Monday, June 29, 2009

40,000 Views


40000 Views
Originally uploaded by Mully410

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to announce that Mully410's Flickr photos have surpassed 40,000 views.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Conspirama Likes My Posts...lol

Votes on Conspirama

I was checking out my Google Analytics recently and found some hits coming from conspirama.com. Interesting. People have bookmarked my two psychic prediction posts there. I've received a number of votes too. Click the pic to embiggen a screen shot then go here and here for the two psychic posts I wrote.

I tried to post the link to a mully410 search at the Conspirama site but now all that site gives me is a missing SQL error. Suppose the men in black, aliens or psychics are blocking it now that I've exposed my popularity on their site?

UPDATE: here is a link to my stuff on Conspirama.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dragonfly


Dragonfly
Originally uploaded by Mully410

I think it's been long enough that I can post another photo here. This is one of about 20 attempts to get a shot of this dragonfly. I don't know what kind of dragonfly it is, as I'm no entomologist. I was lucky because it would fly around a bit and come back and land on the same branch. Each time it did that, I'd inch a little closer and fiddle with some camera settings. It took some patience.

I just let this pic loose on Digg, StumbleUpon and Reddit. I can't wait to see how many views.

More new pics at my Flickr page. The early wildflowers are in bloom.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Update - My Psychic Predictions for 2009

Ghostly Shadows
Ghostly Shadows by Mully410


Time to reevaluate my psychic predictions for the year.

Ok first off, I didn't predict the death of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett or Ed McMahon. However, I think I've had a couple "hits" so far. Here is the original post from December 31, 2008.

1. There will be a bout of severe weather where many people will die.

  • Nothing major yet...

2. There will be an increase in violence that will lead to many death.

  • Big News In Iran...score. According to this news story somewhere between 17 and 150 deaths have occurred so far.

3. The economy will become more stable and more people will find work.

  • We got a ways to go on this one...

4. A world leader will face a difficult crossroads with far reaching consequences.

  • Again...Iran. Same article as above. "President Obama's administration is walking a diplomatic tightrope in responding to the crisis."

5. A world leader will be threaten and/or assassinated.

  • I haven't bothered to research this one yet. I haven't heard of any notable events yet.

6. Scientists will discover a cure for an ailment.

  • Not yet, but trust me on this one.

7. A sports team will have an unpredictably great season that will lead to a championship.

  • Since I only really watch NHL and NFL, I haven't heard of any "unpredictably great seasons" yet. Perhaps the Minnesota Twins will surprise me?

8. Britney Spears will cause interesting drama and may remarry and become pregnant.

  • Nothing from her lately. :-(

9. A really horrible movie will debut that will offend many people.

  • I don't go to the movie theaters but I hear Transformers 2 is getting horrible reviews.

10. There will be great instability in the middle east. Many people will die.

  • Need I repeat...Iran

There it is, 3 for 10 so far and couple close ones.

If you want to hear a real psychic prediction by Rebecca Watson, listen to this podcast of SGU from January 7 of this year.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Captain Disillusion is Back

In this video, our super hero Captain Disillusion attempts to debunk the Pantry Ghost videos...but he needs some help.



View the video in HD here at YouTube. Be sure to watch the entire video. Then join me, Captain Disillusion and James (The Amazing) Randi at TAM7.

If you must, follow the link at the top of this post and view the "ghost" videos. However, I think your time will be better spent watching more of Capt. D's videos.

Thanks to BadAstronomer for the tweettip on this vid.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mineapolis Skeptics Group

CH47 Chinook

I just got promoted to "Assistant Organizer" for the Minneapolis Skepics. That means I setup the happy hour drinking skeptically meet-up. Keep up with our activities on Meet-Up and Facebook. Come join us sometime.

Here is a snippet from our Facebook Page:

Had enough of astrologers, psychics, homeopaths, and spirit channelers? Yearning to talk with someone rational for awhile? Skeptics are interested in critical thinking, science, public policy, and the psychologies of belief and perception. Come meet with other local skeptics for some refreshing and sane conversation.

We sponsor two monthly meetings: There is an open pub night for socializing and free discussion (currently at happy hour on the 2nd Thursday of each month). There is also a more focussed discussion group (currently early evening on the 4th Wednesday of each month).

We're informal, friendly, and open to all kinds of skeptics.
Due to TAM7 starting on the 2nd Tuesday of July this year, we'll likely move the Minneapolis Skeptics meeting to the 16th. Oh, and if you want a T-Shirt go here.

We use our Meet-Up Group for our invitations and RSVPs. Check it out.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Coolest App Ever!

iPod Touch + Blog

I got a new iPod Touch the other day. It is fascinating. I wanted something that had rudimentary internet functions, would play music and allow me to listen to podcasts. Wow. This thing is much more than that. Aside from doing all the aforementioned stuff very well, one particular App really got me excited.

As you know, Astronomy is one of my hobbies. I like looking up at the stars, planets and everything else up there. It makes me feel small and provides me with a deep appreciation of our fragile existence on this planet. So, given that, it was only natural that I try to find some astronomy related Apps for my new iPod.

What I found was Starmap and Starmap Pro. Here is a snippet from their website:
STARMAP is a pocket planetarium, using the breath taking technologies of the iPhone. It brings the present and future sky map at the tip of your fingers, at any time, anywhere. Get connected to seasons and astronomical events. Learn the star names, the position of the planets and foresee the next meteors shower with STARMAP.

The PRO edition is the ultimate observation tool for astronomers and telescopes owners. More than 2 500 000 stars, NGC/IC catalogues, 25000 objects with detailed information.

Starmap PRO reflects exactly what you see in your eye piece. It will help you in planning your observation, selecting featured object and view tonight's sky on a single page. Manage your optics, use the time slider for finding conjunctions. Point easily with the Telrad. Choose the best optics for your camera, use the astrophotos timer with automatic logbook entries. Create notes and alarms related to objects events.
I bought the Pro version and it's a really really cool application. I will be using it to find interesting things to view with my Galileoscope, once that shows up. Select the "tonight" icon and it will show you what you can see in your sky and when it will be visible. Filter it by "naked eye" "binoculars" "telescope" or any number of sky objects including stars galaxies and nebulae, to name a few. Simply click on the object and it shows you detailed location info (for those who actually understand it). Click on the "find" button and it brings you to the star map with an arrow that follows around the map as you swipe it with your fingers. Very easy and very cool. You can toggle star names and constelation names. You can do the two finger zoom to get deep into the area you want to see. Click on any object on the map and you'll get a details description of it. I found it very easy to learn and navigate. I can't wait until the sky clears so I can get outside. Of course it has a night mode, which turns it nice and red so you don't lose your night vision.

There are many many more functions that are sure to satisfy even the most astute astronomer. It can control your telescope, so you don't have to bring out the laptop. It even has an "eye piece" view. I guess you enter the specs for your optics and it will show you how the object you are looking for should look in the eyepiece.

It will detect your location when you have WiFi available or you can enter your location manually. It doesn't require internet to function. All the data for millions of space objects is already loaded. It's a large App so you might want to dload from iTunes then sync with your iPhone or iPod Touch.

Go to their website and see the 15 minute video. If that doesn't convince you to get this app, you hate astronomy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Man Made of Straw

Big Blue Stem

Today's lesson is the logical fallacy: Straw Man. This is a very common tactic used both intentionally and unintentionally in conversations. Once you learn to recognize it, you'll never be able to watch talk new shows again.

I found the simplest definition of the Straw Man logical fallacy at the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe website. From their list of the Top 20 Logical Fallacies:

Straw Man: Arguing against a position which you create specifically to be easy to argue against, rather than the position actually held by those who oppose your point of view.
Wikipedia has another easy to understand definition:
A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position.[1] To "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar proposition (the "straw man"), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.[1] [2]
In the Critical Thinking Lesson 9 at the Skeptic's Dictionary the definition gets a little more complicated:
One of the characteristics of a cogent refutation of an argument is that the argument one is refuting be represented fairly and accurately. To distort or misrepresent an argument one is trying to refute is called the straw man fallacy.
Essentially, all three of these reference are saying the same thing. If you can't address the point your opponent is making, make something up and argue against that instead.

A: "We should legalize marijuana because it can effectively treat some medical side effects."
B: "Are you kidding, we can't legalize drugs. There would be anarchy."

A: "We should provide a tax break for the people."
B: "The rich already cheat on their taxes."

A: "We should legalize gay-marriage."
B: "So you think child porn is ok?"

Those are just simple and easy to see Straw Man arguments. Go here and especially here for some more in depth almost tricky examples.

So, how does one refute the Straw Man? I never thought it would be so difficult to find some concise answers to this question. I'll give is shot but would appreciate any tips from my readers.

Try clarifying your position. "I said legalize marijuana not heroin and cocaine." Unfortunately in my experience this doesn't work well. People don't listen carefully so the debate often degrades to "you said" "no I didn't" "yes you did."

You acknowledge their straw man: "Yes, the rich cheat on their taxes but the middle class will be helped more by lowering the tax rate across the board." This might work in some cases but generally, I run into people who will latch onto any agreement and throw out all sorts of fallacies at me.

Lastly, throw out your own straw man. "So, what you are saying is you want to legalize gay child porn."

If you really want to risk a headache, check out this guys paper on the Straw Man. It's very academic and looks very complete. Logical Fallacies and the Art of Debate is another good paper.

If you don't like to or can't read, listen to a podcast on logical fallacies from Skeptoid.

Don't take my word for it. Do some research on your own. Provide some constructive criticism in the comments. Let's work on this one together.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Don't Even Start...

To all my friends, "friends," acquaintances, pretend friends, pseudo friends, we've never met but you follow me on (insert social networking or bookmarking site of choice) friends, my enemies and those of you who just don't care at all about me:

You may be slightly annoyed, a little annoyed, moderately annoyed, very annoyed or downright extremely annoyed with me on occasion. Well, I also get annoyed with you...on occasion. If you want to continue to irritate me, go ahead and stop reading now. Should you want to continue with some intelligent conversation and be less or totally not annoying, please check this out. Below, I've compiled a list of some posts that will help you discuss things intelligently.

Start with this Brian Dunning video: Here be Dragons

How to Argue with Me (some thoughts a link to a very good essay by Steven Novella)

Stop calling me closed minded because you are: Who is Closed Minded?. Then find a link to a very good short video here: Who is Closed Minded? 2

Don't even think about saying "It's just a theory." What theories do you "believe?"

Learn how I (and many others) define a Skeptic. When you confuse cynic and argumentative with skeptic, you sound stupid: WTF(H) is a Skeptic? To learn more about the difference between Skeptics and Critical Thinkers go here.

I only believe in one less god/God/gods than most of you: Ten Commandments and Atheists; Penn Says - What I Think; We Live, We Die and Some of Us Get Eaten; The Ridiculousness of God. And by the way, only about 15% of my posts have anything to do with religion...

Most of my posts are about Critical Thinking, Astronomy and shameless promotions of my photos on Flickr.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Oprah: Shame on you. (From Bad Astronomy)

In case you don't read the great Bad Astronomy blog, here is a new snippet:

Unsurprisingly, Oprah has released a statement about this, and its full to the brim of fail. I wouldn't call it a lie, but its spinning like a newborn pulsar:

For 23 years, my show has presented thousands of topics that reflect the human experience, including doctors medical advice and personal health stories that have prompted conversations between our audience members and their health care providers. I trust the viewers, and I know that they are smart and discerning enough to seek out medical opinions to determine what may be best for them.

Oprah: Shame on you. | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine

6 Answers to Common Questions about Earth that YOU get wrong!

Moon Venus (3)

Planetary Astronomer Mike answers some common questions about Earth. These really are common questions that are frequently answered incorrectly.

Why does Earth experience seasons? - hint: it's not Earth's distance from the Sun.

Why is there a 24 hour day-night cycle? - duh

Why is the sky blue? - reflection? wrong; refraction? ...sort of but not quite

Why are sunsets red? - see answer to why is the sky blue.

How does Earth compare to other planets in our solar system? - again, duh.

Why does a feather fall slower than a bowling ball? - hint: physics
Go here for the answers to these questions.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Minneapolis Skeptic's Meet Up June 11

Here are the details of the latest meet-up of Minneapolis Skeptics. Come join the fun!

----------------------------------------------------------------
When: June 11, 2009 5:30 PM

Where: Herkimer the Pub and Brewery
2922 Lyndale Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55401
(612) 821-0101

LOCATION CHANGE: When I called the Town Hall Brewery to make a reservation, they told me their servers can no longer split the tab for a large group. Since people come and go at different times, I don't think this will work for us. So for this week let's just go back to our roots at the Herkimer (even though it can get QUITE loud as the evening goes on -- hopefully we will be able to sit outside).

The full revised listing is at:
http://www.meetup.com/Minneapolis-Skeptics/calendar/10432019/
----------------------------------------------------------------

To visit Minneapolis Skeptics, go here:
http://www.meetup.com/Minneapolis-Skeptics/

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Critical Thinking Club of St. Paul Meeting

St. Paul Critical Thinking Club

June 14, 2009

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 Noon

Kelly Inn, I-94 at Marion, St. Paul

Breakfast and Presentation $10.00

Presentation only $3.00
Speaker: Stew Thornley

Accuracy in Research: The Virtue of Skepticism

We need to plan for the room setup and meal, so if you are going to attend, please RSVP to criticalthinkingclub@gmail.com.

“Errors of fact are so thick in the environment around us that writing a book without absorbing any of them is like walking in a rainstorm without getting wet,” baseball historian and analyst Bill James once wrote. Misinformation often replicates itself to the point that it takes on life of its own, eventually becoming so accepted as factual that even a careful researcher may fall into the trap of assuming the claims to be true and not feeling the need to verify them.

Too often an important part of research that is overlooked or underemphasized is factchecking. This presentation will explore how misinformation spreads, the roadblocks to accuracy, and methods for checking facts. Beyond the techniques is an attitude toward accuracy that is just as important as know-how.

Stew Thornley is an author of books on sports history, including histories of the Minneapolis Millers minor league baseball team, and the Minneapolis Lakers major league basketball team, as well as a definitive history of baseball in Minnesota. Another book, Six Feet Under: A Graveyard Guide to Minnesota, is about notable people buried in Minnesota.

Stew has been a member of the Society for American Baseball Research since 1979, and served as the organization's vice president from 2002 to 2004. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stew_Thornley)


Visit the CTC on Facebook to help living things up there. They really don't do much with it now.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Why Are My Photos Public?

Moon Plane Bird
Moon Plane Bird
uploaded by Mully410

Lately, I've been looking around for places to enter my photos into contests. I'm not primarily looking to win big money or anything. I'm just looking for some public recognition to stroke my massive ego and boost my low self esteem, and I think it's fun.

So far, I've only found 2 where I might have a chance to win that's slightly greater than winning the lottery: Minnesota Environmental Fund and Astronomy Picture of the Year.

After reading the comments on the most recent Discovery Channel astronomy contest and the some comments at the APofY contest, I wonder about some people. These contest are free. Some require that you give up the copyrights to your work and some don't. Some don't distinguish between amateurs and pros. Many commentors just can't take something free without having to whine about it. I've discovered two general themes: "It's not fair" and "You can't have my pics."

The "It's not fair" crowd seems to be mostly concerned with everyone elses photos being better than theirs. They often make excuses and claim they won't enter because they won't win. Sheesh. A sure fire way to lose, is not to enter.

The "You can't have my pics" group are most concerned with copyrights. They feel their work is so great that everyone will steal their work and make big money off it. When I first started posting my photos on Flickr, I had some concerns. Then I looked around at some of the MILLIONS or photos on Flickr. I suppose some of these people have legitimate concerns but to the vast majority of us amateurs, our photos are just not worth stealing. Compared to the pros, our photos are mostly crap. I feel some of my photos are good, but they aren't good enough that some media pirate is going to steal any and have them published in National Geographic or anything.

After realizing how relatively mediocre my photos are, my mind slowly changed. I decided that I want as many people as possible to see my art. I have great fun taking pictures and want to share that fun with everyone. I am perfectly content with the 25,000+ views I've received on Flickr. But, the main reason I have little concern about copyright infringement is that my photos are my entertainment. It's a hobby. If I were to start selling my art, it would become a job. I don't want this to become work.

If you recall, one of my shots from Space Center Houston got into the Schamp Houston 6th Edition guide. I received no money and you probably can't even find it in there if you go look. Still, somebody liked my stuff enough to add it to their collection and that was SUPER COOL. I've also had photos "ripped" off by Flickr widgets on people's blogs (the chemtrail people have done this to me and some "paranormal" sites too). That's OK because the pics still link back to my originals on Flickr.

So, please don't steal my stuff but feel free to link back to it anytime you want. I do have one little bit of protection. You can't download the original size of my photos from Flickr, unless I give you permission. It doesn't hurt to ask.

If I can find a NSFW contest that will take it, I'm thinking about making a collage of my Finger shots. Let me know if you find one. Thanks!

(Happy Birthday, Bro)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Oprah: Still Trying to Kill You?

Lay down here

I've written and linked a little bit about the dangers of Oprah here, here and here. She often dispenses, advocates and endorses very dangerous advice. I found a gutsy article from Newsweek that pretty much wraps up all Oprah woo in one place. Please feel free to read all of it. There are many opportunities for more research, so have fun. Here are a variety of snippets about a number of topics:

Live Your Best Life Ever! Wish Away Cancer! Get A Lunchtime Face-Lift! Eradicate Autism! Turn Back The Clock! Thin Your Thighs! Cure Menopause! Harness Positive Energy! Erase Wrinkles! Banish Obesity! Live Your Best Life Ever!

...In January, Oprah Winfrey invited Suzanne Somers on her show to share her unusual secrets to staying young. Each morning, the 62-year-old actress and self-help author rubs a potent estrogen cream into the skin on her arm. She smears progesterone on her other arm two weeks a month. And once a day, she uses a syringe to inject estrogen directly into her vagina.

...She (Oprah) has the power to summon the most learned authorities on any subject; who would refuse her? Instead, all too often Oprah winds up putting herself and her trusting audience in the hands of celebrity authors and pop-science artists pitching wonder cures and miracle treatments that are questionable or flat-out wrong, and sometimes dangerous.

...McCarthy's charges went virtually unchallenged. Oprah praised McCarthy's bravery and plugged her book, but did not invite a physician or scientist to explain to her audience the many studies that contradict the vaccines-autism link. Instead, Oprah read a brief statement from the Centers for Disease Control saying there was no science to prove a connection and that the government was continuing to study the problem. But McCarthy got the last word. "My science is named Evan, and he's at home. That's my science."

...Northrup holds a special place in Oprah's constellation of regular guests. A Dartmouth-educated ob-gyn, she stresses alternative therapies and unseen connections between the soul and the body that she believes conventional doctors overlook, but that she can see. She has written about how she has used Tarot cards to help diagnose her own illnesses.

...Oprah said almost nothing about possible risks. "It is a relatively painless procedure, I'm told," she said. "Scarring is minimal, and recovery time is measured in days instead of weeks." Yet according to Plastic Surgery Practice, an industry magazine, some doctors reported that "over time, the suture tends to act like a 'cheese wire'," cutting through delicate facial tissue.

...In January she embarked on yet another attempt to trim down, which means all of Oprah's viewers are now—actually or vicariously—on a diet too. She will lose the weight, and there will be much remarking upon it. But then, in a year, or two, or three, experience teaches us that the fat will likely come back.

...The book then offers the testimonial of a woman identified as Cathy Goodman. "I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I truly believed in my heart, with my strong faith, that I was already healed. Each day I would say, 'Thank you for my healing'." Goodman watched "very funny movies" to make herself laugh. "From the time I was diagnosed to the time I healed was approximately three months. And that's without any radiation or chemotherapy."

Go here for the full article: Why Health Advice on 'Oprah' Could Make You Sick | Newsweek Health | Newsweek.com

Please don't take medical advice from a TV talk show. Stick with the decorating tips and fashion advice. See a real physician for your health issues.

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