It is true. I have been remiss in my blogging duties this summer.
I had been working on a post about the debate going on within the skeptical community over "tone" and demeanor which was sparked by Dr. Phil Plait's now famous/infamous "don't be a dick" speech at TAM 8. I have blogged about it briefly before, and was planning a long post on it, but it became so convoluted and tedious as to be unreadable -much like Moby Dick.
Anyway, the long and the short of my post was that while I am all for the free exchange of idea within the body skeptic in the end skeptics come in all sorts of sizes, shapes, colors, nationalities, faiths(or not), genders, and personalities. We are human, and we are never going to agree on everything. While I do not see the current debate fracturing skepticism, I do have concerns at some point it just might. I doubt it will be worth the fracturing if it does occur. Or I had something written down like that on pieces of paper at work, online, napkins etc. It was a mess.
So Dr. Phil Plait was on the last Skeptics' Guide to the Universe schilling for his new television pilot episode of "Bad Universe" which aired on the Discovery channel. As Lady was watching the Emmys during its airing, I was able to sacrifice the airing of an all new "Mad Men" to the DVR and indeed watch "Bad Universe." I cannot fathom anyone in the States who is reading this blog has not already watch Dr. Plait's show, but for my readers outside of the States the episode focused on what would happen if an asteroid or comet hit the Earth, and in particular struck Sydney, Australia. (Other than the obvious that The Skeptic Zone would be out half its crew.) "Bad Universe" also went into great experimental detail revealing what is likely to happen if we launch a nuclear tipped missile at one among other avoidance strategies. I enjoyed the episode, and Dr. Plait did not seem to be putting on a phoney television persona, and seemed quite natural. I hope the show gets renewed for more episodes and at least a full season's run to see how the show evolves. My only complaint of the show was that it seemed to be channeling a lot of "Myth Busters" feel and penchant to blow stuff up. I would expect with time and experience the show will get its own feel.
As much as I wish to get to TAM someday, I really ought to shoot for Dragon Con. Not because I like to dress up in costumes, but it seems a lot of the skeptics I admire such as Kylie Sturgess, Brian Thompson, Rebecca Watson, and Richard Saunders are attending. Me buying Kylie a scotch and Thompson a pink lady would be fantastic fun. As big a deal as Dragon Con is these days with skeptics there is a new skeptical gathering the QED Conference, February 5 - 6, 2011 in Manchester, England. It is a combined effort of the Greater Manchester Skeptics and Mersey Side Skeptics. The have bagged Pennsylvania's own George Hrab to act at the master of ceremonies with the incomparable Dr. Eugenie Scott, Jon Ronson, and Bruce Hood among others as speakers. All of this for £99 in real money or about $152 in devalued U.S. currency. I believe Trystan Swale, Marsh, Dr. Janice Bennion, and Gavin Schofield among others will be in attendance. It appears that SkepReview will have a very friendly inside skeptic posting to this blog from QED. It is very cool, and appreciated.
Speaking of some of my favorite skeptics who are subjects of HRM, on Righteous Indignation Chris Atkins was on for the second week in a row. This part of the interviewed focused on his thoughts on the role of the media in properly informing the public. In particular how it is failing and instead of informing on useful topics is falling to the lowest common denominator. Atkins' solution to a poorly functioning news and media is to return a greater portion of the news outlets from free to paid. Atkins believes if people have to pay for their news then they will take a greater interest in obtaining worth while news and not support news outlets that bombard the consumer with useless tid bits of fluff such as what shade is Paris Hilton's eyeliner, or talking to Jude Law on the strategic diposition of troops in Afghanistan. Instead of the media chasing ratings and website hits with salacious stories, the consumer is more likely to demand good content when it is being paid for out of pocket.
It is an interesting notion, and I do not dismiss it out of hand. However, a lot of people pay for subscriptions for such titans of knowledge as Maxim and Entertainment Weekly all the time. I am doubtful this will solve anything. It was a thought provoking interview.
On Irreligiosophy Chuck and Leighton finished a two part interview of brothers Mike and Chris who discussed their experiences during their two year missionary experiences as LDS youths. Between the episodes 77 and 78 are roughly two hours of basically depressing yet fascinating detail information what is going on for those mormons looking for converts. Oddly whiling listen to episode 78 I saw two such LDS youths walking down Chocolate Avenue while walking Ike. I was hoping they would try and talk me up so I could ask them about the Book of Abraham and the Adam God belief, alas no such luck.
The long and the short of it is that being on a mission sounds about as difficult as being a Marine. (Unless the Marine is in combat then granted that is far, far worse.) You have to endure boot camp, a posting, a chain of command, low pay, but unlike Marines you are forbidden to use your status to pick up chicks and the "uniform" is a lot less snappy.
I listened to other podcasts, but the above are the high points.