It looks like the new federal health plan will fund oxycontin, that holy-crap-powerful-narcotic that is abused as much as it is sold in the black market. I think this decision might come back to haunt the government later.

After my two hip surgeries, I was on this stuff. Take it from me (one of the rare times that a skeptic will say "trust me"), this stuff is POWERFUL. Within less than a week I noticed my body was developing a dependancy and switching to the less powerful (but still addictive) codeine was very difficult. Oxycontin made my stomach queazy, and then barfy. It's rough shit, and people can get addicted EASY.

Maybe the government is thinking this would make tracking who abuses (or sells) this drug a little easier, or make it less profitable on the black market. But I can't help but worry that this will ultimately make it more ubiquitous, and aside from those in extreme chronic pain, it will do nothing but cause problems for our health care system. A system which is already plagued by treating substance abuse, in addition to underfunding, doctor shortages, an ageing population and mis-perscribed medication.





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Remember the atheist bus ad campaign in the UK, well it has spawned a bunch of imitators in Canada, specifically Calgary and Toronto. Unsurprisingly, people are loosing their shit over it.

This is just more hypocrisy from the relgious community, for as often as they froth at the mouth about how offensive this is, they seem to forget that religious advertisements are UBIQUITOUS! A quick google image search for "Jesus Billboards" revealed this. A couple of summers ago, during a trip to upstate New York, I saw this on the side of a backroad near Watertown, NY

Thing is: these jesus-heads are allowed to do this. The people who own the billboards and ad space can rent out to whomever they want. The way the jesus-heads are acting reminds me like how the pesudo-left student "activists" who just read Naomi Klein's "No Logo" and want to go out culture jamming, based on the faulty and presumptious notion that proprietary rights extend even to the aesthetic (in other words: I see it, it's everywhere, so I should get some say as to what goes up). Just as the Naomi Klein army wouldn't mind if billboards were of fair-trade coffee or veganism, the religious don't seem to care (or notice) when Jesus takes up advertising space that might otherwise be used for valuable information about the latest Tim Horton's donought. I remember a slew of bus ads in North Bay, Ontario that had pictures of semi-aborted fetus amidst the language of God and Jesus. It grossed me out and was hella-offensive, but fuck it...they paid for it, they can do it. I may not like how a free-market economy shapes my culture, but it's the price I'm willing to pay.

It's private space, not public. Just because you see it, doesn't mean you own it. If you don't like it, then deal with it, becuase that is the price of living in a liberal democracy: freedom of expression. You can complain all you like, but don't feign anger and offence as the reason that an add should be brought down. You religious types have been screaming fire and brimestone in my face my whole life, so fuck you. It's about time some people got organized and started pushing back. And really, "There probably is no God, so stop worrying and and enjoy your life"? THAT is offensive to you? For a subculture which purportes to know what happens to us after we die, you sure have a fragile ego.





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A while back, my friend John Lunman passed away. A few days later there was a memorial service that I couldn't attend, but thankfully another "memorial" service was organized: a dedicated-to-John open mic (which John used to host) night. I first played with John over 10 years ago (before I even knew his name), and people from his musical past and present were in attendance.

One of the songs I played was written by skeptic musician, George Hrab, who was very kind enough to help me learn the song with 2 days notice. And special thanks to Bryan at VideoYeah who filmed it and sent me the file.









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Rock me Galileo

This is cool. Scientists are requesting to exhume the body of Galileo in order to perform DNA tests to determine whether or not the father of astronomy had eye troubles, which may have affected his findings. Galileo was known to have health problems intermittently, and people are suspecting that it was his health that prevented him from identifying the rings of Saturn (he thought the planet was elongated, or it had ear-like shapes that he couldn't explain, and it wasn't until Christiaan Huygens, in 1659, identified the spaces between the rings and the planet that the mystery was solved). It is thought that with DNA testing, and computer modeling, on top of existing historical data and knowledge of the telescopes he was using, scientists believe that they will be able to precisely re-create what Galileo saw.


Pictured: Galileo doing his best impression of Orson Wells


Pictured: Orson Wells scaring the shit out of me as a child.







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Jesus christ I hate PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Never have I seen such a blatantly misanthropic organization with hypocrisy at even a casual glance. Their latest advertisement, intended to run during the superbowl, has been banned. Now, I'm only too willing to agree that American (and Canadian) television is entirely too prudish, but this is 1st year feminist studies demonstrating blatant objectification of women. These women are portrayed as basically walking vaginas. Vaginas which will fuck vegetables. And by vegetables, I mean your penis.



I fucking hate PETA.




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I've been wanting to make this for a while, and I finally got photoshop.























I mean, this is actual footage from a dog I saw. In a photography studio. And then he killed 7 people.

It was the best day of school.


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Shuck-ah-muck!

Oh, for crying out loud, is it possible for this man to look NOT incredibly retarded?


Meanwhile, the Montreal police force asked city hall to make insulting a police officer a fine-worthy offense. Quebec, you guys already have a piss-poor reputation when it comes to free speech. For those who don't know, in Quebec, every government sign is in french only, and it's illegal to post a government sign (such as a traffic sign) with any english on it, even in the areas bordering english provinces and states. In addition, if a private business in Quebec wants to display an english sign anywhere (be it storefronts, posters, and advertisements), the english writing has to be underneath, and 1/4 the size of the french writing. It should be noted that these laws still apply even in all-english areas and towns in Quebec.

So now the Montreal police force is bitching and complaining because a bunch of Quebeckers are calling them "pig", and "Donut eater", and they want to make this ILLEGAL! Under the proposition, insulting a Montreal police officer, regardless of whether it contains a curse word (at least that part is consistent), would be met with a fine, similar to parking in the handi-capped parking spot.

Residents of Montreal: they have no right to do this, and you are under no obligations to pay a fine for insulting ANYONE. Even though Quebec did not sign the Charter in 1982, it still applies. Your rights are clear, and if the Montreal City Council approves this, I urge you insult every police officer you see (don't make it personal, such as no attacks on their looks, religion, family etc....just make fun of them for their oppressive job-description such as it applies to freedom of speech), and refuse to pay. Tell the press if they harass you, then harass back. They don't have the right, you do.

Oh, and just in case there was any illusion, Quebec police officers ARE pigs. Dirty, dirty swine.







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Trust me....



I don't care what your political leanings are...this is the creepiest photo of a prime minster that I can remember.








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As some of you know, I've dipped a toe back into the academy, and, flush with now two-years of following the skeptical community, I like to think I have a few new tools that provide an outlook that I might not have noticed a few years earlier.

I'm currently reading a book on colonialism, "Stolen Continents" by Ronald Wright, where he aims to tell the story of European colonization of the Americas through the mouths of the conquered (with particular focus on the Aztec, Maya, Inca, Cherokee and Iroquois). A laudable enough goal, and in a similar tradition to my favorite historian, Howard Zinn.

But in telling the story from the perspective of the conquered peoples, he seems to commit the ever-present sin of white, westernized academics: white guilt. It is white guilt that allows academics to turn a blind eye to atrocities committed by everyone: not just the bastards holding the gun, but also by those standing at the end of the barrel. Need a modern example of this? Look at the behavior of Israel, and how willing the media, the academy and politicians are to turn two blind eyes all because of the national white guilt over the Jewish holocaust. Germany in particular has been guilty of this ignorance.

In this book, Wright, in discussing the Aztec practice of human sacrifice, treats it as the logical consequence of their particular geo-political circumstances,

"...the Aztecs, like all imperial nations, made a convenient marriage of politics and piety. They believed they had a sacred mission to prolong the existing age by feeding the sun with human blood. Personal mortification was no longer enough; only hundreds of enemy could suffice...Human sacrifice was therefore not the persistence of an old "savage" practice among civilized people who should have known better but rather a hypertrophy of sinister elements in their culture, which in more gracious times had been kept in check"

This amusing passage was preceded by "But the wholesale immolation of war captives, which has given the Aztecs such a bad press, seems to have arisen only in the last centuries before the Spanish conquest". (Ronald Wright, "Stolen Continents" Penguin, Toronto: 2003, p 33-34), emphasis mine.

Bad press? BAD PRESS? Talk about an exercise in apologetics! There can be no excuse, be it political, philosophical, cultural, or even religious that can excuse, even partially, a people who practice ritualistic human sacrifice. This cannot be relegated to the status of "well, that's the world that they lived in, but they were still an enlightened people!" I call bullshit. On the holy-shit-savage-o-meter, it ranks just above priests raping children, and just below cannibalism. It's especially odd that Wright chose to be so generous to the culture of human sacrificers when much of the chapter is framed within a narrative that demonstrates how similar the Aztecs and Spanish were in all the bad ways: violent, aggressive, imperialistic, and willing to convert others at the end of a spear...why he should pull a punch on that which is most damning of the Aztecs is beyond me. Maybe it is white guilt creeping in there in the form of apologetics, maybe I'm wrong. It's happened at least once before.

Oh, and just for the record, THIS:, is bad press.








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Hey, South Carolina state senator, Robert Ford! Read your constitution lately? I fucking thought not! Fuck you in, and up every hole.

"Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, and Tits. Those are the heavy seven. Those are the ones that'll infect your soul, curve your spine and keep the country from winning the war."
– George Carlin, Class Clown,







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Ray Comfort (a.k.a. "The banana is proof of the existance of god, and is the Atheist's worst nightmare) and his actor-turned-christian-lapdog, Kirk Cameron (a.k.a. The K-Mart Michael J. Fox) have launched a poorly-metaphor'd website called Pull the Plug on Atheism. Well, if you pull the plug on us, that would make us go down the drain and enter the general water-supply. Maybe if they were to put a stopper on atheism....but then we'd fill up the tub, overflow, spill all over the floor, and make walking around pretty dangerous because you don't want to slip and bang your head on the toilet or you might come up with the idea for the flux-capacitor.

Aaaaaanyway....

I was hoping to contact them, and I noticed on the right hand side of their page there is a link to "interview questions". Rather than copy and paste, or link, I just to a snipe of the page, just in case they later revise their stupidity. This is what it looked like:


This is Comfort and Cameron's devotion to debate and respectful dialogue: a list of pre-prepared questions which no doubt have a template of pre-prepared answers. It's full of their usual tactics: break down easily-destroyed atheist and "darwinist" arguments that NO ONE MAKES!



This is Cameron and Comfort (The C&C Dipshit Factory) when they are actually required to enter a debate that is being moderated. The results are painful.





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Stars....purdy....

Thanks to a heads up from Phil Plait, I've entered 5 of my astrophotos in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest. Go check them out (they, and many others of mine can be found on my photostream as well). I hope I win...obviously.

This is my favourite photo, taken in September at the Buckhorn Observatory (and makes a great desktop)







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Musings...

I forgot to post this a while back. While in the office of the Observatory, I caught this moderately clever magazine cover:



It made me giggle a little. And it got me thinking, how many people in the physical sciences are familiar with the battles that are fought by organized skepticism. In my case, my interest in science came AFTER the skepticism, so my pallate already had a rich spectrum of pseudo-science colours. But I have a nagging suspicion that the number of people who were scientist first and skeptic afterwards (such as Dr. Steven Novella, M.D., and Dr. Phillip Plait, PhD) are far and few in between.

Those in the pseudo-sciences like to frame this as a conspiracy...as though REAL scientists are idologically/politically/economically opposed to spending real research dollars and time into intelligent design, the 9/11 truth movement or cryptozoology. But the truth is that real scientists have FUCKING BETTER THINGS TO DO! Getting a degree is a lot of work. Getting several degrees requires research time and effort that can (and does) drive a person mad. Once we have a permanent colony on Mars and Europa, are mining asteroids, have secured the O2 levels in the upper atmosphere, and have succsefully innoculated everyone from getting AIDS, and all types of cancer, then maybe...MAYBE we can look into your crazy bullshit that has no basis in known laws of physics whatsoever.

But to be honest, there are social issues that could use that money more than explaining several times how Tower 7 fell, or that blurry/grainy image is clearly Venus with a corona. You want to study it? Fine. YOU pay for it yourself, don't use my tax dollars or my tax-funded scientists' time.





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Every Twitch and Grunt

America,

It's 8 years later, and your country is in the shitter. Thanks to the omnipresence of American Imperialism, the very thing you rebelled against, you have dragged the rest of us with you. Mind you, we're not entirely blameless....ever since the end of World War 2 we've had our frozen canuck noses so far up your ass its been hard to tell where you end and we begin (turns out, it's Cirque Du Soleil and Poutine).

But you made the right decision in November: In the face of voting in a turn-coat 200-year old who doesn't give a shit about women's rights and a clinically retarded bimbo who makes George W. Bush look like, well, a slightly more intelligent George W. Bush. When faced with the oblivion of retardedness, you chose a man who is a terribly wonderful speaker (a prerequisite for a black man in America to get voted in because, and be honest, huge swaths of America is still terrified of black people).

And you're filled with hope. I live in Canada, so I don't know what that feels like (too-strong emotions one way or the other are frowned up on up here. THe rivers of hope run strong in America. Kennedy filled Americans with more hope than they've had in a century, and he lived up to that hope by getting the country into the Vietnam War. Ronald Reagan filled the 80's with hope because maybe we could all get our piece of the pie, then he invaded more countries than the last 4 presidents combined, and overthrew several democratically-elected presidents. In 2000, people were scared of blowjobs and Bush supporters were hopefull that felatio would be banned from the white house once and for all.

My point is this: hope doesn't build bridges, get people to work, or cure diseases. Obama sat out many many votes while in the senate so as not to have to make a politicial decision which may come back later to bite him in the ass, so he is one savy-fella. His flourid prose and rhetoric can easily distract a country of people who don't like being lied to, but are willing to suspend their disbelief at almost every turn.

While it's true, I think he has the potential to be a truly great president, maybe the best since FDR. I don't think he's a natural liar, but Washington does fucked-up things to otherwise decent people. Bill Clinton almost single handedly demolished the welfare system and organized labour has a hell of a hard time in the U.S. to get together because of him. Since most of you seem to have this mad-crush on Obama, I have this advice to you (since you clearly asked me): If you want to help him: keep him honest. Never stop the scrutiny of his administration, and maybe, just maybe, we'll get to Mars a little sooner, vaccines will be wide-spread all over the world, evolution and not creationism will be taught in the science-class, and Back to the Future will be released on Blu-Ray.

I certainly hope so. In Canada, my ability to influence American politics are nil, and yet my life is terribly affected by every twitch and grunt on wall-street, K-street, and Pennsylvania Ave. So good luck, America. The job wasn't finished on election day, and the rest of the world needs you to keep this guy honest.





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Chunks-o-fun

I love this sniping tool that came with the new computer, and I will use it often.

I also love watching movies I loved as a kid to see if they still hold up. So far, Back To the Future: yes. Gremlins 2: Holy crap no.

I watched a few clips of The Goonies last night and I was immediately sold, and I bought a copy today. The Goonies truly exemplified everything that was 80's films: kids, merchandise, gadgets, professional wrestling, racism, and clear demarcation points between the 3 acts of the films. It was everything Gremlins 2 tried (and failed) to make fun of. The thing is, it was produced by Steven Speilberg, and directed by Richard Donner....and whatever you feel about those two guys (I can say a few choice things about the former), they know how to tell a story. Many of the jokes I loved as a kid are still funny, and even things that I didn't know were jokes as a kid, I now realize are very funny jokes ("The marijuana goes in the top drawer, cocaine and speed in the middle, heroin in the bottom....NEVER mix the drugs).

The prodcut placements were a bit obnoxious....gratuitous shots of Pepsi, and Baby Ruth, so much so that it was even worked into the script! Also, there was Cyndi Lauper. And if it happened in the 1980's and Cindi Lauper is involved, you can bet that professional wrestlers weren't too far behind. While the movie itself was devoid of Hulk Hogan, his rockin' wreslters made for an *ahem* amusing music video for Lauper's "Good Enough", which sported loads of wrestlers, such as the Iron Sheik, Capt. Lou Albino, 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper, Andre The Giant, 'Classy' Freddie Blassie and Nikolai Volkov....milking a plastic cow.

6 years later the Soviet Union fell.

Also, while Cindi was running through a sudden pirate cave, she runs across an equally inexplicable team of cooks from Benihanas. Oh, and not only are they racist representations, but the racism is also manifest in the subtitles, as Lauper runs by:



The premise of the video is that Lauper's "Mom and Pop" Gas station is being threatened by greedy creditors (played by Piper, Sheik, Blassie and Volkov). This is very appropriate, given the Goonies theme. In case it wasn't spelled out for you enough in the video, Lauper finds a bunch of jewels which she attempts to pay off the creditors, who for some strange reason don't accept jewels to settle mortgage debts.

In a final last-ditch effort to save the gas station, Lauper whistles. A puff of smoke and boom later, and there stands Andre the Giant, resplendant in what can only be described as Odin-wear, proceeds to beat the living shit out of the creditors.


The lesson in this video is not, as the producers would have you think, to stick with your friends in tough times (I think that was the lesson that the entire 1980's taught us), but that modern capitalism has a convienient loophole: if you get in too much debt, you can always whistle for your near-crippled frenchman with gigantism and he will fight people who had the nerve to give you a desperately needed loan.


Anyway, racist undertones and blatant retardness aside, The Goonies still holds up.









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Skeptic Radio? You-betcha!

The folks over at Q-Transmissions in Edmonton do a great show friday nights at 6:00pm MST (8:00pm EST). Tonight they had three ghost-hunters on and I couldn't resist...I had to call in.

First, one of the guests had said "sound is energy". "No it's not", I emailed in, pointing out that sound is a pressure wave, and requires a medium through which to propogate. The guest responded with "but why is it measured in hertz?" Well, hertz measures the pitch of a sound, but it also measures the frequency of wave-crests passing a certain point...it doesn't mean "energy". Sound is also measured in Decibels (db), which measure how high the wave crests reach (the higher the wave the louder the sound).

Then I called in to discuss "orbs". Yeesh. If you read this with any sort of frequency (or "hertz"), you already know the old canard of the orb. But I had to point out that if it's not dust, then why do they only show up when a flash is used? The guest's answer wasn't satisfying, and I was pleased with my ego-maniac self that I got the guest to admit that she at least is doing this just for entertainment, and not science.

Sadly, I suspect that she won't remember this admission the next time the go out with EMF detectors and point-and-shoot cameras.

I recomend you all listen to this show....It's good skeptic fun lead by two good skeptics!





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Google-y eyed

Google Ads just take keywords and provide the reader with a mixed-nuts of random insanity. Skeptic Blogs often suffer from having anti-vaccinationist propoganda come up on the ads, and atheist blogs have to deal with Christian merchandising ads.

Neat-o-Rama had an entry today about a "socialite" who has had lots of plastic surgery, all of it bad. Check out the Google-ads that got auto-tagged:


That tickled me so.







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Total jerk-off

Like any self-respecting nerd, I loves me some comics. If I were asked to reduce my childhood pop-icons to three things, they would be Calvin and Hobbes, Weird Al Yankovic, and Comic Books. I devoured every Hulk comic I could get my hands on and I still vividly remember the excellent storylines by Peter David and art by Dale Keown.

Read this. It rocks.

As an adult, my comic tastes have become much more sophisticated, albeit limited. I no longer read Wizard Magazine, and I only check out graphic novels or trade paperbacks that have made the national stage. But every once in a while I recognize where my comic roots meet my skeptic branches and it has so far always made me sad.

Fans of Batman and Superman (like myself) would well remember the art of Neal Adams. Hardcore skeptics will be well-familiar with that name as the crazy-as-all-fuck comic artist who seriously believes that he will single-handedly overthrow 400 years of scientific inquiry with his theory that the earth, and all matter in the universe is growing. Not just expanding in volume, but actually increasing in mass. Nutty. Neal once did me the honour of calling me a bigot, a liar, uneducated and how dare I question his credentials on his you-tube video wherein I was foolishly lured into what looked like a flame war (before I had to pull myself away from it).

The world of comics has had it's share of cooky-fellas, but I was recently clued into another one. Enter: Grant Morrison.

Grant Morrison was influenced by Alistair Crowley (the wizard), claimed that he was visited by aliens, then later said that....you know what? Fuck this, I'll just copy and paste from his wikipedia page, because if I type it, it will seem so batshit-crazy that it will appear like I'm making it up (emphasis will be mine)

It was with The Invisibles, a work in three volumes, that Morrison would start his largest and possibly most important[4] work. The Invisibles combined political, pop- and sub-cultural references. Tapping into pre-millennial tension, the work was influenced by the writings of Robert Anton Wilson, Aleister Crowley and William Burroughs and Morrison's practice of chaos magic.[5] At DisinfoCon in 1999, Morrison said that much of the content in The Invisibles was information given to him by aliens that abducted him in Kathmandu, who told him to spread this information to the world via a comic book. He later clarified that the experience he labeled as the "Alien Abduction Experience in Kathmandu" had nothing to do with aliens or abduction, but that there was an experience that he had in Kathmandu that The Invisibles is an attempt to explain.

See that? He clarified that it had nothing to DO with aliens or alien abduction, but that his experience was an alien abduction EXPERIENCE. Couldn't be clearer. The page continues...

The title was not a huge commercial hit to start with. (Morrison actually asked his readers to participate in a "wankathon" while concentrating on a magical symbol, or sigil, in an effort to boost sales).

I feel it important to clarify, just in case you feel as though you stepped into what-the-holy-shit-world. For clarity, Morrison wanted his readers to jerk off. By jerking off, his sales would be boosted. Makes sense to me. It reminds me of Global Orgasm Day, wherein if enough people bust a nut on the same day, the positive energies released will change the world...through magic.

Unlike Adams, Morrison is still very active in the comic community, and has yet to plunge into the depths of batshit craziness of "science can lick my balls because they're all in on a conspiracy". He's currently writing stories that involve Batman going crazy-go-nuts, and getting visted by Bat-Mite. He seems to have temporarily transplated his looniness onto Batman (presumably through a spell that involves chicken-bones and everyone's childhood love of Batman), but remember: Morrison practices magic (or perhaps it's more accurate to call it "magik"). He's been getting accolades out the wazoo for his writing and it seems like he'll easily go the way of Neal Adams: being told he's special by everyone around him. Eventually, he may fly one spell over the cuckoo's nest at try to...I don't know...get everyone to jerk off onto a presidential library to imbue Barack Obama with the wisdom of previous presidents.

The point it, Morrison is one to watch, but not for the reasons he would wish you to.






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I love the music of Eric Clapton. He's the biggest musical influence on me, and I strive to make every bit of playing to reflect his influence on me. I love blues music. I wanted to hop onto iTunes to buy some Eric Clapton singing blues.

I can understand words like cunt, shit and fuck being spelled "c**t", "s**t", and "f**k", but iTunes was offended by another word which I wasn't prepared for. Take a look:


In case you don't know, the hidden word is "hoochie".

Hoochie.





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Blue (and red) Valentine

Hey friends, my back is much worse than before, and it got me thinking about alternative "medicine", specifically as it relates to what I've got going on right now: an incredibly painful upper and middle back that forces me to bend at the waist at a 90-degree angle if I just want to walk around my apartment. Y'owch.

Some of my well-meaning friends who don't share my penchant for skeptic assholery might (and have) suggested I get over it and just try a chiropractor or an accupuncturist. After all, what's the harm? Well, aside from the fact that I'd never pay for such sham treatments, the harm can be permanent damage (especially if someone is cricking my back around when I can't move it myself).

I can fully understand the possibility of temporary pain-relief of being in an incredibly relaxing room with soft lighting, soft music, and a LOT of remaining perfectly still so that a caring person lightly sticks thin needles in my back. I can also understand the possibility of temporary pain relief in getting my back cracked...I'm a life-long knuckle-cracker and the release of synovial fluid feels good, and I can move my fingers better so as to play the guitar (I probably shouldn't crack my knuckles into the microphone when I'm on stage though)...I crack my back on my own often when I wake up, and I find it's a good way to start the day.

But I don't need to pay a pseudo-scientist hundreds of dollars to do something I can do perfectly well myself, and at considerable less risk of permanent injury. I don't need to drive down to the local accupuncturist (leaving the apartment is in and of itself, a painful enterprise for me right now) to sit in a quiet room. Why a bunch of needles in my back should make any difference has been debunked many times over, and hey: a placebo is just as good as any other placebo. So if you don't mind, I'll stick to my pain-killers, muscle relaxants, and the comfort of my own place.

If someone was willing to pay for an accupuncturist to come to my house and work their, in what is very accurately described as magic, I'd welcome that.

Before I head back to bed, here's something totally unrelated:

I've always thought that so-called 3-d images of various pictures on Mars were kind of lame and childish. I wasn't about to go out and buy a children's book just for the cheap glasses, and I would never order a pair online. Then by accident I realized that I had a pair all along (in the Family Guy DVD package for their Star Wars send-up, "Blue Harvest"), so I thought "what the hell", and had a look.

It's cool and worth it.






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2009 Skeptic Predictions

Before 2009 rages too far, I think it's best that I post my Skeptic Predictions for 2009. Try to contain your excitement. In one year, I'll re-visit this list (and I encourage you to save a copy for yourself to catch me if I try to retrofit my predictions) and see how well I did. This is an exercise to demonstrate that anyone with a modicum of an education, awareness, and ability to follow what goes on in the world will be able to predict the future with some degree of accuracy. To any pro-psychic who might one day read this, I have no powers whatsoever...I simply read the news, and I make every effort to understand the natural and social world around me. I also know how psychics operate, and I know their subtle tricks. I can do them too.

So without further Apu, here are my Skeptic Predictions for 2009!

1) Unemployment rates in the United States and Canada will reach levels between 8-10% by April, drop slightly over the summer, and plummet to 10-12% again in September.

2) A senior state official in the Middle East will be assassinated by March, and another by October.

3) Lindsay Lohan will be seen in public being intimate with a man, throwing doubt on her homosexuality (and will make headlines again).

4) Britney Spears will briefly re-lapse into her crazy-fits, but she will find solace and sanity from a religion and loved ones.

5) Contrary to many psychics predictions, there will be no significant race-riots in the United States beyond the odd bar-fight among hillbillies.

6) Afghanistan will destabilize further, forcing some states to withdraw their troops entirely, and the remaining states to increase troop presence.

7) Much to the disappointment of Paramount Studios and Star Trek fans, the Star Trek film will be a commercial failure, and Paramount will release a statement that the franchise is now dead.

8) Facebook will face major legal battles with the governments of China and the United States surrounding police crackdowns in the former, and leaked access of information in the latter.

9) The price of oil will regain some of its value by May-June, rising to $70/barrel, but will not rise further unless the economy can recover.

10) The death-toll from anti-vaccinationists will reach a fevered pitch, causing widespread vilification and backpedaling of people like Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey.

11) A major psychic will claim to make contact with the spirit of Heath Ledger.

12) A 70's rock star will get involved in a near-fatal car accident while an 80's rock star will be implicated in a sex-scandal.

13) Oprah Winfrey will come out of the closet as a lesbian

14) The price of food staples will become so high as to result in as much as 10 million deaths in the developing world

15) Several countries will nationalize some of their major industries, much to the chagrin of the United States and the IMF, who will both be powerless to stop it.

16) Russia will attempt to overthrow one of its neighbours governments by either military means, or by economic means (such as controlling the flow of resources).

Okay, I'm done. Some were flat-out guesses, but there were enough guesses so that if one of them turns out right, I'll be hella-badass. Others were in perfect concert with political and economic trends going on right now, and there was even a prediction about what WON'T happen. There are a few predictions of things that happen EVERY year.

So, in one year, we'll see how I did.





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FACE! (book)

There are few things I hate about the internet age more than disingenuous politics. Specifically, political activism. The latest crop of bullshity activism can be found in that bastion of fluff-n-puff (my word...it means loads of crap with no substance): Facebook.

The terribly frightening and serious massacre of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces has spawned a flurry of Facebook groups, events, causes and applications. There are dozens of groups you can join to "be a fan of supporting Gaza", or an application that updates your status with the latest bodycount, and calls on you to "donate your status"

Are you fucking kidding me? If you truly give a shit about what's going on, pressure those who are in power: your MP, Representative in Congress, Journalists/editors, or even the clergy. Facebook updates aren't shit, and no self-respecting politician anywhere in the world would EVER take facebook activity into account when making state decisions. Can you imagine how fucked up the justice system would be if every group that calls for a drunk-driver to get a longer-term sentence just because 50,000 people joined a group created by a grieving widow?

I don't ever want to live in a world where the Prime Minster can issue a decree that the Daleks are more kickass than the Borg.







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Well, the Toronto Astronomy Festival was a colossal collection of mediocrity. The two speakers were pretty good, but I thought that a lot of the stands were glorified advertisements (most of them, anyway). I really think that the whole even suffered from the venue choice: The Ontario Science Centre is great for kids, but it's also great to trip over kids, and have over-excited, over-sugared kids run every-which way and smash into my nuts. I get it though: it's supposed to be for families as much as the amateur astronomer, so I guess there was no way around it.

Still, I met Canadian amateur astronomer-king, Terrence Dickenson.
I don't usually say this sort of thing, but I look really fat in this picture! Thanks, layers!

Also, a neat model not often seen in the backwaters of Peterborough, Ontario:

And one more picture: I've been having some minor troubles with the camera, so as a test photo, I caught my cat mid-yawn, and the results were awesome:

Well, my sore back was made even more sore from the trip, so I'm going to lie back down and play some Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe (seriously....Batman fighting Scorpion, Superman fighting Raiden.....H'awesome.





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A Reminder...

As a reminder, I'll be in Toronto on Saturday to attend the Toronto Astronomy Festival. I'll be seeing the talks by Ivan Semeniuk at 11:00 am and Ray Jayawardhana at 1:00 pm, as well as the DSLR Astro-photograpy workshop at 3:00 pm. There are going to be loads of great talks and workshops and displays, so I highly recommend you all go check it out.

If you should happen to spy me walking around, come say hi. I look like I do in my profile picture, but with longer red hair, and I don't always carry around a Canadian Flag. Only when I want to brazenly show my nationalism....which is never.





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Warning: Non-skeptical post below!

Watching the various companies in the United States and Canada crawl over each other demanding bailout money has been one of the saddest outcomes of capitalism I've seen in my entire life. After hearing for nearly 30 years that welfare is crippling the poor, not helping them, and that free-markets should rule the roost, and that the poor are poor because they are lazy/stupid has been the m.o. for all of modern capitalism, as screamed from the frothing-at-the-mouth conservative pundits and politicians. Why should the government hand out tax-payer dollars to the poor/lazy/stupid people who couldn't get their god-damned asses together?

And now, with the economy yet again in shambles, these same companies that have made countless billions off the backs of people who they fought tooth-and-nail to pay less for more work, suddenly find themselves in financial dire-straits for the first time like the rest of us have had to deal with for decades, living paycheck to paycheck (and still falling into crippling debt).

These companies, with enormous financial infrastructure at their disposal demand that tax-payer dollars suddenly bail THEM out! First of all, anyone who knows anything about political economy knows that the numerous legal loopholes in the various tax-codes equate to a de facto bailout, hundreds of times over. But that aside, these companies have had decades to see this coming (as the oft-ridiculed political economists and Marxist theorists have seen and been trying to warn since the 60's) and prepare. What did they do? They paid their executives more and more money, and hoarded so much wealth as to make Alexander the Great blush.

The economy tanked. Companies that have lasted for 100+ years by paying their employees dirt-cheap wages and fought worker's/women's/children's/ethnic rights in the workplace at every turn, for the first time saw what a poor-house looked like.

What did they do? They screamed for more tax-payer money. Tax-loopholes were no longer sufficient, they needed the government to give a blank check, with no provisions. They warned that financial meltdown was imminent unless hundreds of billions of dollars be given to them RIGHT FUCKING NOW. Politicians panicked, and gave them a blank check that cost American taxpayers $700 billion dollars, with practically no provisions as to how that money had to be spent. Not surprisingly, many of the recipients of this money ran straight to more bonuses for their ceos, while countless more just fucking vanished, as there were no effective ways to trace the money. Way to go.

Seeing how easily the government can be scared, the Auto-industry did the same thing: "Give us $25 billion or else!" Now, I have a little more sympathy for the auto sector (very little) because at least the product they make is a) an actual product, not credit, and b)necessary for a country as big as Canada or the U.S. to have a functioning economy. But the Asian companies have weathered this storm, as Honda, Toyota and Hyundai have been able to see the changing of the guard coming, and built cars that people want: smaller, efficient, cheaper, cleaner. The "Big Three" companies kept on making their cars bigger, stronger, and more obnoxious. Mustangs, Cameros, and SUV's kept on being built, and no one fucking bought them.

Conservatives cried about American (and Canadian) industry being sold out because people are buying foreign. Well guess the fuck what! The foreign cars are BETTER, ASSHOLE.

Still, rather than let these idiotic companies die from their own self-inflicted bullet-wounds, the Canadian and US governments decided that they would indeed respond to fear mongering, and gave them $25 billion. But this time, having learned the lesson from last time, they said "okay, but we have a few conditions"

Smart. What were these conditions? Use the money to re-fit your factories so that they are way more energy efficient and not such a terrible drain on the power grid? Re-fit your factories to build not pickup trucks and muscle cars but smart cars and hybrids? Put emission caps and fuel efficiency standards on every car that rolls off the lot? Offer bonuses to companies that can develop cars that run entirely off electricity?

No. Instead, the conditions were: Pay your employees 20% less, and if the unions go on strike, you automatically default.

This might have been the biggest "fuck you" to working people that has ever happened in my life time.

Just for the record, in case all you conservatives and libertarians out there who are still terrified of the "u-word", labour costs in a car accounts for 7% of the purchase price. 7%. And now auto-workers will take up to a 20% pay cut, and if they go on strike, the company is forced into bankruptsy by a government who refuses to allow workers to protect their own interests.

Everyone who voted republican or conservative in the past 5-6 years, this is on YOUR head. You voted these thieves, liars, and easily intimidated cowards into the halls as your representatives. They, and you, have shown enormous greed and shortsightedness during these early moments of what will surely be a long, drawn-out
economic crises. Many of you did so because you were scared of some democrat or Liberal taking away your guns, or allowing fags to marry. Maybe you didn't think that the government could tell companies what to do. Maybe you thought that man probably isn't responsible for global warming, and that it's all a conspiracy by the powerful environmentalist lobby.

Well, your homophobia/gun-craze/pseudo-libertarianism/anti-intellectual got us ALL into this mess. Fuck you. I don't think I'm going to far to say that you, and the right-wingers you voted in, ruined it for everyone.




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Back Attack +1

Okay, I threw out my back muscles even more today because of friggin shoveling the frakkin driveway again and fraggin again. Less than a day after I sheepishly ask people to nominate me for the Best Canadian Blog, all it seems I can do is lie down and wait out the storm...in my back. I've got Tylenol 1's, Robaxacet, a new heating/massaging pad, and several Kevin Smith videos, so the recovery should be as quick as it can be, but I won't be updating too much (ever type on while lying on your back? It's hard) in order to make sure I'll be okay to make it to the Toronto Astronomy Festival this weekend.

Stay tuned....if something really messed up happens, I'll of course (heroically) write about it, but in the mean time, be careful when you shovel.




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Award season?

H'okai, so...

I wasn't going to post about this, but I think my ego is just weak enough to want to ask you all to vote for me in the 2009 Bloggies in the category of "Best Canadian Blog". My chances aren't great, but come on....do you really want Redneck Mommy to win this award? No slight to the blog of course, just a slight to all things redneck, and especially those what brag about redneckery. Rather than a frozen feminine version of Jeff Foxworthy, wouldn't it be better if the Canadian Bloggosphere were represented by a skeptic? A skeptic who is an amateur astronomer? A skeptic amateur astronomer who will hug you if he meets you in person and it's socially non-creepy? And if it is socially creepy, he'll share a drink with you?

I thought so.

You all have been really supportive in building this blog up faster than I expected in less than a year that it's been running, otherwise I wouldn't be so bold as to ask this. Even if this blog doesn't win, some Canadian skeptical exposure would be great for all of us. Well, at least those of us who are skeptics.





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By the way, why haven't you added me as a friend on facebook yet? It's worth it, and it comes with a free frogurt....which is also cursed.





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Back that up

I threw my back out this afternoon shoveling the driveway. So I decided to spend my time doing some much needed processing on some backlog'd astro-photography o' mine.

Here is the Great Nebula in Orion (a.k.a. The Orion Nebula, a.k.a. M42), with some modest processing by someone who is just learning how to process. You heard me.









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Oot and Aboot with Some Canadian Skeptic - Designer: Douglas Bowman | Dimodifikasi oleh Abdul Munir Original Posting Rounders 3 Column