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.