Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A talk of the old days and an idea for the future.

This week's Skeptics' Guide to the Universe was recorded at TAM 13.  I listened with interest on how the newest Rogue, Cara Santa Maria, fared during her first day 'on the job.'  I plan to listen to a few more episodes and then draw some initial conclusions.

the skeptical sun could still be rising 
Of greater interest was the interview of senior skeptics and the founding fathers of modern skepticism, James Randi and Ray Hyman.  The particular portion of the interview that struck a chord with me was Hyman and Randi discussing the beginnings of their skeptical collaboration along with Paul Kurtz and Martin Gardner.   This initial organization that eventually became CSICOP included not just these gentlemen, but also Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov among others.  The old days were not perfect as for example there was tension between the academics and non-academics.  From Randi and Hyman's recollection at the start, they toiled on the focus and the mission of the new organization while Kurtz just wanted to get matters organized and implemented.  Randi and Hyman wished to hash out should their new group's focus be on education, basic information, or just downright proselytizing.  Unfortunately, fairly early on tension grew between Randi and the others on how to handle Uri Gellar's threats of litigation resulting in Randi's departure.  Randi wished to keep after Gellar head on, while Hyman (and others) wished to avoid direct confrontation.

Although I have had a rather dour recent post on the current state and future possible state of skepticism, it is good to keep in mind and gain some perspective that things within skepdom have never been perfect. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Imitation Game & the SGU's Big Announcement

I was informed by the editor that she had rented "The Imitation Game" on iTunes as it was on special for 99¢.  So we settled down to watch it Saturday night after a long day at Hersheypark, our local amusement park.  I then checked my twitter feed and saw that Cara Santa Maria had been announced as the latest Rogue at TAM 13.  Therefore, I went back and listened to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe episode 497 which featured Maria as a guest Rogue.  Overall, Maria sounded as if she made a nice fit.  I plan to listen to a couple more episodes with her as a Rogue before commenting further.  I do hope her addition stirs the SGU pot a bit and freshens up the show.  

On this particular episode, the Rogues reviewed "The Imitation Game."  It was a bit freaky.  Perhaps not freaky enough to make it to The Odds Must be Crazy, but I listened to their take on the movie with interest.  I generally disagreed with the Rogues positive review.  

First, Benedict Cumberbatch, known for his modern portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on the BBC and as Khan in "Star Trek Into Darkness," was the best thing about the movie. Cumberbatch probably could play a loaf of bread in a elementary school production of the food pyramid and make it work.   

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Six Years of the Skeptical Review

France.  America salutes you.
Trigger Warning: Rambling 

Happy Bastille Day and more importantly (but not for the French) Skeptical Review Day as it has been six years since I launched this vanity project.  My original conception of this blog was to follow upwards of a dozen or so skeptical podcasts and churn out ten to twelve posts a month sharing my observations and thoughts on them.  That did not last.  In the beginning, I was full of optimism about skepticism and dubious about how long this blog would last.  Well, now I am a bit world weary about skepticism, and stunned I have kept publishing this blog even with its shifted focus and more constrained output.

Truth is, I do not listen to nearly as many skeptical podcasts as I once did.  Some of them
have ceased production such as my beloved Righteous Indignation or the entertaining Just Skeptics.  Others, frankly, grew stale such as The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe and the Skeptic Zone.  I do listen to the SGU and the Zone from time to time, or skip to a particularly intriguing section of an episode I find in the show notes.  My days of waiting like a skeptic junkie for the latest SGU to drop on Saturday (c’mon man where is the episode Novella . . . c’mon) are gone.  Point of Inquiry is a reflection of what it once was when D.J. Grothe was at the helm all those many years ago.  Rationally Speaking with the recent departure of Prof. Massimo Pigliucci remains an open question.  Julia Galef was a good counterpart to Pigliucci, but can she carry the show without Pigliucci's quick insight and Italian accent? We'll see. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Skepticality 255 & Perry DeAngelis

Skepticality episode 255 is brief as it runs well under an hour.  There is no interview other than Derek introducing the episode explaining that with how busy things are pre-The Amazing Meeting 13 the following is basically the podlets sans interview by him at the end.

Tim Farley during his part discusses the recent sentencing of the infamous David Mabus for his online abuse and threats against skeptics and atheists online.  Mabus is a mentally ill man.  I hope he gets the help he needs, but I do hope the Canadian authorities are able to keep him at bay.  Farley also shares some online tools such as Yahoo! Pipes that are going away as well as some Twitter archiving tools that are no longer going to be supported by Twitter.  Software comes and software goes.  

Pretty sure Loxton was speaking when this pic
was taken.  oops. 
 The Odds Must be Crazy covers a strange story of coincidence experienced by Skepticism’s own Daniel Loxton after he gave his talk at last year’s TAM.  (We here at the Skeptical Review attended TAM 2014.  One of the few lectures I missed was Loxton’s which from all accounts was impressive and moving.  We were by the pool.  With hindsight I could have picked a better time to enjoy such watery pleasures.)  It was a typically nicely done segment.  Eve Siebert for the Skeptical Humanities segment gives Penguin Publishing a full broadside for the inclusion of a most certainly hoax map as the cover of book of the translated Vinland Sagas.  They get Sieberted.