Monday, March 22, 2010

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, The Amateur Scientist Podcast, The Skeptic Zone, Token Skeptic, and For Good Reason

Since I have become a bit behind this past weekend on my posts, I will do a quickie catch-up and return to my regularly scheduled posting this week.  (I do try to cover a good three quarters of the podcasts I follow.  Sometimes the 100 year old house and the wife's birthday nudge out the skepticism.)  I shall try to restrict myself to two or three sentences per podcast, and maybe cover one or two odds or ends.

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe interviewed actor Greg Grunberg due to his epilepsy activism.  Grunberg's son was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 7, and Grunberg is out to make being an epileptic a more open and less mysterious disease.  He obviously cares a great deal for  his son, and is raising money and lending his name for a good cause.  As an added bonus, he takes his son for the best treatment from actual medical doctors and not Suzanne Somers endorsed quacks or other alt med ideas.  It was a fine interview, and a change of pace for the show, but I did not find it particularly informing.

The Amateur Scientist Podcast played the 96 minute live podcast Brian Thompson did at Manuels Bar in Atlanta, Georgia in a benefit for Skepticamp.  Thompson, with a bit of practice, could make a reasonable live performer, and perhaps even brilliant.  Thompson opened with a bit of standup comedy/monologue and then cut to Paul and the CBS Orchestra.  No. Wait.  Letterman does that. Thompson then cut to the card table behind him with microphones where he proceeded to interview Blake Smith of the Monster Talk Podcast (aka Dr. Atlantis on the internet) and Lindsay Starke, a conspiracy skeptic.  (She might give Karl Mamer a run for his money in the impressive category.  While Mamer speaks Korean like a South Korean altar boy, Starke speaks a Mayan dialect.)  Smith spoke of his love for monsters, the various types of monsters to be discussed, and he seemed to be a really cool guy.  I could drink beer and eat bbq with him.  Thompson then did a bit of audience participation and crank called a Bigfoot hotline, and followed this with an interview of Starke.  Starke knows her second rate book publishing, working for a time at Feral House where she once opened a letter by Theodore Kaczinski, the Unabomber.  She also shared her dislike of the 2012 end of the world folks.  They piss her off since they have no understanding of the once and current Mayan people and culture.  It really ticks her off.  It was a fun filled double dose of Thompson, and for the most part it really worked.  I recommend it, but if you can watch the video feed, it will be all the better.

The Skeptic Zone was one show I gave credit for getting out on a weekly basis, and this show, while interesting, was likely a place filler. (sort of like this blog post) The show featured an interview by Eran Segev of Stuart Garth, who is a science teacher at the Holy Redeemer School.  The school cleans up year after year in science project contests.  One of the entries in the high school level is resulting in a device to help color blind people figure out what color they are trying to match.  Garth explained how to guide the students by helping them get a workable idea and shoot for a certain level of experiment and do some basic literature research.  Segev asked about any conflicts between teaching science in a religious school, and I am sure Prof. P.Z. Myers' head would pop off a bit.  Segev was not doing a debate but an interview and geared toward how the school teaches science so effectively, and not where, if any, are the boundaries between science and religion.  Garth spoke very carefully, and he seemed to intimate some questioning of global climate change and what the bible might have meant when it noted that the Earth was the center of the universe.  I give Segev credit for bringing it up.

While Segev's interview was a good as anything the show normally does, the second bit was another installment of the Skeptic Tank on Netfm from 2001.   Richard Saunders was a guest Stefan Sojka along with Dr. Paul Willis, paleontologist, and they discussed evolution vs creationism.  It was a good interview, and sadly, it is a discussion that is as timely today as it was a decade ago.  Saunders and the gang dusted off an interview from Netfm only a month ago, so it did not feel as special.  Don't get me wrong, it was interesting, but hopefully the dusting off of these chestnuts will occur a bit more spaced apart.

The Token Skeptic had a teaser interview that Kylie Sturgess had of Julian Marrow of the Chaser comedy group.  The full interview will be on a future interview of the Skeptic Zone.  The interview was done at the Global Atheist Convention where apparently very few of the people believe in god.  The interview contained a video bit played at the conference where Marrow and the Chasers confront John Edward, the jackass who claims to talk to the dead, all dressed as Ghostbusters.  The Ghostbusters' bullshit detectors were going off the chart.  I really dislike Edward.  

I received an email from a listener who I'll call C.F. as I do not know if they wish to remain anonymous. He brought up that the web design of some podcasts are not easily navigated to actually find and download the episodes.  Yes, there are aggregators such as iTunes, which is what I use the majority of the time.  This is not always an option if you have a Zune, or want to listen at work, or in my case, when you are out and about and download a show onto your non-Apple smartphone.  Many websites such as the Conspiracy Skeptic have a nice icon  to click. (apparently 3.5" floppy disks are still big in Canada.)

Others, such as the just mentioned and impressive newcomer, Token Skeptic, are a bit less self-explanatory in figuring out how to get to the audio content.  This can be frustrating when you get a tweet advertising that a new episode is up, but when one gets to the site, I cannot for the life of me figure out how to download it.  I think C.F. brings up a good point that downloading and listening to an episode on a website should be so easy that a Pennsylvanian can do it.  (Stop using flash on your website design too, but that's a different topic.)

There you go...a quick, down, and dirty on four podcasts.  The Amateur Scientist Podcast was great, but it'll take sometime, and Segev's interview of Garth was interesting.  Podcasters hear my plea, especially in the summer months, not to all release between Friday night and Saturday afternoon.  What about poor Tuesday or lonely Wednesday?

Finally, on For Good Reason, James "The Amazing" Randi, a man who needs no introduction, came out of the closet.  Randi is gay.  This apparently has been an open secret with associates, family, friends etc. for quite sometime.  While Randi indicated that he has never hidden his sexual orientation, I cannot help but think to some extent  he has not been as open about it as say his interviewer D.J. Grothe.  It seems terribly sad to have to live a somewhat lie (for the lack of a better term) until aged 81.  I can't say I am surprised or shocked or happy since I never thought of Randi as "gett'n it on" one way or the other.  It's like thinking of the grandparents in that way.  yick.

We here at the Skeptical Review wish Randi the best, and to all those kooks out there who might use this as a way to "attack" Randi, go jump in a lake and get a life.


  1. Coming out of the closet after 81 years? Wow. I really need to listen to that ep. The term comes with a lot of baggage. Probably is not such a big thing for Randi. It's just the subject never really came up. I don't need to discuss my sexuality and no one really cares (BUT YOU KNOW IT INVOLVES LEGGY KOREANS). But in a world where marriage rights are a political issue, it can't hurt to add your name to the list of people who marriage laws unfairly discriminate against.

  2. It is interesting and I have not done it justice with my brief blurb.

  3. Ah crap... I seem to keep telling this to people but they don't seem to see it. :/

    Okay, there's a BIG iTunes logo on the right-hand side of the screen? Just under that is the Zune and the mp3 link?

    There's also a column on that right-hand side, with all the episodes, which you can find on Libsyn by just clicking on the ep and the mp3 is at the end of every post.

    I'll get to reworking the site today, make it easier to find. Thanks for the review again!

  4. And YES, I'll aim for Tuesday/Wednesday in future - will make me get everything finished on the Monday night that way. :)

  5. I am sure CF will appreciate it, and as always thanks for reading.

  6. I've tinkered with it! There's now three different ways to click to get eps, so I hope that helps.

    And there's a new logo on the way! :D

    And the missing eps... well, at least a new one out tomorrow, which will be Tues morning/Tues night. :)


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