Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Internet was Born for Porn

We all have been enjoying the Interweb so much recently we almost cannot imagine a time when it wasn’t here. Google, Blogger and how did we ever live without YouTube? It’s at times like these that we should pause and reflect on a era when the Internet was in its infancy. But it wasn’t until the Internet reached it’s horny adolescence that its technology truly burgeoned and blossomed. And like any adolescent, its meteoric rise to maturity was driven by one singularly driving force – Sex.

Yes, we can thank Porn for the Internet we have today. The lustful pursuit of anonymous lasciviousness heralded the emergence of all those apps and widgets we depend on so much now. That is because most of the Internet technology we rely upon was developed to satisfy the demand to deliver quick, readily accessible, full living color, porn.

I accessed my first internet account two decades ago via a dial-up modem through the local university. Back then, access was free. The precursor of today's Internet, ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense (yes, government; not private business) as a "fail-safe" uninterruptible communication system. It connected data centers of mostly governmental, university and some private contractors for research and development purposes. Everything was completely "text-based" back then; single color and rather arcane. We connected between computers using Telnet and transferred data via FTP.

Those early days was an age of technological innocence; like when we used to be able to leave our houses unlocked when we were kids. There was no spam, no virus's and very little in the way of hacking. "Online" civility was the norm; most of us were professionals; engineers, scientists and academics, men predominantly - and young, under-socialized, geeky and horny males, namely, college students.

At first we were sharing information, documents mostly; hosted online and communicating with one another through e-mail. There were also programs and a few rudimentary games, but to transfer them around from place to place one needed to convert the binary files into text to move them over the phone line to the home PC. Once received, the text had to be converted back into binary format. It was a cumbersome process, but occasionally the files yielded a delightful surprise. Some of these binary files contained scans of photos from Penthouse, Playboy and other adult magazines. Below is an example of what raw internet data and picutre files looked like back then:

I must confess that I spent a goodly portion of my online time downloading, concatinating and converting these text files to reveal the salacious pixels within. Never mind that it often took hours of my phone being tied up to eventually see a grainy picture of a naked woman. The silly thing was that I could just as easily see these pictures, in all their glossy glory, were I to just simply schlep down to the local convenience store and purchase the actual magazine. But the fact that we could even DO this process was half the thrill in itself.

But herein lay the magic (and the potential) of this new technology – We no longer had to show our embarrassed faces at the convenience store; we could all now indulge our visual fantasies in the privacy of our own homes.

Parallel to this technological Renaissance came the development of the VCR and cam-corders; heralded as significant a technological advance to the sex business as the Guttenberg printing press was to movable type. Soon techies were piecing together .GIF files in sequence to make staccato zoetrope style rudimentary movies. Similarly motivated engineers soon developed more sophisticated .AVI and .MPG image compression technologies to squeeze multiple images into smoother flowing video files; all of which led directly to the development of the DVD.

By now the World Wide Web and the first web browser had been developed and web sites were popping up like weeds. Converging also were the visionaries who saw the marketing potential of the Internet - and as all marketing types know full well: what else sells better than sex! The nude digital genie had been released from the bottle, there was now no turning back.

Today the porn market has declined to roughly 6% of all internet traffic. It is estimated that at least a quarter of Internet users have accessed an adult web site at some time. "Sex had played a major role in driving many technologies," says Jonathan Coopersmith, a technology historian at Texas A&M. [1]

“Internet porn sites are also one of the few web services that make money.” [2] Internet pornography … helped spur the adoption of e-commerce, online payment systems, broadband connections, streaming and live video, and much more.” [3]

For better or worse, Internet porn is the “gorilla in the living room” (wink to Mr. Bananas) and though it may not be right out there wiggling directly in your face, it isn’t very difficult to find. Like it or hate it, porn has been instrumental in fleshing out the Internet technology we enjoy today. And who can say - perhaps that's even a good thing.


1. “Thank Sex For Making The Internet Hot”, National Public Radio
2. “The dirty secret that drives new technology: it's porn”, The UK Guardian
3. The Economics of Pornography. ~ Kirk Doran

Thursday, May 27, 2010

More Adventures in Tech Support

Prior to retiring, I was a Supervising Computer Network Technician for the State of Oregon. One particular day we had just received a shipment of four HP laptop computers, one of which was defective having arrived completely dead.

In order to replace the defective computer I needed to contact HP technical support to obtain an RMA (Return merchandise authorization). This was supposed to be accomplished through their tech support “chat” page. As a “computer professional” I had access to tech support with other vendors, such as Dell and Microsoft, where I could bypass the usual “consumer” customer tech support operators and speak directly with a fellow technician; much like two physicians might consult with each other regarding an ill patient.

However we didn't have this tech-to-tech system in place with HP, so I had to contact them through their regular customer support process; specifically, a chat window. This is roughly how I recall the conversation went:
HP: Welcome to HP technical support. My name is {lots of consonants}, how may I help you?

Me: Hi, I am a network technician for the State of Oregon, we received four notebook PCs one of which is dead on arrival, no power whatsoever even when connected to line current using the power cord. I need to obtain an RMA to replace it. It is a model {model} serial number {serial number}.

HP: Where did you purchase the computer?

Me: I don’t know where it was purchased; the State of Oregon purchased a few hundred of these through Equipment Procurement; four were distributed to my office.

HP: You don’t know where you bought the computer?

Me: I didn’t buy the computer; the State of Oregon bought them.

HP: Do you have the receipt from where you purchased the computer?

Me: Equipment Procurement would have the PURCHASE ORDER used to purchase the computer, I don’t have it. I just have a dead computer that you need to repair or replace under warranty.

HP: Have you tried charging the battery?

Me: I am a professionally trained computer service technician; the battery won’t charge because the computer won’t run from line current.

HP: Have you tried plugging it in to the wall using the power cord?

Me: {by now I have typed the following phrase into Notepad and am copying and PASTING it into the chat window with every response} I am a professional trained computer service technician, I have put this computer through the trouble-shooting procedure; there is no power to the computer.

HP: What does it say on the screen when you start the computer?

Me: Nothing, it doesn’t start. It’s dead (now I am picturing the Monty Python “Parrot sketch). It doesn’t boot, it doesn’t beep, it is cold stone DEAD! {paste my computer professional statement into the chat window}
At this point, at everything he suggests, I am pasting this same response into the chat window over and over. After about three of these, he begins to suspect that I am going to give the same answer to every question.
HP: Ok we can have you send the computer to us for servicing. Do you have a credit card?

Me: Why would I need a credit card? Just give me an RMA and I will send the computer back to you and you send me a new one.

HP: We have to get a credit card number so we can charge you if the computer is not returned to us.

Me: I’m not floating a loan to the entire State of Oregon using my personal credit card!!

HP: We are required to get a credit card number, sir, or we can’t do the exchange.

Me: How about this; I contact Equipment Procurement and have them CANCEL the order for THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS order for HP computers and recommend we give that business to DELL instead? {...not that I had any authority do that, of course}

HP: {long pause; no typing…} You will receive a shipment from us in a few days, use the box provided to you to return the computer. Your RMA number is…
Several days later I received an EMPTY box with which to return the dead computer. About a month later the SAME computer is returned to me. It worked.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lunch Break

The following story is true, it happened to a good friend of mine… whose name I will change for obvious reasons.

My buddy at work lived close to the office so every day he would drive home to have lunch. On this particular day, Fred pulled up to the house, parking his car on the driveway, opened the garage door with the car remote and entering the house through the garage, closing the garage door after him. He tossed his keys onto the kitchen counter then made a sandwich which he ate while watching the news on TV.

Keeping one eye on the time so he wouldn't be late getting back to work, he put the dishes in the sink and grabbed his coat on the way out the front door. He set the lock on the door then closed it securely behind him. Fred then got into his car parked on the driveway and began fumbling for the keys. Damn… his keys (house and car) were still on the kitchen counter where he left them.

Fred then got out of the car and tried the front door – it was, of course, securely locked. Peering in the kitchen window, he could see his keys on the counter. Fred’s anger is now rising as he checked unsuccessfully for an unlocked window. By now Fred is seething. In a final act of frustration he kicked in the front door breaking the door jamb and practically tearing it off the hinges.

Fred now had his keys but the front door was completely damaged and he needed to secure the house before he could go back to work. He got a couple of boards, a hammer and nails from the garage. Back outside and still fuming, he NAILED the front door closed.

Fred then got into his car... as he inserted the key into the ignition, he looked up and noticed there, clipped to sun visor and within easy reach…the garage door opener remote.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Coming Out

After all these years I have decided to finally come out of the “closet”. No, I’m not gay… I am declaring openly that I am an Atheist. I have recently placed the “scarlet A” on my blog sidebar.

Until recently I generally referred to my beliefs as Agnostic. Now the loosely documented rule of thumb denoting the difference between Atheist and Agnostic was that the latter contended that, at some point of reductionist reasoning, the question of whether god exists was supposedly unknowable. But as someone recently pointed out to me, the sum of all knowledge yet to be acquired is NOT knowledge of god.

Until now, being an Agnostic allowed me to hang back on the sidelines, keeping my beliefs (lack of them actually) quietly to myself. But recently I have been feeling more compelled to stand up and be counted. It’s not often a comfortable stance as a non-theist; we are not very popular with the religious majority. It is said that atheists are vilified more deeply in this country than child murderers. Yet polls are showing that the number of people claiming to be non believers represents a significant percentage of the US population; if you count those who claim they are not religious, the numbers are even greater. More significantly, these numbers are increasing.

Of course, I recognized that one of the great appeals of being a “believer” is that they can surround themselves with like-minded, affable, friendly, community-spirited individuals. There is a comfortable payoff to being among a group of people who appear to be like you; a sense of “belonging” is deep in our psyche. Conversely, Atheists are often not big on joining. Taking an invidualistic point of view can leave one feeling as though you are left to twist in the wind; outside of “conventional” acceptance. Not always a comfortable place to be.

For a number of years I have attended meetings of the Corvallis Secular Society. There are perhaps a dozen of us “regulars” who meet once a month. Yet elsewhere in town thousands of people are regularly going to all manner of Christian churches, a mosque, a synagogue, often several days a week; and new LDS “wards” are regularly popping up all over town. But Atheists do not have a strong need to congregate; we don’t need to bolster one another’s beliefs. To us, “None of the Above” is not a choice – it is an absence of choice.

The thought that atheists are a threat to believers, in view of the disparity between our numbers, is quite laughable. But we represent something that believers find insidious and fearful: doubt!

Of course the other benefit of being a believer is the feeling that an omnipotent being is going to somehow act as a mediating force between you and the harsh randomness of statistical chance. The numbers are pretty clear and quite telling; the probabilities that some of us will come down with ugly diseases or die or are injured in accidents, has remains fairly constant and predictable. The belief that praying for divine intercession to ward off some of these unhappy events; well, I can certainly understand the attractiveness of holding onto such an idea.

When I was a kid I had a teddy bear. "Ba Ba" slept with me at night and gave me comfort from the dark, from the monsters hiding under my bed. I could hold Ba Ba close and bury my face in his comforting cotton fur. But Ba Ba eventually wore out... as did my belief in god. I recognized Ba Ba for what he really was; cloth and stuffing and thread.

I am left, as are all atheists, with a tough choice. Is it better to fool ourselves into believing in the "comforting lie", or deal honestly with the harsh realities of the real world? For me, as comfortable as it might appear, I cannot return back to embracing a Ba Ba; my heart and my brain both tell me it is the wrong choice.

It is said that it is much easier to “believe” than to “know”. Doing the easy thing has seldom proven to be the right choice in my life.

Footnote: Tonight I moderate a local public event called "Ask and Atheist" at the public library. It is an open forum where members of the public can ask questions about the positions of non-believers. The topic tonight is where does morality come from. If some of the vehement anonymous online comments to the announcement to the newspaper are any indicator, it could prove to be an interesting evening. If I am not burned at the stake, I will post a recounting of how it went.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Crime Reports

Arrested on suspicion of burglary... (though I suspect these two guys were just the "lookouts").

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Undeserving

My wife is having great fun connecting to people on Facebook; friends from high school and college and some former work mates. To some extent most of their pages reveal we share similar interests and values between us; others are somewhat on the opposite end of the political spectrum. The people who use their social networking to promote their differing political and/or religious views do give her some concern, though she mostly remains silent and so she does not write her differing opinions on their walls. But my wife is not without opinion, most of which ends up falling on MY poor ears.

I am of a different mind, though, and rather than remain silent, I feel compelled at times to present an opposing view in the (often vain) hope of perhaps swaying an opinion. As these issues often weigh heavily on my mind, I found myself continuing to mull over the comments left on one my earlier blogs where I voiced my criticism of the Tea Party Movement. Within the repartee between this commenter and myself, there seemed to run a consistent underlying premise: that through some malfeasance or failing on their part, certain people in this country are “undeserving”, they have not “earned” the right to enjoy the benefits others are apparently entitled.

This concept that many believe that certain segments of our population are "undeserving", I am beginning to feel, is what is behind this denouncing as "Socialism" any benefit from society that people feel is undeserved or unearned. My conclusions are drawn from my own personal observation and experience over recent years.

For example, a while back I heard an article on National Public Radio about a woman who was recruited to conduct public meetings to discuss health care reform. This presenter thought contacting churches would provide a receptive audience, speaking to congregations about the need to extend health care to those who were under, or not, insured. The salient point here was that this presenter assumed that church and religious organizations would eagerly embrace the concept of providing medical services to those in need. After all, religion supposedly promotes charity, compassion and helping the less-fortunate; she truly believed that their religious spirit would appeal to their hearts and their sense of humanity. WRONG! Instead these supposed Christians were completely affronted by the idea of extending benefits to people who hadn’t earned the privilege – and especially not if such benefits might cause THEIR taxes to increase.

Then yet another piece of the puzzle, drawn from my own personal experience: During the first half of my career I worked in the banking industry. I was brought up in a staunch Republican household, so as banker and businessman, the policies of candidate Ronald Reagan resonated strongly with me and therein went my vote. Yet within a short period following, major changes happened in my life – layoff, divorce, debt and poverty, then remarriage and later a completely new career. I married a woman who had been a single mom on Welfare but who had worked her way out of poverty. My new wife actually worked FOR the state Welfare department at the time we met. Freshly unemployed myself, I recall telling her one day “There’s no way I could EVER do your job”. Well, never say never - my second career found me as a Welfare Caseworker.

Previously as a suit-and-tie Republican banker I recalled having held strong opinions about the “work ethic”, self-sufficiency and personal responsibility. I had a low opinion of the “lesser classes” in our society with whom I had little to no contact with. Now as a caseworker, I was deeply and intimately involved in understanding how the other half of society in this country lives. It was a very harsh lesson in reality. I had to release a lot of myths I had held about this segment of the “undeserving” in this country.

In my recent conversation on my Tea Bag post, the commenter repeatedly asserted that through some act, or lack of action or being responsible, was the alleged reason my relatives did not have adequate medical coverage. The allegation was that these members of my family (which clearly he was projecting on society at large) had made some type of bad decision or poor choices which resulted in the source of their deprivation. Not so; illness, death, disability, layoff and unemployment, events all completely beyond the control of my family (and again, society at large) were the reasons.

These completely naive and ignorant assertions, tabulated along with many similar experiences as a Welfare Worker, and in my understanding about the resistance to any sort of health care reform, solidified a belief which I now strongly hold:
There exists a large proportion of our population who are absolutely terrified that someone is going to get something that they don’t deserve, some benefit that they didn’t earn and to which they should not be entitled.
Though I would like to lay this set of beliefs squarely at the feet of Conservatives, I think this is likely pervasive throughout the social and political strata. Somebody is afraid that if someone else gets “more”, then there will be “less” for the them and they are angry as hell about that prospect.

Having lived in both economic extremes, I can sympathize with the mind set that ours is a country of opportunity; that through hard work and diligent effort, one can attain a good life. But people often forget that the “good life” can be transitory; things can change in an instant and with no warning. That troubling lump on your body you wake up to one day could have a very chilling diagnosis or you could be one of the 40,000 people a year who hop in their car and drive away from their house and never come home. No one is immune from random unforeseen events of tragedy, some life choices are made for us with neither our approval nor warning.

When I was a banker in my three piece suit, I thought that people who didn’t have what I had simply needed to just pull themselves up by their own boot straps. But when I later shed the suit for Dockers as a Welfare Caseworker, I learned that some people don’t have boot straps.

I thought I would present a few “fast facts” about the welfare system and welfare clients.
  • ~ The original program I worked with was called ADC (Aid to Dependent Children). It is now called TANF (Transitional Assistance to Needy Families). Most welfare recipients are children (the money goes to the parent, of course). Only a very few states provide cash benefit assistance to childless adults. To be eligible to receive benefits, the household must suffer “deprivation”, insufficient income. One cannot cause their own deprivation; for example, one cannot intentionally quit a job to be eligible for welfare.
  • ~ Most state welfare programs require participation in job placement or work search activities unless the dependent child is an infant. (Personally I always chuckled at the hypocrisy that society expected middle-class mothers stay home and raise their kids but expected welfare mothers to go to work).
  • ~ About 5% of welfare recipients receive benefits for very short periods of time. These clients generally have higher education, work experience or other skills that make them readily employable. Often their deprivation is due to temporary setbacks such as job layoff or divorce. Another 45% of welfare recipients may be employable but need assistance with job skills, education, training, clothing, housing, transportation, child care or other issues which may be barriers to employment. The remaining 50% of welfare recipients have major barriers to employment such as drug and alcohol addiction, physical and/or psychological problems, suffer physical, mental or sexual abuse, may be involved in the criminal justice system or have issues which otherwise make them unlikely to be employable. In most cases several of these issues are factors in the families lives.
  • ~ Welfare grant amounts have increased only fractionally in comparison to the rate of increase in the cost of living and inflation to where today the amount of a welfare grant allotment seldom provides sufficient funds to meet any of the most basic needs such as rent, utilities or food; households must also seek housing assistance, Food Stamps and other forms of community assistance to survive.
  • ~ Welfare clients receive medial care as a component of their welfare grant eligibility through state administered Medicaid programs.
  • ~ Welfare costs represent roughly 1% of the federal budget.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Message from the Stars

My appreciation to all of you who participated in my little Astrology experiment. If you believed the horoscope for your zodiacal sign fit your personality pretty well, or if not and you want to see if a different sign is a better fit, go back (if you haven't already) and look at some of the other horoscopes.

... Or I can save you the trouble... they're all identical. (Murr, you were already"on to me")

In reviewing your comments, (they don't really need tabulating) most of you found some level of fit with at least a portion of the horoscope, (with the exception of Penny who lives in the Southern Hemisphere... probably because, from her vantage point, all the constellations appear upside down. *wink*)

I lifted this horoscope from a site called Life Path Number (there are thousands of similar sites) which have you to input your birth date to receive your "unique" horoscope. Actually it retrieves one of only 12 horoscope versions for 365 birth days a year. In other words, among the 6.6 billion people on the planet, you share these unique and individual personality traits with a mere 550,000,000 other people.

As you can easily discern, horoscopes are written in such general terms that the conditions "could" apply to anyone and everyone. Being the pattern seeking animals that we are, we readily find and eagerly apply the connections that resemble what the horoscope suggests about us. We then simply disregard the "misses". Humans are much better at coming to conclusions based on emotional valuations - doing objective mental statistical analysis is not a natural part of our thought processes. This is why anecdotes often carry more weight in our decision making than hard facts, or why gambling is so compelling to some even though the statistical odds of winning are almost never in our favor.

Horoscopes are designed to push the buttons that make us feel good; and therein lies their universal appeal. We unconsciously "cherry pick" the positively reinforcing concepts and plug them into the area of or brain where we would like them to fit. The messages need to be general and positive for them to feel relevant. This is why horoscopes are never very specific and seldom deliver bad news. For example, a horoscope supposedly crafted for you will never suggest you have that odd mole on your shoulder checked out or warn you that your cholesterol is getting pretty high.

Astrology has no basis in fact because the "constellations" don't really exist. We humans have imposed images and symbols (like the image of Orion above) from our imagination onto the patterns of stars and anthropomorphize inanimate objects. In actuality the planet Venus is extremely hot and arid with an impressively heavy atmosphere; that it could have anything to do with love in human beings is preposterous. In the time it took for you to read this article, the planets have moved thousands of miles in their orbits. Their proximity to each other has no discernible effect on the love, relationships, wealth or the health of humans. Light from those stars began it's journey millions of years before we (even this plant) were born.

Yet people will often turn to these nebulous bits of silliness to make life-changing decisions. Even a US President was said to have consulted an Astrologer. Sadly, I personally know people who have who have parted with their hard-earned money to seek reassurance from these simplistic, hollow, feel-good messages.

The bottom line remains, though: Astrology is bunk... always has been; always will be.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

What's Your Sign? An Experiment

Perusing the Bloggosphere recently, I've noticed a surprising amount of psychic phenomena popping up – Astrology, Reiki and the like. Recently fellow blogger Murr Brewster posted a delightfully funny post about Numerology on her blog.

Still, a lot of folks are quite serious about these matters. But being a Skeptic, my expectation is that people back up their beliefs with something more substantial – facts are a good start!

So it got me wondering if I could convince any of my readers to participate in a little experiment:

Below are links to horoscopes for each of the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Click the link to the ONE horoscope attributed to YOUR astrological sign ONLY; read your horoscope, then leave a comment on how closely you feel your horoscope fits your personality profile.

So as not to skew the results, please do not read any other horoscopes for friends, relatives, etc… just read YOURS. When leaving your opinion in the comments section:
  1. Identify your sign of the zodiac, and
  2. State your opinion regarding how accurately you feel the horoscope matched your personality.
Ready… set… GO!
  • Aries -- The Ram -- Mar. 21–Apr. 19
  • Taurus -- The Bull -- Apr. 20–May 20
  • Gemini -- The Twins -- May 21–June 21
  • Cancer -- The Crab -- June 22–July 22
  • Leo -- The Lion -- July 23–Aug. 22
  • Virgo -- The Virgin -- Aug. 23–Sept. 22
  • Libra -- The Balance -- Sept. 23–Oct. 23
  • Scorpio -- The Scorpion -- Oct. 24–Nov. 21
  • Sagittarius -- The Archer -- Nov. 22–Dec. 21
  • Capricorn -- The Goat -- Dec. 22–Jan. 19
  • Aquarius -- The Water Bearer -- Jan. 20–Feb. 18
  • Pisces -- The Fishes -- Feb. 19–Mar. 20
In a few days I will blog the results, presenting an objective tabulation of how closely these horoscopes fit the astrological signs of individual commentors.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Knowing what you believe, believing what you know.

Blogging has been a great release for me; a way to solidify my thoughts and present both (hopefully) a bit of humor and a little useful information to my readers. I know that some of my blog entries rub people the wrong way; particularly those who are “believers” in Deistic or Theistic god(s), energies, Chakras, Chi and any number of warm fuzzy comforting supernatural and paranormal beliefs. You, as a reader, can choose to accept or reject my comments, but what I hope though, is that you at least THINK about them... maybe ask some questions of your own.

The film I made about Jerry Andrus chronicled a man who had a sincere and deep appreciation of life. In order to fully appreciate it, he had to know all he could about it. He found the complexity of the universe exciting and fulfilling, full of “wonder” as he very often said. He found that religion and superstition added nothing to the human experience, in fact, he saw religion as inhibiting the potential of humans. He noted that every day science adds to the body of human knowledge; while religion brings nothing new to our understanding of our world and life.

I have never (yet) censored comments made to my blog; I value dissenting opinions. I am not always right, I am human and humans make mistakes. But I am a Skeptic – so when someone presents an idea, then I need to know that it has some substance behind it, that the source of the position is not that it simply feels good to believe it is true. If you offer Reiki or “The Secret” or Feng Shui as actual forces in the universe, then I expect that you can back them up with explanations of how they work and statistics proving they do. Believing is not the same as knowing. Skeptics are from Missouri – the “Show me” state!

We humans are remarkably susceptible to self-delusion; we can fool ourselves much easier than we can fool others… and without even being aware of it. As Michael Shermer said in my film in talking about how Jerry’s mind worked: “…to really see what no one else sees, or very few other people see, you have to be vigilant and consciously attempt to look outside of the box, get out of your rut. It does take some effort, it’s not natural.”

I am planning to continue my blogging. I hope you will find it at times, entertaining, informative, thought-provoking, and possibly at times it may even piss you off. I blog for all those reasons and more.

Thank you for reading. – Robert the Skeptic

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A few quick updates

Just a quick follow-up on some of the stories posted in recent weeks...

Heaven Awaits -

In response to my post earlier this month Cold Beer in Heaven about unlikely possibility of their being a Heaven, I received an e-mail from reader, Adam, providing a link to an extremely well conceived and written article titled "Heaven: A fool's paradise" written by Johann Hari of UK's "The Independent". Hari covered the issue in much further depth and more adroitly than my meager attempt. Damn, you Brits really do know how to turn a phrase.

Runaway Pride -
You may recall back in March in my blog titled Driving Up Fear I had predicted that the story about the alleged runaway Toyota Prius in San Diego would turn out to be a complete fraud. Sure enough, authorities have concluded that the guy faked the accelerator incident. The reason the guy will likely NOT face criminal charges is that, other than speeding, he hasn't actually committed a crime (yet). The article goes on to say: "In the wake of a congressional memo that raised doubts about James Sikes' tale concerning his out of control Toyota... the 61-year-old now just wants to be left alone." Apparently he isn't planning on suing Toyota (e.g. no fraud = no crime). I'm psychic, or what!?

The Fairy Scientist -
I have received a few e-mails asking how our video, The Fairy Scientist, placed in the Project Reason video contest. Although it was one of nine finalists, it did not place among the top three winning videos. However, Lydia's YouTube video has since gone "viral" with tens of thousands of views to date and been linked to several science, technology and children's blogs including Discover Magazine, and has even generated a few Fairy Scientist knock-off pages in FaceBook. One of the kids in her first grade class even asked Lydia for her autograph, which she obliged... in crayon.

More tea anyone?
Finally, you may be interested in returning to my post titled Moron America and the Tea Bag Movement and read the updated "comments" exchange between me and proponent of the Tea Bag Movement (which apparently is really the "Less/Small Government Movement"). Entertaining reading. If you have strong opinions about the subject I might suggest you save them for later rather than add to that thread; I will likely be writing about this topic again.

More content in the pipe this month so stay tuned. ~ Robert the Skeptic