most of the time these efforts consist of "I hate this bitch, here's her facebook / home number, make her suffer!" These are usually met with the reply of "Anonymous is not your personal army" and a collective "meh."

If, however, kittens are being tortured, rabbits crushed, puppies thrown into rivers or the Internet censored, 4chan declares war.

A few key hackers will post download links to botnet clients to turn your PC into a zombie for a DDoS attack on targeted web sites. At various points over the last few days, Mastercard, Paypal and Visa have all been unable to process any transactions due to these attacks.

The better researchers will dig up loads of information to be used in tracking down the offenders. This, for example, is how the woman who tossed a cat in a trash can in the UK was tracked down.

The war will escalate until, I kid you not, the warriors grow bored or move onto something else. Frequently this happens after a sufficiently large laugh comes out of the exchange. For example, an 11 year old girl was posting topless photos of herself to /b/ and links to videos where she talked about using a gun to make a "Brain Slushie" out of anyone who gave her grief. Anonymous tracked down her home phone and made it very clear to her parents what kind of person she was being. They were not kind. They were raging assholes. The issue died when her father, displaying a complete disregard for the fact that his 11 year old started this by posting nudie photos of herself online, posted a video where he threatened 4chan. Normally this would only escalate things, but he made such an idiot of himself Anonymous just laughed at him, treating his "Consequences will never be the same (NSFW!)" video as the best possible punch line to the entire affair.

If you had to translate Anonymous into D&D terms, the best match for their alignment would be "Chaotic asshole."

Side note, most of the porn on /b/ falls into one of the following categories:

1. Chubby porn.
2. Female 4chan readers posting their own topless photos.
3. Shemale porn.
4. "Trap" porn, referring to young effeminate men who can pass for women when properly tarted up.
5. "Dumps" where someone starts dumping their favorite porn photos, most of which were found on 4han to begin with.

Every few hours some idiot tries to start a child pornography thread. The moderators step in quickly, lock the thread, delete it and allegedly turn the IP addresses of the idiots who posted the garbage over to the FBI.

4chan is hosted on the USA. Its founder, Moot, is a US citizen. No one really knows HOW the site has avoided being taken down by the US government. The best guess is that that FBI finds it too rich a source of information on child porn producers and traders.

It's safe to say that none of the conservative pundits have ever looked at 4chan themselves. If they had, they'd be decrying /b/ as part of the gay agenda. You can't go more than a few pages on /b/ before hitting a tranny thread. It can be quite jarring until you become desensitized to the sight of a 6 foot tall ebony black transsexual with implants felating herself.

Then again, given the Republican track record of the last few years, they may know EXACTLY what's on /b/ and are keeping it quiet so as to not dry up one of their favorite sources of spank bank imagery.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Salt Water Quackery


ASEA Scam?

$40 for a bottle of salt water and a long list of mumbo-jumbo claiming it's more than just salt water. Oh, and trying to hide the fact that it's table salt by calling it by the chemical name sodium chloride.

I'd start bottling filtered tap water with a few teaspoons of salt and claiming it's a less expensive, but equally effective version of the quackery, but I have morals, something the folks at ASEA appear to lack.

As temping as it is to call it a sodium chloride water scam, but it's not quite accurate to call it a "scam." Calling it a scam implies the people selling or manufacturing it KNOW the health claims are a pile of nonsense. I have no evidence, other than the evasive nature of the swill on their web site, to demonstrate they KNOW they're selling quackery.

The lack of peer-reviewed, placebo controlled, clinical trials with a non-trivial sample size, combined with the complete lack of feasibility for their claims makes a label of "Quackery" quite accurate.