Friday, April 18, 2014

Even Spock Gets Freakin' Irrational

(C) 2014  Ray X

"Did you see Star Trek last night?  Spock was horny!"

Standing in line, waiting for lunch outside the junior high school cafeteria, when I hear one of my adolescent "peers" give his erudite review of the episode, "Amok Time," from the original ST TV series.

For those of you unfamiliar with Star Trek in any of its incarnations Spock is the half-earthling/half-alien science officer aboard the starship Enterprise in the 23rd Century (Earth time).  He struggles with his human side which at times is in conflict with his logical Vulcan upbringing.  Vulcans value unemotional rational thought above all else.

But as the episode "Amok Time" reveals even Vulcans deal with irrational and violent impulses when it comes to mating time - pon farr.  Every seven years Vulcans have to knock boots or eventually die like a female ferret with intact virginity at mating season's end.

I knew one woman who liked the character of Spock, his stoic persona.  She hated it when Spock acted human, especially when something like alien plant spores unleashed his feelings, making him goofy and smiling as in the episode "This Side of Paradise."

For some Spock represents logic over emotion, the ideal state to see truth as it is, not as one wants it to be.  The ideal that skeptics strive for – and fail to achieve on occasion.

Wanna open a huge can o' worms?  Google these search terms: "skeptics sexual harassment,"  "radford vs. stollznow," or "michael shermer allegations."  It's skeptic versus skeptic when it comes to arguments over accusations of sexual harassment and other allegations of transgressions even worse.

Dive in and you'll find various dogfights going on, the vast gray area called "He said, she said."  Who's innocent?  Who's guilty?  Who knows?  At times emotions, not rational thoughts, reign supreme.  Statements, counter-statements, lawsuits threatened or initiated, legal defense fundraisers.

Obviously skeptics are human and despite their claim to Correct Thinking can be just as screwed up as us regular joes and janes.

Within skepticdom individuals align themselves to either group: he or she, pro or con.  Divisiveness, not diversity, predominates.  From some rationality is a thin veneer.

Call it Skeptical Pon Farr.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Opuntia Zinester Makes Thorny Decision: Online Only

(C) 2014  Ray X

And another paper zinester drops the dead tree format.

In the case of Dale Speirs and his zine, Opuntia, it was the jump with postage rates, in his case Canada.  I was surprised when his final print edition appeared in my snail mail box with its announcement that future issues would only be available through .

Opuntia has always been an interesting read, a mix of SF book reviews, short examinations of scientific articles, personal stories, whatever interests Dale.  Unlike me Dale would always create a packed edition each month, 16 pages of material.

I understand why Dale has decided to abandon paper for photons, especially with the drastic increase with Canadian postage.  With my very short list of paperzine traders - no subscribers - my expenses with postage and printing aren't that onerous.  Also, there's not that many pages with each edition.

Some papernetters are loathe to abandon snail mail distribution: they hate the web.  And while I'm not a complete fan of digital media, it's obvious where the trend is going in seeking out readers.

One paperzine reviewer, DJ Frederick, at his blog urged Dale to return to meatspace:

"It’s a sad day in zinedom. This is Dale’s last paper issue of Opuntia... Dale – don’t do it! Stay with us out here on the postal plains & fight the good fight."

OK, you might be thinking: Why is DJ upset when he's reviewing zines online?  Well, he does share his reviews with his paperzine and he has another good reason:

"I REFUSE to take my zines online where they are at the whim of isp providers and easy digital manipulation or deletion."

Me, I'm not that worried about those potential problems.  I'm more concerned with another possible development: Greedy corporations start squeezing the net for all its worth, including access.  Remember when a cable TV subscription was only $15 per month?  Now they want you buy a bundle with phone and internet services for like $100 a month.  Me, I make do at home with basic DSL for the net, the lowest price and slowest speed but doable. As for TV: OTA (off the air) is more than enough for me.

For now I'll keep collecting blog posts and formatting them into a paperzine format.  Unless it costs too much or there's no one left on the postal plains.  Just tumbleweed drifting through in the lonely wind.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Got Twinkie, Get Geiger Counter


(C) 2014 Ray X

Over at an independent Montana news site, Last Best News [1] , a reader suggests a novel defense for a politician who was arrested for his alleged irrational and violent behavior.

Shades of the Twinkie defense!

November 1978: A former San Francisco city supervisor, Dan White, kills the mayor and another supervisor.  When the case goes to trial White's lawyers use diminished capacity as a defense, i.e., White's bad diet of junk food and sugary drinks were symptomatic of a physical problem, ergo, his actions were not premeditated.

While Twinkies were not mentioned during the trial a reporter used the term "Twinkie defense," a term that soon caught on.  White's lawyers said that they did not claim their client's bad diet was a cause, only one symptom of White's depression.

"Twinkie defense" became synonymous with any dubious legal defense.

Now let's return to present day and an incident in Red Lodge, Montana on February 1st involving a politician, his kids, his estrange wife, and her boyfriend.

It is alleged that Jason Priest (Republican), a state senator serving the Montana Legislature, called his wife to pick up their three kids at his home and after she arrived Priest attacked her boyfriend.

Allegedly Priest threw the boyfriend on the ground and started punching him, the attack resulting in the boyfriend suffering a broken rib.  Priest is also alleged to have acted unholy, swearing in front of his children, being verbally abusive to them and also to his wife whom he called the C-word.  (It must be noted that as a Republican he belongs to "The Family Values Party.")

The charging document [2] was based in part on what a policeman on the scene observed.  Priest was charged with four misdemeanors, three different counts of assault and also resisting arrest.  He denies the allegations and like any defendant is considered innocent before his trial.

A reader in Alaska [3] responded to Last Best News article via email, pointing to a possible if improbable defense.

To quote:

"There may be extenuating circumstances affecting Mr. Priest's outrageous behavior. Unknown to you, I suspect, is the fact that Billings has been experiencing some of the highest levels of radiation found in the US at this time. Billings regularly shows levels that exceed 600 counts per minute. One-hundred counts per minute is considered the upper limit of 'safety'.

"Significant amounts of the radiation is, I believe, originating in Fukushima, Japan."

The reader, Douglas Yates, refers to the Fukishima Daiichi nuclear disaster, March 2011, in which three reactors at a nuclear power plant melted down, releasing considerable radioactive material into the atmosphere.  Some contend there's a conspiracy to hide the truth from the public: jet stream action brought dangerous radioactive pollution from the disaster to the US, meaning ill health will result for many unsuspecting citizens.

To quote another excerpt from Yates' email:

"Radioisotopes have a demonstrated connection with loss of cognitive function and/or episodes of rage. Note the rash of major air carrier pilots landing at the wrong destination. While it has not yet been formally connected, I believe many of the so-called air-rage incidents on airliners originate in exposure to high levels of radiation. It is well known that at cruising altitude crew and passengers are exposed to high levels of cosmic radiation. Now, as a result of Fukushima, the added burden of natural and manmade radiation is tipping some people over the edge, I suspect."

So did the devil radiation make the defendant do it?  To paraphrase Rod Serling: You're now entering the Twinkie Zone.





Sunday, March 02, 2014

Flipping On Bitcoin

I’ve been lax with listening in on the Liberty Net crew at .  The last time I noted anything worth noting was a discussion about Bitcoin, the digital currency/peer-to-peer payment system.

Part of the discussion was how the National Security Agency was spying on everyone online, an actual conspiracy, unlike some of the Illuminati stories they repeat.

One Libnetter was advocating Bitcoin as an alternative to paper money, a way of working around the control of the Mega-Conspiracy.  But another participant said that maybe Bitcoin was really part of the Mega-Con, maybe a front for the NSA to keep track of you.

So the first speaker went from advocating Bitcoin to wondering if it was indeed an Illuminati honeytrap.

Life is damn rough when everything is a conspiracy… 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

20, 100, Then…?

I just returned from a brisk nighttime walk to the post office to drop off the latest edition of my paper zine, Ray X X-Rayer #100.  My walk was brisk not because of excessive energy on my part: quick movement was required because it's freakin' 10 degrees F/-12 degrees C outside.

Back in February 1994 – I don’t remember the eXact date – I launched my zine.  (I pick Groundhog Day as an arbitrary date for the first issue.)  Twenty years and 100 issues later and I’m wondering how I managed to keep it going for so long.

Over time my writing shifted from zining to blogging this stuff first, then slapping together some posts into a paper format.  I’ve almost given up along the way – that’s why my output isn’t prolific.  I think what helped me was not deciding to published on a definite schedule; I decided to write when inspiration struck me.  Ergo the long gaps between zine editions and posts.

The fun of zining – and even blogging – has faded.  Maybe it’s time for a long break or a permanent one.  I do enjoy the contacts I’m made along the way through zining and blogging.  I’ve met some interesting people along the way but only thru snail mail or online.

I wish I had the funds to do field work, meet sources face to face.  But until that opportunity arises I’ll have to remain an armchair investigator.  That routine gets old; I have to wait for inspiration to hit me from the sky before I’m ready to write.
With the motivation flagging – it might be this winter limbo I’m slogging thru – I’m don’t want to perfunctorily pump out material.

I’m not necessarily signing off or on.  I’m just waiting for the Zeta Beam to hit…

Remembering Supreme Commander Jim Moseley

UFO researcher Curt Collins has been revamping and updating the web site, James W. Moseley, Remembered – .  Jim Moseley was there at the beginning of ufology and for decades published a personal, sometimes controversial, newsletter covering the scene.  His zine went under a few name changes until he settled on the title Saucer Smear.   The memorial site provides good sources of information for anyone researching ufology (and its related sub-domain, what Jim called ufoology.

I still miss my nighttime phone conversations with Jim.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Space Brothers, Forgive Us

Orthon, where art thou?

 (C) 2014 Ray X

We've been waiting for a long time.

Why haven't the benevolent space brothers revealed themselves and offered to directly help mankind?  Back in the 1950s contactees like George Adamski said that they met with benevolent ETs who looked like handsome godlike humans.  These space brothers passed along messages of great import like don't blow up your planet with a global nuclear war, ya morons.

Orthon must have had second thoughts about helping us out.  Why?

I think I've uncovered the answer.  The space brothers are miffed that we portray them so unfavorably in our media.

I recalled an animated drive-in intermission spot from my childhood that featured an alien visiting the snack bar during intermission.  For you uninformed young 'uns out there a drive-in was once a popular medium for movies, an outdoor theater with a parking lot facing a towering screen that displayed the movies.  The spaces were arranged so viewers could sit in their cars and watch.  The better drive-ins had a slight hump at each space to angle up the car for optimal viewing.  You listened to the movie by hanging a cabled speaker on the rolled down driver-side window.

The drive-in would show more than one film.  Between the main and second feature there was an intermission compelling you to enjoy the fine food at the snack bar.

Thanks to Google I've located that alien drops in to the snack bar cartoon ad [ ].

In the 55-second-long spot the alien BOING-BOING-bounces into the snack bar, startling the owner.   No wonder.  The alien is a pudgy green demon with a long pointy tail.  He speaks in an annoying high-pitched voice.

 Among the items he orders the alien asks for a "cup of that nice hot liquid" – strong-as-battery-acid coffee – and two bags of "that peculiar white puffy material" – greasy popcorn.

Throw into the mix fatty hot dogs with sugary candy bars and soda and you have a meal that a human being would have trouble safely absorbing, let alone an alien.  Can you imagine this: an alien with three hearts who needs triple triple bypass surgery?

I wonder how many of our outer space visitors did check out a drive-in snack bar and ended up hurling in their flying saucers as they hurled away from Earth.

As the ad wraps up the alien grabs his haul, saying his saucer is parked outside, and he bounces away.  The snack bar owner observes that people come for miles around for his exquisite food.   Such puerile humor is beneath the supremely-intelligent space brothers.

Add the insult of being portrayed as a goofy green demon and it's no wonder they haven't come back.

Maybe the annoyed space brothers will initiate a defamation of character suit through the law firm of Klaatu, Barada, and Nikto.

[ DISCLOSURE: Orthon is distantly related to my intergalactic cousin, Rayon.]

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Arthur C. Clarke And His Orbital Newspaper

By Ray X

Five decades ago Arthur C. Clark predicted the present decline of print publishing, books and newspapers.  This disruption would be caused by a new communications medium: satellites.

Besides SF Arthur C. Clarke also wrote nonfiction, extrapolating about future inventions based upon scientific and technological developments at the time.  His book, Profiles of the Future (Bantam edition 1964), includes portions of articles  previously published in magazines like Science Digest during the late 1950s - early 1960s.

Chapter 16, Voices from the Sky, discusses future changes in the delivery of media via satellites.  How far advanced was such technology when Clarke was extrapolating?  Check out this footnote: "This chapter was written before the launching of Telstar.

(You young non-nerds will have to Google Telstar.)

Relay satellites would bring the world together, he wrote.  Information could be transmitted to any spot on the globe.  In the 21st century people wouldn't be required to work in an office.  They could conduct business "through computer keyboards and information-handling machines in their homes." 

Advanced descendants of reproducing and facsimile machines found in a modern (1960s) office would lead to the invention of "the orbital newspaper."  Such a device would work with a TV, explained Clarke, making a permanent record of the screen image on demand via printing.

He continued:  

"Thus when you want your daily paper, you will switch to the appropriate channel, press the right button—and collect the latest edition as it emerges from the slot. It may be merely a one-page news sheet; the editorials will be available on another channel—sports, book reviews, drama, advertising, on others. We will select what we need, and ignore the rest, thus sav­ing whole forests for posterity."

But more than newspapers could be accessed through such a system.  Everything from a copy of the Manga Charta to the latest Earth-Moon passenger schedule would be available.  He predicted that books might be distributed the same way but with a drastic formatting change.

This lead to a warning.  Clarke observed:

"All publishers would do well to contemplate these really staggering prospects. Most affected will be news­papers and pocketbooks; practically untouched by the coming revolution will be art volumes and quality magazines, which involve not only fine printing but elaborate manufacturing processes. The dailies may well tremble; the glossy monthlies have little to fear."

Clarke also wondered how mankind would handle the avalanche of information.

"For will there be time to do any work at all on a planet saturated from pole to pole with fine entertain­ment, first-class music, brilliant discussions, superbly executed athletics, and every conceivable type of in­formation service? Even now, it is claimed, our children spend a sixth of their waking lives glued to the cathode-ray tube. We are becoming a race of watchers, not of doers."

Of course, Clarke did miss a few fine details.  He didn't foresee that the big distraction wouldn't be fine entertainment via satellite: it would be internet porn.