Saturday, October 25, 2014

iMortal podcast

Listened on Arment's podcatcher app
The guy knows his programing, not cars
Note: This post is really more about tech than skepticism.  If such a topic holds no charms for you please skip this post.  

Paul Fidalgo is probably known by the reader as the communications director of the Center For Inquiry (CFI) and posting the Morning Heresy web news roundup during the week.  Fidalgo is also a tech geek, and in particular, a fan of Apple products.  I will not paint him with the 'fan boy' brush, although some might consider him one.

Fidalgo has a new tech/Apple-centered podcast called iMortal.  He also has a blog by the same name.  So far, five episodes have been released of which I listened to episode 4 and a special episode between episodes 2 and 3, which I shall refer to as 3.5.  Both of these episodes revolved around one of Apple's two recent announcement events.  Episode 3.5 covered the iPhone and Apple Watch event in September and Episode 4 covered the iPad and OS X Yosemite release event.  As a person who enjoys his Apple gear, and enjoys Fidalgo's tweets on Apple and tech topics, I thought I would give the podcast a listen.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

TV Time: How We Got to Now

James Burke created two television series that I just fell in love with when I was a kid and teen.  The first was "The Day the Universe Changed" and the second was Connections.  Connections was aired first in the 1970s, but I personally viewed Universe first.  Both series are similar in style to Carl Sagan's Cosmos wherein the host leads the viewer through a series of events surrounding a topic with an on camera host giving the play by play.  In Cosmos' "Blues for the Red Planet" Sagan gives a history of Mars in the popular imagination and the going and
Burke rocking that 70s style
changing search for life on Mars.  An episode of Connections propounded how mining pushed for the need for more efficient pumps that resulted in the steam engine and birthed the industrial revolution.   Granted, sometimes the storytelling upon reflection is somewhat forced to fit story, and things are likely more complex than presented and yet it was fascinating.

Now the BBC and PBS have joined forces to produce How We Got to Now, a series hosted by Steven Johnson revealing how relatively unknown folks in today's popular memory invented and triggered events that drastically changed the world.  I have watched the first two episodes and it has a very 'Day the Universe Changed' vibe about it more than a Cosmos one.

Before I watched the show, I did not know who Johnson was but upon doing some research, I knew of some of his work.   He has written a number of books and articles for outlets such as Wired discussing technology and its interaction with society.  Thought-provoking stuff for the most part.  The first episode, Clean, tackles how the modern world became the much more sanitary world of non-filth-filled street along with clean drinking water.  The second episode, Time, weaves the tale on how time went from something very local and daily to the standardized international time standard society enjoys today.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014


While there is a significant amount of infighting within skepdom these days, I would say more so in the United States than Australia or Britain, but infighting there is aplenty.  However, skeptics have shown recent evidence of still being able to band together against a common threat.

British and French fight as one (wikipedia)
Litigation is the "Germany" that causes skeptics to rally together as the French and Brits did in '14 and '39.  The current plight of British skeptic Mark Tilbrook being threatening with legal harm as well insinuated physical harm at the hands of people close to famous British psychic Sally Morgan has triggered a groundswell of support for him.  Simon Singh's Good Thinking Society has kicked off psychic awareness month, and provided some legal aid or advice.  This matter has been covered by Doubtful News, The Token Skeptic, and The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe among others.  

Further litigious threat is that the SGU's Steven Novella and Science Based Medicine are being sued for expressing a negative view of the medical notions of Dr. Edward Tobinick.  Skeptics with a K noted in their latest podcast that Q.E.D. is donating over $1,000.00 to the SGU's defense fund.  (Yes, Brits think it's spelled "defence" and they add an extra "m" as well as a random "e" to the word "program," but we still respect them.)  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


I am still listening to the Skeptoid podcast.

I was not sure this would be the case a couple of months ago, when news of Dunning's sentencing hit skepdom.  Interestingly, there are a fair number of skeptical podcasts that I used to listen to like clockwork that I currently only take in from time to time.  As far as I know, all of their hosts and producers are not convicted felons.  Yet, Skeptoid, despite its founder Brian Dunning's serious legal problems, I still listen to on a weekly basis, and almost always within hours of its release.  

A big part of the reason is nothing more than convenience.  The episodes are still 10 to 15 minutes long, and one does not have to set aside a block of time to listen.  I usually listen on the drive home from work every Tuesday when the new episodes are released.  It'a s very opportune fit.  Part of the reason is the episodes so far--whether a fill-in host, or presumably something pre-recorded by Dunning--still pack the same quick blurb of information on some woo topic, pseudoscience, or conspiracy.  As always, Skeptoid is not the end all be all on a covered issue, but the show still produces a reasonable, useful and interesting 'World Book Encyclopedia' overview and jumping off point on a given subject.  

Dunning is still a felon, and after reading everything I could after his sentencing, serving some deserved time.  I do not condone his behavior or actions.  Yet, the show despite Dunning's legal issues is still a nice package.  There no other shows that I am aware of that does the same quick skeptical drive-by of information other than the 'podlet' portion at the start of Skepticality.  Each of the podlets is too sub-specialized to achieve the same thing as Dunning produces.  Dunning found a good niche, and he and his associates continue to fill that niche nicely.   

I enjoy my Tuesday hit of skeptical goodness even if the Godfather of the show has done some highly dubious things in his past professional life.  In the end, I appreciate that Skeptoid just works.  When the show breaks, I'll stop listening.