Also Ka-Blamo!

Growing up in Ontario, there are two huge things that are quite outside my experience: Oceans and Mountains. I got to see the Atlantic ocean in November, but I've still never seen a real-badass mountain range (unless you count the northern foothills of the Appalachians in upstate New England....which I don't). So whenever I see cool shots of mountain-y stuff, I tend to loost my shit.

For instance:

Wowzers. This image was captured by the ISS on June 12, and shows the shockwave of the volcano at Sarychev Peak in Japan. Click the picture to go to the original article.

Beautiful, and wonderful timing of the ISS!

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Friends of mine who are smarter at computers than I am have made wonderful recommendations about how to improve this blog. Right now, it looks awfully amateurish (for a good reason) and many of my friends are professional graphic and web designers. I play guitar and look through a telescope.

If you have any suggestions as to what this blog needs to spice it up, leave a note in the comments or email me. Don't be afraid to be harsh, I won't take it personally. I'll be relying almost entirely on the talents of others, and I'll jump in only when a brute-force approach is needed. This blog has been up since February/08, and is about to zero-in on 20,000 hits since mid-October (when I installed the counter), yet still it looks like I'm writing emo-poetry about...angst.....and Twilight....and....I dunno....stickers.

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Flux Capacity

I'm back in my hometown, staying my family's 3rd house, that we lived in from 1996-2006 (with a few brief breaks for college and university), and was the house that I "came to" in. My parents have lived in this town as long as I've been alive, and it is a great place to grow up in, but stifling to have grown up in. I'm in town for a wedding of a very good friend, so the reason for homecoming couldn't be greater (unless of course, I were to be getting married.....or getting kittens armed with shark-guns). But...

Every time I come home, I revert. I revert to an earlier form of me. Sitting at the family kitchen table last night, posting on Skepchick, I had to answer the phone a few times and explain that my parents are away for the weekend. I had to twice break up a fight between the family cats, and I went to the fridge and just gorged on whatever food my parents had. I'm not 30. I'm a 17 year old with a college and university education. I spent last night with another old friend who I don't get to hang out with much anymore, and it was great talking (she's one of those religious people who are thoughtful, intelligent, rational, respectful and insightful, and we had a great conversation! Oh, and characterizing her as 'religious' is a bit over-far...she's really a christian-theist, anymore than that I wouldn't presume to pigeonhole), but since she and I go back to the early 90's, there was that tinge of "I'm still in high school, and I'm too stupid to be talking to her".

If you want to discover time travel, go back to your home town and hang out with the people you hung out with years ago. I promise you that you will go back in time. (also, in Midland, time does REALLY seem to go much slower, as is the case with most rural small-towns).

Does this happen to you? Do you go to your parents house and suddenly become a petulant 17-year old? Do you just want to close the door to your room, and be left alone? Do you only come up for supper when your dad yells down the stairs to you?

I'm not 30. Not here.

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Hey, you know what's fun? Figuring out a photoshop trick all on your own without looking it up in the help section like some sucker. Step one: turn the actual world monochrome. Step two: Take the picture. Step Three: Come back tomorrow when the spell ("Exspectra-Monochromatis!") has worn off, and take a picture in normal colour. Step Four: Copy and paste the colour image onto the B&W image. Step Five: Post it on your blog and try WAY too hard to be funny. If you followed every step exactly, congratulations! You're Jack Black!

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Fly twatter

Sometimes, PETA is unbelievably offensive. Sometimes, they're offensively retarded. And there are other times, that they just aren't trying anymore. It's hard to get worked up over this, because a) it's incredibly stupid, and b) see point "a)".

Okay, I'd try to save him too. But only because a guy can get lost in those eyes. I'm not gay, but I am human!

I'm not even going to comment anymore about this. Too douchetarded.

Going to TAM? Come out on Thursday night across the street at the Boulevard Bar & Grille on July 9th, 6:30* and meet not just Some Canadian Skeptic, but also some Canadian skeptics! (see what I did there?). R u n SGU 'r? Then register for the SGU dinner/meetup and meet way-more awesome skeptics than me, and come laugh at my being star-struck and giggly.

*tentative time and location, as far as I know.

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Presented without comment.

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Okay, is awesome, and I'm just going to point out whenever they epic win, so get used to it. This article is about the political-side of some well-known conspiracies. Some theories are overtly political (Obama's citizenship, Bill Clinton's murderyness), while others have the political angle of some old skeptic canards (water fluoridation, global warming).

Hmmm...conspiracy theories AND politics? Sounds like someone is stepping up on my turf. Why the hell don't I write for them?

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Honestly. Narcissism.

I think that with some degree of veracity, I can reasonably call myself an amateur/hobby photographer (this blog is written by a Canadian after all, so there has to be as many non-committal qualifiers as can be expected in such a situation): I've won a prize for best photo in a recent art show, some of my photos have been featured elsewhere on the intertoobs, and a certain science museum will be using some of my shots in their new planetarium (more on this to come in the near me, it's way-cool). I got me a hella-sweet camera and lens setup (hella-sweet for me), and I think that when I got this huge camera around my neck snapping pictures of flowers, ducks and things, I would think that I at least look the part of a photographer...I'm certainly photographer-shaped. So I find it difficult to come to terms with the fact that some people would see me as a complete and total pervert.

Today, among hundreds of other pics, I took this:

Pretty innocuous, eh? Just some dying, dried up berry of some sort or another. Pretty standard nature photography fare. Well, what you can't see in the picture because they're way-the-crap out of focus, is a gaggle of teenage girls who were way creeped out by me pointing what looked to be a high-tech perv-cam in their direction. Honestly, some girls and their bloody narcissism, they think that everyone's out to get into their knickers...

Truth is, I find these dried up, semi-necrotic berries atop a dying thorny stem to be way more beautiful than the shrill-voiced, hot-pink booty-short-wearing teenage girls that were sitting behind it.

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TAM is coming up faster than I expected (due to a terrible accident with a particle accelerator, a box of rubber bands, and a panda bear, I perceive time at a much faster pace than you normal humans....also, I drop a huge brick on the cat every time the phone rings), and I'm finding that funds are terribly short (unlike me, at 5'4", I easily tower above most of the children that I meet, and can easily beat up almost half of them). I was very fortunate to have received a scholarship to go, but I still need to scrounge up the funds for the actual travel (and presumably, food). When you're unemployed, (and considered far to super-intelligent and mega-charming for most jobs on this plane) this can become exceptionally difficult.

I'm not without a few tricks, enter: the coin collection.

Not really a collection, more of a mass. I've been not-spending the space change since my 1st year of university (2004-05), with no clear objective as to what I might one day spend the time to roll them up for, TAM6 came along last year, and made me sad that I missed it. Long (and tedious) story short: I'm spending the coin on TAM7. Let's roll:

Pictured: Genghis provided for scale. You now now how much my love of him is worth.

Sweet jesus, I ran out of rollers. And wouldn't you goddamn know it, only pennies are left. Pennies. So now, I'm faced with a bit of a retardilema: to go out and buy a bag of ONLY penny rollers, or not, forcing these pennies to never see the bright lights of Las Vegas and Phil Plait. If I don't, then a) these damn (heavy-as-hell) pieces of copper will continue to collect dust and other pieces of copper, whose only purpose seems to be to act as a book end (I read a thousand books a day: I challenge you to beat that) and b) If I happen to be short a few bucks for one reason or another in the near future, I will blame the pennies. The damn, damn pennies. If I do, then a) I have to look like a WAY total tool to go to the office supply store to spend $1.49 on a bag of penny rollers in order to roll $7.50, a process which will take at least 2 hours, causing me to pay myself less than half of the Ontario minimum pennies.

So far I've uncovered $137 in my coin collection/mass of aerated metal. Not bad for throwing money aside after buying a delicious-delicious shawarma, or delicious groceries with a twist. That's probably enough to get me food for the trip. But I'm seriously considering driving to Vegas, a trip which would wake more than 15 hours longer than when I drove to Halifax. I actually kind of liked the mega-long drive, but a day-and-a-half worth of driving alone might break me. And then I'd have to drive back. And speaking for recent experience to Halifax and New York, there is nothing quite as soul-crushing as driving for hours and hours back home to your mundane life away from the fantasical wonderland that you just fell in love with.

If you're in the Toronto area, (or are somewhere on the driving route between Toronto and Vegas), and might want to hitch a ride and pitch in for gas (which is getting pricy!), let me know in the comments, or email me, and we'll internet-talk it out and see if it's a viable solution...which it almost certainly won't.

I'm jobless (though I do have some promising interviews this week), but I'll be damned if I let something as trivial as money hold me back from this.

Seriously, I will be damned if I can't go. It's actually a very terrifying concept that forces me to do the right thing because I'm afraid of the consequences.

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Oh, TAMada

The folks over at Skeptically Speaking (why aren't you listening to it every Friday?) had a fan-farking-tastic idea, one which I'll be all-up-ons. A meet up of the Canadian contingent at TAM7!

If you're going to be at TAM, then come on out! You get to meet me! And more importantly, I get to meet you! Amazing technology we have today!

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Here's something that I bet you didn't know...

As many of you will remember thanks to my whining, I turned 30 recently. Normally, whenever a person reaches an arbitrary age barrier, something with their insurance changes. For example, when I turned 25, my car insurance went from $4600/year down to $1800/year. Well, when you turn 30, (at least if you're male), your life insurance rates change a little bit. My mother (who speaks legalese) noticed something peculiar in my policy: Without asking me or my family, I have been billed as a smoker. It should be noted that I am not, nor have I ever been a smoker.

Not pictured: me. Pictured: the reason google image search exists.

When confronted on this, Insurance-Lady (90% certain that's her birth name) said that once a man reaches a certain age, they assume that they're a smoker, and EVERY SINGLE MAN gets counted as a smoker. This is despite statistics that say that, statistically speaking, most men (and women, for that matter) NEVER become smokers. They don't ask you, and I wouldn't have known about this if my mother didn't have such a keen eye to legal detail. I'm still in the process of investigating, and you can be certain that I'm going to find out precisely WHEN they logged me as a smoker, and demand a retro-active refund.

Also, this isn't some obscure little Canadian insurance company, like Cyrill Sneer's Crooked Insurance Scheme, but Sun-Life, that major-freaking world-wide insurance company.
Pictured: Every Canadian landowner ever.

So the lesson here: look into your insurance details, you're probably paying WAY too much because they're assuming you have the lifestyle of an Iggy Pop / Pizza-the-Hut hybrid.

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Bee-ing and Time

My cat smacked a bee out of the air today, and while it was stunned, I took a few shots. It will take some practice to do this kind of small-scale photography, but I think these look pretty neat!

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It seriously took me a few minutes to calm down and write the rest of this sentence.

I like to think that it was because just a few days ago, I posted a picture of Hermes, and Fox took notice. This was one of the smartest shows on television in my lifetime (after this, that is. Mega-Hi indeed!), and after I lost that, AND Arrested Development, I had to seek other shows that were certainly funny, but not intelligently funny. I don't care how assy that makes me sound. Futurama is coming back. And those beans are so cool.

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Wafers 4 Sale

Remember Crackergate(or whatever equally inane malapropism you wish to apply)? Well, I wonder, doesn't this cheapen whatever symbolic currency the wafer supposedly has at least as much as what PZ did, maybe even more? Is the catholic league going to badger the bishop who is running this pay-for-communion service as much as they harassed PZ and his associates at the university and Scienceblogs? Are people going to threaten him with death?

I doubt it.

I don't think the Bishop is profiteering from this, but come on.....are Catholics THAT hard to find? Are they so unwilling to give out communion to just any old heathen? The only conceivable reason why a person would order through this service would be the few (and admittedly oppressed) Catholics who live in regions where Catholicism is outlawed. Since this generally applies to Islamic theocracies, it would make sense to have the page translated into middle-eastern languages (I found none), and to allow shipping to those countries. I clicked on the ordering process and learned that no orders can be placed until June 14th, so I suppose they can be forgiven for not listing, say, Sudan or Iran as shipping destinations (for now), but this could also be the result of them not listing any destinations until their process is up and running. As of this writing, there are no hints as to where they will ship, but if indeed they can ship to every country, I'll give them a bit of a nod for at least consistency.
Pictured: Catholic mass. I'm sure of it.

The cost of the wafers are said to be for shipping only, which I believe. But the idea that the Catholic church can't pitch in for this is kinda bro-tarded. I know that individual diocesees have their own individual operating budget, and this Bishop is probably acting within that small wiggle-room (is it just me, or does the idea of a Catholic wiggle-room sound creepy-as-hell to you too?). But that's part of my point: Catholic church operates like a business, not like a church. For all it's piety and charity, it deals far more in stocks, patents, and shareholding. If they were really as genuine as they claim, surely they can spring for shipping these terribly-terribly light little crackers. To the site's credit, there is a spot where you can request the wafers if you can't afford. That's good, but by my reckoning, they should all be free...I mean, look at what you're doing! You're helping to save souls!

Am I being to reactionary? Perhaps. But this has been the year where the catholic church has done some of the most messed-up things that its done in my lifetime, such as condeming to hell and excommunicating a raped little girl and her mother and doctor for performing an abortion but letting the rapist (who was her father) scott-free. They also re-instated a holocaust-denying cardinal. AND they went to Africa and told the poorest, most illiterate people in the world that condoms are spreading HIV/AIDS ...So yeah. I guess I am a bit reactionary.

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So's I says to Mabel, I says,

Did I mention I was in Toronto this weekend? Probably not twice. Anyway, I sure didn't notice anything odd about the city. Absolutely nothing. The campus of UofT was beautiful, and nothing stood up out of place

This is a completely normal, non-penis shaped building on the University of Toronto campus. It doesn't at all look like a penis. Please draw your attention to our huge non-penis-shaped building that we erected in the 60's:

Too far for you? Just get off the Bus? Rich, and work on Bay street? Need totally, non-penis-shaped buildings?There. That should suffice. Toronto is a very proud city. We're not compensating for anything whatsoever.

Pride in the sky indeed.

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Okay, I'm back from Toronto, and I suppose I have a slightly better opinion of it than I used to, but I still have difficulty imagining living there for too long. I took a few pictures, some of which can be seen in my new (overdue) photostream with a Canada theme. It's not too much at this point, but whatevs.

I'm still investigating something that BLEW my mind (but not really) while walking along College St. I saw a temporary Toronto headquarters for what is clearly the Asian equivalent of Scientology, a little Japan-born club called "Happy Science" (you heard me). It's led by a man named Ryuho Okawa, who claims to be a) God b) God's cousin c) God's prophet d) God's essence. 3) God's reincarnation. According to the pamphlet, El Cantare (wait, it's Spanish all of a sudden?), "is the supreme God whose name means, The Beautiful Land of Light, Earth" (caps theirs). Some of Ryuho's past lives were Hermes (not the Greek messenger god, but the King of Crete.....STUPID!), Siddartha Gautama (a.k.a. the first, and arguably most kickass and awesome Buddha, before they made all those remakes), and Thoth ("A versatile leader who was a genius in religion, politics, science, philosophy and art. He helped the technologically advanced Atlantis to flourish" Yep...Atlantis.)

Pictured: The king of Crete and past life of the founder of Happy Science.

A person can be an expert in Happy Science by getting a degree in Happy Science where they read all the Happy Science books. The final exam is comprised of testing knowledge gained from the reading list, which is made up of entirely the books written by Hermes Conrad I mean Ryuho Okawa. Sound familiar? If you said my 3rd year constitutional Law course, you're right, and you also know my past at a level that borders on creepy-as-hell. It also smacks of L Ron Hubbard.

Anyway, it looks like Monsier Okawa will be coming to Toronto soon, but I foolishly did not make note of when/where. If I can check it out, I will report on it, and get back to you. Also, I'm NOT paying a dime to go. I'll pay for my food and travel, but if there is an admission fee, then it's a no-as-all-hell-go.

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Still a lie

I just beat Portal recently, and the song at the end was wonderful on its own. Then, some awesome people put together this video:

Pretty durn cool.

Anyway, I'm in Toronto for the next couple of days, and I found a doozy of a Scientology-like cult for y'all! I'll write more when I'm home and can post some pictures, but trust me, you do NOT want to miss's ripe to be torn apart by the skeptic community.

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Et les Phantom!

Yesterdays post is awfully angering.

This should make up for it

Et les Poppottum! Et les Grenoiule! Et les crocodile!

(I know I'm spelling some of these french words wrong. Contrary to popular belief, it's not law that all Canadians speak french. Just complain about it)

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PETA: Eat all the dicks

PETA is at it again, and this one probably takes the cake as their most disgusting campaigns.

Remember that terribly sad attack on women's rights in Kansas the other day? Well PETA, in the utmost display of negative-tact, decided that it was a great time to move in and capitalize on the abortion debate to push vegetarianism.

This is beyond vile to me. I can't even pretend to be funny, satirical or nonsensical, which is what these sons-of-bitches usually deserve. How can anyone, watching the insanely insulting campaigns that PETA has run in the past few years, continue to support them and think they're doing the ethical thing, is utterly beyond me. The blinders have got to be on for any supporter, except for the extremists who agree with crazy shit like this.

PETA: Eat all the dicks.

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Tonight, I took a trip around the solar system, photographing some objects better than I ever have, and even photographing an object for the first time, and is a rare-treat for amateur astronomers because it's so dim and distant. You've already seen the best picture I took of the moon in yesterday's post, so here's the rest of the results.

Venus & Mars, taken with the telephoto:

Mars, taken with the Telephoto:

Jupiter, Taken with the 8", 3x barlow, and Canon Rebel XT:

Saturn, taken from 3 still-frames of an .avi file, shot with a Canon Powershot A430, aimed through the 3x barlow on the 8":

Neptune, taken with the 8", 3x barlow and Canon Rebel XT:

Neptune & Jupiter, taken with the telephoto:

Jupiter is the bright one in the bottom left with the two bright little moons orbiting (from left to right they're Europa and Ganymede), Neptune is that really dim dot at the upper-centre. The brighter dot at the right is a star is the constellation Capricorn.

Neptune and Jupiter are really close together right now in the sky, and once they move apart later this month, they will never appear to be that close in our lifetime. So if you have some decent gear, get out there and catch this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

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Some days are better for shooting different parts of the moon than others. This is because of the obvious reason that the sun will shine different parts of the various craters, mountains and ridges from different angles, and bring out different details. In about 6 days, the crater in the below picture (Copernicus Crater) will look 20-30% less awesome.* Tonight, the sky had a thin veil of clouds covering just about the entire sky, but the moon "shone"** just bright enough for me to get some detail. Behold, and kneel before Zod!

The good thing about shooting the moon, is that even if you miss, you'll land among the stars!

At the centre is Copernicus Crater, which is 93 km in diameter and 3.4 km deep. Think about that for a second. 93 kilometers! Think about a town that is roughly an hour's drive away from you, that's how long it would take to get from one side of the crater to the other (assuming you were driving on a road instead of on lunar regolith, and you were driving an electric car that didn't need oxygen to start an internal combustion engine, and the moon suddenly had Earth-gravity for no good reason so that you wouldn't accelerate into an uncontrollable jump-an-crash every time you hit a bump or divot). If you were standing at the bottom, the top ridge of the crater would be almost as high as Mount Fiji. Wowzers.

Now think about the size of the impact that must have been. You can see in this picture the lines of debris (called "rays") ejected out from the impact. The rays themselves extend over 800 km over the surrounding moonscape. That's like going from Toronto to Quebec city...a trip that takes over 8 hours (trust me, I know). Ka-Blamo!

Before I went in, I took this picture for shits and giggles. FYI, I did neither.
Pictured: My house, telescope, Moon. Not pictured: Shit, giggles.

*depending on whether or not you use metric or imperial awesome-units.
**the moon doesn't shine, it reflects....duh.

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On internet funniness...

Lots of skeptic bloggers have pointed to in the past to draw attention to some hilarious, albeit juvenile bit that a skeptic audience would be amiable to. I've been visiting their website quite often for a little over a year now, and I just want to let you all know the depths of their awesomeness, just in case you don't visit as often as I do, owing to such petty things as "shit-to-do" and "get-the-crap-offa-the-damn-computer-already". Chances are you've seen a few of these before, but lately I've been terribly impressed with what they do, how they do it, and the amount of diet coke I've spit onto my screen laughing, so I wanted to give my own meager shout-out here. Cracked used to be to Mad Magazine like K-Mart was to Tiffany's (is that a high-class chain of department stores? I honestly don't know. Maybe I should think the metaphor out a little better): a cheap rip-off of a brilliantly-executed idea. But in this generation, Cracked has stepped up to the plate and "gets" the internet in ways that Mad has failed miserably.

First off, they have their insightful, "as explained by science" recurring theme, written by various scientifically literate people. These are not science textbooks, and there are a few minor errors, but hardly worth loosing your shit over. Articles like these ones are heavily cited (not in an academic way, but so-the-hell-what?) and surprisingly insightful, pulling in scientific knowledge from a diverse selection of disciplines. This series is loosely related to the standard cracked canard of lists. You know the formula: "7 things that tried to be this, (but ended up retarded)". The formula works very well for them, and some have wonderfully skeptic undertones. They've also taken on some pretty big skeptic targets, like Jenny McCarthey and the 9/11 conspiracy theory. They do their research, and they come out swinging hard.

This is a site that is written by educated people. With an education, comes an understanding of ethics and culture that generally doesn't come at the school of hard knocks. Their education informs their sense of humour, which, although it speaks to a similar audience as other humour sites, comes out with a very different punchline. A friend put it well to me, 'at 4chan, the joke is: "hahaha, racism is funny", but at Cracked, the joke is "hahahaha, it's funny because racism is HORRIBLE!!!"'. Aside from and a handful of webcomics (which is an entirely different medium), has been my one-stop for online comedy. Imagine that: a website written by educated people that understand modern (and cynical-as-fuck) internet culture, and are incredibly witty to boot. I suspect that if 4chan had existed in the mid-80's and early 90's, then would have been written by a young Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, David Cross and Stephen Colbert.

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Whaling on the moon...

When I first got a scope and my rinky-dink setup, I was shooting pictures of the moon:

Taken with my Canon Powershot A430 held up to the eyepiece of a wobbly-as-hell 4" refractor

Then, I scaled up a little bit, by getting a DSLR and a serious (but still backyard) scope, and went to taking pictures of segments of the moon:

Since picking up the 3x barlow lens, astrophotography has taken the next level. Now, I no longer take shots of parts of the moon, but of individual craters and mountain ranges:

So fun.

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