Thursday, May 31, 2007

‪י״ד סיון תשס״ז * 31 May 2007: Speak in Complete Sentences Day


Today’s news and commentary:In place of the normal weird thing, today I will be giving a review for the most horrific book I have read so far for the Divine Misconceptions project: Godless: The Church of Liberalism by Ann Coulter, included below (the review, not the book). Enjoy (or be scared or something) and share the weirdness.


Review of Godless: The Church of Liberalism by Ann Coulter:

It should be kept in mind that Ann Coulter is a lawyer. The job of a lawyer in court is to portray one’s client in the most positive light possible. Unfortunately, the ideology of the extreme right wing of American politics (George W. Bush and company) has very little to objectively recommend it to most people, so in Godless: The Church of Liberalism (Coulter) she mostly resorts to one of the standard methods of rhetoric: to portray the opposition in the most negative light possible. But rhetoric is not the same thing as logic and evidence, and it is easily abused to lead people away from truth instead of lead them towards it. Furthermore, Coulter is not arguing a case in court, where a judge and jury might call her on abuse of rhetoric, so she feels free to indulge in every dirty trick she can imagine to slander her opponents unrestrained.

Truth plays very little part in Godless, and as such the book leaves much to be desired in the way of adequate research. For example, one of Coulter’s main targets is evolution (Coulter, chapters 8-11), but her understanding of it is derived entirely from creationists such as Michael Behe (may his bones be ground up) (Coulter, p. 303). The citations she brings from actual biologists are entirely of the kind which actual biologists complain about creationists taking out of context or misunderstood (Coulter, pp. 205, 208, 211, 219-225, 228, 230, 232, 237-240, 250, 255). Coulter also has a predilection to cite newspaper articles rather than authoritative sources (Coulter, pp. 213-214, 219-224, 227-228, 234, 237-238, 240, 242, 244, 249, 253). She has even been accused of blatant fraud (as opposed to mere stupidity) (S.S.M. and R.S.) and plagiarism (Brynaert; Rood; Davis). As a result of not bothering to find out what real biologists believe about evolution, she does not understand it at all. She has no clue that evolution is based on more than blind faith (Coulter, p. 203) and that all the evidence is for evolution, not for creationism (Coulter, p. 212). She has no idea that while mutation may be random, natural selection is not (Coulter, pp. 201-202, 218, 225, 245). She has no idea of what the effects of mutations actually are (Coulter, pp. 217-219). She even seems to think that mutation has a desired direction (Coulter, pp. 202, 214-5, 230-231). She wrongly thinks that “survival of the fittest” is tautological (Coulter, p. 202). She has no understanding of the fossil record and how it is structured (Coulter, pp. 215-225, 227, 230, 244). She has no idea that intermediate forms are far more common than she ever dreamed (Coulter, pp. 216-217, 223-224, 227-228, 232). She has no clue how relationships between species are ascertained (Coulter, pp. 227-229). She has no clue that punctuated equilibrium is a quibble on how evolution works and not a repudiation of evolutionary theory (Coulter, pp. 225, 228, 245). She has no understanding of speciation or how long it takes (Coulter, pp. 203, 226, 229-230, 243)—or how long anything is really supposed to take (Coulter, p. 218). She has no idea that “irreducible complexity” (invented by Behe) is a deceptively-named construct (Coulter, p. 204); she has no clue that complex structures can and do evolve (Coulter, pp. 203-205, 206-210, 232-233, 242, 245). She has no understanding of radioisotope dating (Coulter, pp. 233, 235). She wrongly denies that genetic similarity is evidence for evolution (Coulter, pp. 202, 231, 249). She has no idea that evolutionary theory does not specify how life originated or that it is irrelevant to whether evolution occurs or how it works (Coulter, pp. 201, 210-211, 240-241, 244). She wrongly denies that changes within a species qualify as evolution (Coulter, pp. 202, 231-232). She wrongly claims that evolutionists treat the cell as a “black box” (Coulter, pp. 203-204). She wrongly alleges that the position of evolutionists is that the modern phyla really did appear suddenly with the Cambrian Explosion and takes Precambrian fossils as a triumph for creationism (Coulter, pp. 220-225, 244); considering that the position of creationists is that life appears suddenly and without any precedent, Coulter effectively gets beaten silly by her own straw man. She has no clue that the biological sciences community is a community of evolutionists, with the few creationists being pariahs or keeping their creationism to themselves because they know their arguments are unconvincing, not to mention that the progress being made in biology and medicine is as a consequence of evolutionary theory and that the creationists are doing nothing of practical value (Coulter, pp. 211, 225, 247-249). Coulter takes joy in focusing on single examples with the assumption that their real or imagined toppling brings down the whole edifice of evolutionary theory, e.g., Piltdown Man (Coulter, pp. 219, 226-227, 233-241, 244). Besides making paranoid, fantastic ad hominem arguments (especially about her opponents’ intelligence) on practically every single page, she even makes such a low blow as attacking evolution over the fact that offensive people (such as Hitler and eugenicists) have (or allegedly have) used Darwin to support their ideologies (Coulter, pp. 268-280) (as if religion was never used as a justification for atrocities). To anyone who actually knows anything about evolution, Coulter’s arguments are nothing more than empty rhetoric (Musgrave; Savillo; Myers; Downard, Secondary Addiction: Ann Coulter on Evolution, Part I; Downard, Secondary Addiction Part II: Ann Coulter on Evolution; Downard, Secondary Addiction Part III: Ann Coulter on Evolution).

Coulter’s attempts at writing about religion are likewise unspectacular. The whole premise of this book is that “liberalism” is a religion. Now, “religion” is a vaguely defined term, with certain ideologies, such as communism, atheism, and even science, being labeled “religion” or “not religion” for political reasons. “Liberalism”, however, has very little that most people would identify as “religion”. There is no creed, set of laws, moral code, or philosophy which “liberals” have to follow. In fact, “liberals” frequently purport to believe the same things as or similar things to “conservatives”, the major disagreements being how to arrive at the same goals. One does not need to be dedicated to anything to be a “liberal”. Liberals are not an ethnic group, race, caste, tribe, or nation. “Liberalism” has as much history, tradition, culture, and literature as “conservatism”, and no one is proposing the existence of a “conservative” religion. There is no “liberal” language. There is no model of reality which “liberals” have to accept. There is no “liberal” mysticism. “Liberals” do not have to belong to any particular organization. There are no “liberal” rituals or sacraments. And finally, there is no “liberal” scripture or theology. In short, “liberalism” is not a religion. Attempts by Coulter to claim the contrary require incredible lies akin to blood libels and paranoia about nonexistent witches who worship Satan. Does anyone really care about or pretend to care about “undermining national security, aiding terrorists, oppressing the middle class, [or] freeing violent criminals” (Coulter, p. 78)? Does anyone consider abortion to be a sacrament (Coulter, chapter 4) and Roe v. Wade to be holy scripture (Coulter, p. 89)? Does anyone really think that criminals should never be punished (Coulter, chapter 2)? Can anyone sensibly justify that public school teachers are a priesthood (Coulter, chapter 6)? Who in their right mind would believe that the substantial majority of the country which are not part of the extreme right wing are all part of an evil, simultaneously atheistic and Neopagan, environmentalist conspiracy (Coulter, chapters 1-11)? Arguably I should be part of this conspiracy, being an evolutionist and an opponent of Bush’s policies—and no one invited me to the meetings! (Maybe I am being shunned due to being neither an atheist nor a Neopagan.)

Coulter has not even mastered her own religion, Christianity. She arguably does not even know what constitutes Christianity, since she includes Judaism within Christianity without any justification for doing so and “barely” includes Episcopalianism (Coulter, p. 3). Her hold on valid religious reasoning is also nonexistent. She cites “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16) as the reason why abortion is murder (Coulter, p. 93), but she is clearly ignorant of Hebrew and is unaware that King James got the translation wrong. An accurate translation would be “You will not murder.” Other passages in the Torah make it clear that killing is not prohibited under all circumstances. Animals are permitted for food, requiring them to be killed properly first (Deuteronomy 12:21), and there are even circumstances under which humans are to be killed (e.g., Exodus 21:20; Leviticus 20:10, 20:14; Deuteronomy 13:17, 22:24, 25:19). Furthermore, Coulter is unaware of the law that if two men are fighting and one of them pushes a pregnant woman, causing an abortion, the punishment is a fine (Exodus 21:22); in contrast, the punishment for accidental homicide is exile and for deliberate murder is death (Numbers 35:9-34). For someone with a law degree, such ignorance of the law is a shocking oversight. And if she wants to claim, like most Christians, that the Torah is no longer binding, what point is there is condemning people for allegedly not following it? And whatever happened to the prohibition on bearing false witness (Exodus 20:12, 23:1, 23:6; Deuteronomy 19:16-21, 5:16), which is violated on practically every page? She also does not realize that her morality (or rather lack of it) is in gross contradiction to what Jesus preached, e.g., not to be judgmental (Matthew 7:1-5).

In short, Godless is a dismal failure in the history of delusional writing. What Coulter does not realize is that if one is going to write something delusional, one should write something fun. For example, the Loch Ness Monster is fun. People love lake monsters. People enjoy speculating about Nessie. People even go to Loch Ness just to see Nessie. Even people who cannot take the Loch Ness Monster seriously can enjoy the phenomenon. Similarly, Bigfoot is fun, and Roswell is fun. Ogopogo is fun. Haunted houses are fun. Lost lands and mysterious races are fun. The Earth being hollow or inside out is fun. Coulter’s delusions, on the other hand, are not fun. Nothing in Godless is anything but extreme-conservative propaganda, delivered in a writing style so caustic and lacking in basic human decency (and dare I say it, un-Christian as well) that I doubt many people who are not already Coulter fans will ever read the entire book. The book is a wedge that drives people apart. If Coulter wants to keep writing delusion, she needs to come up with something that everyone can enjoy.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

‪י״ג סיון תשס״ז * 30 May 2007: March Laumer Online


Worthy causes of the day:Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “March Laumer Online”. March Laumer was a Swedish author who wrote his own sequels to the famous Oz series. Laumer delighted in filling in gaps in the jumble of story threads that is Oz, and he took the series in unusual directions. Be warned, however, that unlike the Famous Forty, Laumer’s works are not all suitable for children. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

‪י״ב סיון תשס״ז * 29 May 2007: End Of The Middle Ages Day


Last minute news: Another one of my papers has been published by The British Journal of Cancer.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing was delivered by a strange-looking man in a trench coat and fedora. Since he seemed to be wearing a mechanical-looking mask and gloves and was carrying a pair of laser rifles, I am inclined to post his offering as it is:

Transformers: Identity Crisis

Week 2: Jazz/Meister

Greetings, people of Earth.

Optimus Prime poses in front of a screen as part of a press conference.

Yesterday, with public outrage mounting, Optimus Prime held a press conference defending his actions in the recent incident where he was caught monitoring others without authorization. He insists his presence was legitimate and he did nothing wrong as it is the job of Autobots to protect others. When asked why he was going about unlabeled, he claimed there were security matters that superseded the need for a warrant and that humans should be thankful for all the Autobots have done for them. This is, of course, a sign of the worst corruption: the refusal to be held accountable for one’s actions. Stomping away from the screen displaying the not-so-subliminal messages, he transformed and drove away, leaving many important questions unanswered.

“Do it with style or don’t bother doing it.”

In our previous communication, we discussed the Autobot public-relations officer Bumblebee, who is very popular among the humans. Another Autobot with some following among humans is Jazz, often referred to “Meister,” who often attends functions with humans, being a fan of Earth popular culture. His vehicular form is a Porsche 935 race car, his obtaining it being directly tied to the current public awareness of the Autobot presence. The first public appearance by an Autobot in humanoid mode occurred at a Formula One race when Mirage, disguised as a Ligier JS11 race car, abruptly transformed in front of a news crew and ran through a parking lot before transforming back into vehicular mode and driving off. His actions were prompted by the unexpected appearance of one of our finest officers, Constable Starscream, who had been reformatted into the vehicular form of an F-15 fighter jet. Starscream, having picked up radio signals suggestive of an Autobot, had swooped low to investigate. Mirage, who had never faced combat, took the sensible action, and Starscream pursued until he lost Mirage in a populated area. Ever-adaptable, the Autobots went public with their existence, claiming that Mirage actually was leading the “evil Decepticon” away to protect innocent humans. Bumblebee, still a Volkswagen Beetle, had himself redecoed a sunny yellow to look “cuter” and would soon lose the “battle mask” which was much more appealing to the Nazis than the Americans. Other Autobots appealed to other “pedestrian” interests of the humans, including sporting events. Thus several Autobots were reformatted as race cars, including Wheeljack, Smokescreen, and Jazz. (Like Volkswagen, the Porsche company opposed having an Autobot formatted after one of their cars, likely as Porsche also has a similar shameful history in Nazi Germany. Although Jazz allegedly has been reformatted as a Mazda RX-8, he often has been seen recently in his old Porsche form.)

It has been made public that Jazz is the Autobot “head of special operations,” the implication being that he directs other Autobots in battle against “evil Decepticons.” While he has been involved in conflicts with us, his actual role has largely been leading Autobots in battle against humans. This is clear in his recent appearances in the United States involvement in the current Iraqi religious-civil war, though his work in this area extends much further back.

The earliest documented involvement of Autobots fighting for the United States is during the United States-Vietnam War, where several Autobots, led by Jazz, helped repel the Tet Offensive. Though the United States eventually lost the war, the military was sufficiently impressed; Autobots continued to be used in a number of other conflicts, most occurring in Latin America and continuing up to the current Iraq War. Needless to say, most Autobots in war zones are not formatted as race cars or such; they are reformatted by replacing their detachable exterior plates so they resemble local vehicles without any color schemes or faction symbols which would make their presence obvious. Jazz himself in war zones usually presents himself as an old sports car (usually a Porsche 930) with considerable surface damage; a robot appearing from what looks like a “piece of junk” has proved to be a very effective disguise.

Jazz poses on the lawn of the White House with United States President George W. Bush and Laura Bush

While Jazz is currently frequently seen near the United States President or with military commanders, this association goes back to his time in the Third Reich. From his early meetings with the Nazi high command (where got the nickname “Meister,” German for “master”) he had adopted the vehicular form of a Mercedes touring car, and he soon was working with them, acting as a bodyguard for Adolf Hitler himself. Together they shared common cultural interests such as Hitler’s love of opera, especially Richard Wagner. Using his position, he was very influential, the full extent of which is just being learned. We now know that Jazz offered the services of several Autobots disguised as Allied military vehicles, including Warpath as a tank and Hound, Outback, Beachcomber, and Brawn as jeeps. Acting in false-flag operations, they were effective in surprising soldiers deep inside Allied territory; it was only the unusual nature of the attacks and the efforts of Allied commanders to avoid a panic that prevented tales of “killer jeep men” from becoming anything more than rumors. Jazz may have also supported or even participated in the harsh measures the Nazis used against dissidents and minorities, which were not far from how the Autobots treated their own opponents on Cybertron.

Jazz with German Fürher Adolf Hitler

Eventually, of course, even the Autobots could not save Nazi Germany, and the German empire was abandoned. Several Autobots at that time had abandoned the group, while one, today known as Powerglide but then Kamikaze, continued to fight for Japan in the guise of a Mitsubishi Zero until the Battle of Iwo Jima. The remaining Autobots managed to leave Berlin when it was besieged and make their way to meet at a contact point. The meeting had been prearranged and involved an officer in the British Royal Air Force, one who would play a large role in not just the Autobots’ future, but also that of the whole planet.

His name was James McCullen, XXIII.

Since World War II, Jazz has continued his studies of human entertainment, noting how hopes and fears are both reflected in and created through the media. He took the nickname “Jazz” after the uniquely American musical form, trying to portray himself as American in spirit. He frequently appears at “common” entertainment events to imply he too is “just one of the guys.” Despite this he sometimes errs in trying to impress others, particularly when he tries using colloquial terms. Most will remember how his misuse of hip-hop slang (“Me and ’bots always get jiggy booty-poppin’ upside our face gators”) was considered important news for a week, as well as his actually believing the invented words in a fraudulent “grunge dictionary.” (This is the source of the nickname popular among his detractors, “Cob Nobbler.”) Despite the pretenses, it has commonly been noted Jazz is often seen with government officials, including the current president, George W. Bush, a much more common occurrence than he was with the last one, Bill Clinton. In fact, Jazz was previously last seen this much with Clinton’s predecessor, George H. W. Bush, during the United States-Iraq War. For many entertainers, this association has made him a target, the implication being that Jazz is a bad influence on the White House. In the 1980s a band was named after one person’s dislike of the Autobot, Johnny Hates Jazz; one of their songs, “Shattered Dreams,” may be about him. The controversy has continued up to the present. More recently, Natalie Maines has controversially stated that “Real Americans don’t listen to Jazz,” while at a Green Day concert Jazz attended, lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong burned him in effigy on stage. (In contrast, other presidents have not been so severely criticized for their association with Autobots. Optimus Prime was nicknamed “Ronald Reagan’s guard dog” for his frequent posing on the White House lawn, George H. W. Bush had suggestions of replacing Vice President Dan Quayle with Bumblebee as the latter was “always around and could actually spell ‘potato’,” and many jokes were made about Bill Clinton “taking Arcee for a ride.”)

In our next communication we will discuss the famous Autobot medic Ratchet. Until then, we continue to wish you well.

Soundwave, Cybertonian Communicator


Monday, May 28, 2007

‪י״א סיון תשס״ז * 28 May 2007: National Hamburger Day/Whale Day/Memorial Day


Weekly employment advertisement, since I am not yet employed:
Desired job: Epidemiologist. (See my curriculum vitae.)

Other jobs I would be willing to do (not an exhaustive list):
  • Statistician. The mathematics I use for epidemiology can be applied to other problems as well.
  • Macintosh guru and all-around computer expert. People routinely mistake me for technical support.
  • Teacher.
  • Theologian. I am working on an innovative book on religious fallacies and misinformation as a side project. If someone wants to pay me to work on it full-time, I would be quite willing to do so.
  • Pundit. I do do punditry from time to time on this blog, but I am too busy with other things (such as job-hunting) to do much of it. Note that punditry can be combined with other items on this list.
  • Writer of fiction and other creative stuff.
Desired location: Within decent commuting distance of Bloomington, Indiana.

Any help anyone can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Archimedes Death Ray: Idea Feasibility Testing”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

‪י׳ סיון תשס״ז * 27 May 2007: Christian Pentecost


Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is something I found out about last night. There is a cult (or cult-like organization) called the Gentle Wind Project which markets patently fraudulent medical devices, including the The Holy Healing Hockey Puck. Anyone wanting a “healing device” which does absolutely nothing, contact me, and I’ll be happy to write you a placebo amulet at a drastically lower cost. Enjoy and share the weirdness; just don’t buy it.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Worthy cause of the day: “Stop Price Gouging”


Worthy cause of the day: Stop Price Gouging.

Supplemental news and commentary:


‪ה׳ סיון תשס״ז * 22 May 2007: מ״ט בעומר/ערב שבועות/Buy-A-Musical Instrument Day


Today’s news and commentary, some of which Barry is responsible for:Today’s weird thing was delivered by a strange-looking mechanical bird with the added promise that more will be submitted in the upcoming weeks. Since the bird has what appear to be laser guns mounted on its back, I’ve decided not to argue and am posting it in its entirety.

Transformers: Identity Crisis

Week 1: Bumblebee/Loki

Greetings, people of Earth.

Those of you following the news are aware that the Autobots have tarnished their image yet again. As is commonly known, the Autobots are required to follow the same laws as human citizens, which includes respecting others’ right to privacy. There is also an informal rule that Autobots not engaged in authorized police or military work must wear the Autobot symbol to identify themselves. Nevertheless “JJ,” a reporter using an inexpensive electromagnetic scanner, was able to detect not only Autobot surveillance activity, but also the responsible Autobot, specifically the “Autobot Commander” Optimus Prime. Optimus broke cover by transforming, the event being recorded. Not only was Optimus not acting on the behalf of law enforcement, but he also was wearing a paint job that did not identify him as an Autobot. The incriminating video can be seen at

Optimus Prime transforming.

There are those who claim this is a fake, but the video itself argues otherwise. Not only are the images incredibly detailed, but Optimus clearly follows the laws of physics. As he transforms, his center of gravity shifts back; thus he must step backwards as his transformation completes to avoid toppling over. Producing fake footage of this quality is beyond most private individuals and would require the resources of a major film studio. And while some might think the “liberal” film studios are interested in defaming the Autobots, the reality is quite different.

As of this writing, Optimus has moved from denying the incident ever occurred to admitting he was there but denying he was doing unauthorized surveillance. Despite the denials and all the talk about how the Autobots are great friends of the humans, many are beginning to ask the important question they should have asked long ago: Are the Autobots truly friendly?

The timing of this event is interesting considering that the upcoming Transformers movie will be released soon. As have popular media before, the movie will focus on the exploits of the heroic Autobots fighting their enemies, the “evil Decepticons.” The pattern has remained constant throughout all such media. Through the years humans have been told about a four-million-year-old “Ark” which crashed on Earth and increasingly fantastic claims such as putting people inside transforming heads, liquid energy in cubes, giant robots made of smaller robots, giant robots the size of cities and planets, and other absurdities; most of these are so outlandish that they do not merit comment. Yet through it all is the idea that the Autobots are the friends of humans, and that they can do no wrong.

Let us examine this movie for a moment. Anyone who looks at the production credits will note the director is Michael Bay, who also made loud, expensive wastes of celluloid such as Armageddon, The Island, The Rock, Bad Boys, and Pearl Harbor, pretentious junk with flash instead of substance, like new siding on a house rotten with termites. Previously released pictures and trailers for the film do not depict typical Transformers, only those who satisfy his vision. Their forms and transformations are very complex, almost baroque, with numerous unnecessary angles and projections. Despite claims to be based on “realistic engineering” and that some of the usual forms look “silly,” what is depicted is nothing more than the same styling for fantasy machines that has dominated the movies in the 1990s and 2000s: unnecessarily complicated, impractical, and frequently ugly. As with every other aspect of Bay’s movies, there is not the slightest realism there. Furthermore, given his previous output, there will almost certainly be the hackneyed stereotyping (such as the “wacky black guy” portrayed by Bernie Mac) and profoundly lame writing rampant in his films. Rather, with an emphasis on special effects, commercialism (particularly with most of the Autobots portrayed as being disguised as cars produced in some way by General Motors), and poor taste (Optimus Prime as a blue truck with red flames), any hope of even a decent, unrealistic story is faint. The probability this movie will have any merit based on Bay’s presence alone approaches zero. (This is confirmed by a Transformers Wrap Poem” written by an insider.) So certain is this prediction that one fan of the propaganda cartoons cobbled together a fairly good guess what some of us think of this movie.

More disturbing than the choice of director is the reason the film was made. Public opinion of the Autobots has been slipping for several years, with outright ridicule where there was once acclaim. (In all fairness to this humor, this appears to be a fairly accurate depiction of Hot Shot.) Despite the staged public appearances and speeches, particularly by Optimus, their public-relations team has not been able to rescue them from the increasing dissatisfaction with their presence on your planet. There should be little surprise then that the “Autobot Communicator” Blaster has been lobbying about Hollywood for a favorable movie depiction, not only offering the services of Autobots as actors, but also other “perks.” (It has been confirmed, for example, that producer Don Murphy received the services of Topper, who transforms into a Rolls-Royce, as a chauffeur, and that “female” Autobots Arcee and Chromia attended a number of private parties.) No doubt the movie presents them in the same, simplistic comic-book terms they always use: the “heroic” Autobots, fighting the “evil Decepticons,” came to Earth to continue their battle for justice and protect innocent humans.

This is, of course, a lie.

The real story is much more complicated. We “Decepticons” are not perfect, and many times we have made mistakes in our relations with your species. However, we intend no harm to you and do not wish to dominate or use you. Regardless of what the Autobots say, they do not feel the same way as we do. In anticipation of this movie’s release, we shall reveal the true nature of the Autobots and what they have done on your planet. We need not say more; their actions will speak for them. Several Autobots are depicted in this movie; we shall begin with one of the most popular Autobots after Optimus Prime, Bumblebee.

“The least likely can be the most dangerous.”

Bumblebee is known for his friendliness and closeness to humans. Unlike Optimus Prime, he is commonly seen at social and diplomatic functions, at which he is very popular. He has been the perfect public relations agent, the Autobot Communicator. (The alleged Communicator, Blaster, is actually a subordinate.) Few humans even suspect this is his position as he seems the natural friend. He is most commonly known for wearing the form of a yellow Volkswagen Beetle as his vehicular mode, which many have regarded as “cute.” He kept this form until, following the release of the New Beetle in 1998, Volkswagen learned he was going to be reformatted as such and publicly stated that they did not want their products associated with “war machines.” Volkswagen was started by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and originally used slave labor, which they understandably wish to avoid reminding people. Bumblebee’s last officially acknowledged reformatting was as an unspecified “cute” concept car. He was recently seen formatted as a “supercute” New Beetle during an attempt to take him into custody, in which he sustained minor damage driving over Deputy Rumble. Several lies he tells about himself include that he is a small Autobot (he actually stands about 6.3 m [20.5 ft] tall in humanoid mode, whereas most car-formatted Autobots are between about 4 and 5 m [about 13 and 16 ft] tall), that he is weak (no less so than other Autobots), and that he does not carry weapons (he has integrated weapons in his arms). All these are aimed at making him seem “harmless” and even “childlike.”

Bumblebee shortly before driving over Rumble

Like the other Autobots, his presence on Earth was made public in the 1980s, supposedly shortly after he and other Autobots were revived after a long bout of suspended animation. Unknown to most humans, the Autobots have been active on Earth much longer. These photographs were taken in 1938 at a Nazi rally. They show Adolf Hitler himself making an announcement, while in the foreground you can clearly see a familiar Autobot; the paint job is different, but the basic form is virtually identical with the familiar one, even with the split in the front license plate so the feet can come apart. Obviously Bumblebee was not fooling anyone about being a car. A robot truly in disguise would not wear an obvious symbol identifying oneself; this is like children wearing camouflage clothing in a city. Rather, the use of the vehicular form was part of a publicity stunt. The Volkswagen Type 1 (later known as the Beetle) had just been released, and as part of promoting Hitler’s car for the masses, the esteemed Autobot adopted its shape for his vehicular form.

Bumblebee with German Fürher Adolf Hitler at a Nazi rally

The reality is that the Autobots have been on Earth for a long time and became influential during the Third Reich, providing technical information and military support while receiving shelter and materials in return. It was only later, as Nazi Germany faltered, that the Autobots forged a new alliance. Through it all, the spokesperson and propagandist for the Autobots, even more than Optimus Prime, has been Bumblebee. By seeming “cute”, he leads others to think that he is harmless, that he and his companions must be good and honest and their cause just. He helped persuade the Nazis to allow the Autobots to remain in their country, and then later negotiated the deals that had them working for the United States. It is because of this that for years the Autobots have walked or rather rolled among you, truly unknown, until we arrived on Earth in the 1980s, forcing the presence of the Autobots to become public.

Most of what you have been told about our species is a fabrication, of which Bumblebee is the ultimate source; much of it is grossly inaccurate, fictitious, or, in the case of us “Decepticons” and the Quintessons, slander. Only a few facts you have been told are correct. We are robots, and the planet we come from is called (or, more properly, its name may be rendered as) Cybertron. The Autobots originated there, fought against others they called “Decepticons,” and fled to Earth, where their spaceship crashed. Rely on these things, for these are the few things Bumblebee has said which can be relied on to be true.

He is, of course, not really named “Bumblebee,” as bumblebees are native to Earth and unknown to our kind before the Autobots arrived. Like all Autobot “names” made public, it was actually chosen for its associations to portray an image. Like many of these pseudonyms, it belies a deeper meaning; bumblebees are cute, but they still can sting. Through his seeming innocence and friendliness, he has been extremely influential, manipulating Earth’s governments at their highest levels for the benefit of the Autobots only. Because of this, Bumblebee is perhaps one of the most dangerous Autobots on your planet. Indeed, the Nazis nicknamed him “Loki” after their ancient trickster god.

The next installment of this series will focus on Jazz, the Autobot military advisor to the United States. Until then, we wish you well.

Soundwave, Cybertonian Communicator

Monday, May 21, 2007

Employment, or rather lack thereof


My hooding ceremony was last Thursday, and commencement was Friday. I am now, without any questions, a PhD.

One of the things I have been trying to do, but have not yet been successful at, is getting a job. To that end, I would like to advertise this need on my blog, in the hopes that someone reading this will hire me, direct me to someone who will hire me, or direct someone who will hire me to my blog.

Desired job: Epidemiologist. (See my curiculum vitae.)

Other jobs I would be willing to do (not an exhaustive list):
  • Statistician. The mathematics I use for epidemiology can be applied to other problems as well.
  • Macintosh guru and all-around computer expert. People routinely mistake me for technical support. I might as well get paid for it.
  • Teacher. This is a skill I may well need to develop anyway.
  • Theologian. I am working on an innovative book on religious fallacies and misinformation as a side project. If someone wants to pay me to work on it full-time, I would be quite willing to do so.
  • Pundit. I do do punditry from time to time on this blog, but I am too busy with other things (such as job-hunting) to do much of it. Note that punditry can be combined with other items on this list.
  • Writer of fiction and other creative stuff.

Desired location: Within decent commuting distance of Bloomington, Indiana.

Any help anyone can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.


‪ד׳ סיון תשס״ז * 21 May 2007: מ״ח בעומר/National Bike to Work Day/Victoria Day


Today’s news and commentary, much of which Barry is responsible for:Today’s weird thing is Film Sound Cliches. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

‪ג׳ סיון תשס״ז * 20 May 2007: מ״ז בעומר/Weights and Measures Day


Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is a cute story from Emily’s collection, included below. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


God is left handed

Little Bobby was spending the weekend with his grandmother after a particularly trying week in kindergarten. His grandmother decided to take him to the park on Saturday morning. It had been snowing all night and everything was beautiful.

His grandmother remarked..."doesn't it look like an artist painted this scenery? Did you know God painted this just for you?"

Bobby said, "Yes, God did it and he did it left handed."

This confused his grandmother a bit, and she asked him "What makes you say God did this with his left hand?"

"Well," said Bobby, "we learned at Sunday School last week that Jesus sits on God's right hand!"

Thursday, May 17, 2007

‪כ״ט אייר תשס״ז * 17 May 2007: מ״ד בעומר/Ascension/MUSC Hooding Ceremony


Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is something amusing from Emily’s collection, included below. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


A woman brought a very limp parrot into a veterinary hospital. As she laid her pet on the table, the vet pulled out his stethoscope and listened to the bird’s chest.

After a moment or two, the vet shook his head sadly and said, “I’m so sorry Polly has passed away.”

The distressed owner wailed, “Are you sure? I mean, you haven’t done any testing on him or anything. He might just be in a coma or something.”

The vet rolled his eyes, shrugged, turned and left the room returning a few moments later with beautiful black Labrador. As the bird’s owner looked on in amazement, the dog stood on his hind legs, put his front paws on the examination table and sniffed the dead parrot from top to bottom. He then looked at the vet with sad eyes and shook his head.

The vet led the dog out but returned a few moments later with a cat. The cat jumped up and also sniffed delicately at the ex-bird. The cat sat back, shook its head, meowed and ran out of the room. The vet looked at the woman and said, “I’m sorry; but like I said, your parrot is most definitely, 100%, certifiably... dead.”

He then turned to his computer terminal, hit a few keys and produced a bill which he handed to the woman. The parrot’s owner, still in shock, took the bill. “$150!” she cried “$150 just to tell me my bird is dead?!”

The vet shrugged. “If you’d taken my word for it, the bill would only have been $20, but with the Lab Report and the Cat Scan...What did you expect??

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

‪כ״ז אייר תשס״ז * 15 May 2007: מ״ב בעומר/Nakba Day/Straw Hat Day/National Chocolate Chip Day/National Receptionists Day


Today is the day the Stateless Arabs (“Palestinians”) commemorate as “Nakba Day”, marking their failed attempt to wipe out the State of Israel at its inception in 1948. It must be noted that they have failed, over and over again, to wipe out Israel, despite the fact that the Israeli government is hopelessly bogged down by factional bickering and incompetent leaders. Get some sense, Stateless Arabs! If you can’t beat a country whose government is a disaster, even if you’ve been trying for about 80 years, you can’t beat anyone! If you tried taking over the virtually uninhabited Antarctica, you would be devastated by the penguins! There is no honor in beating your heads against the anti-terrorism barrier and complaining like a bunch of immature brats. You lost, get over it, and get on with your lives.

Today’s news and commentary, some of which Barry is responsible for:Last night I watched Star Trek: Insurrection, one of the less remarkable Star Trek movies. In dishonor of it, today’s weird thing is “STAR TREK: INSUFFICIENT”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Monday, May 14, 2007

‪כ״ו אייר תשס״ז * 14 May 2007: מ״א בעומר


Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is The "How Evil Are You?" Quiz. I took it, and it told me
Maybe I should have not answered truthfully. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

‪כ״ה אייר תשס״ז * 13 May 2007: מ׳ בעומר/Mother’s Day


Reminder: Today is Mother’s Day. It is advisable to let your mother know you care about her.

Today’s news and commentary:In place of the usual weird thing, I am going to review one of the books I have read for the Divine Misconceptions project, Island by Aldous Huxley:

After Brave New World, Island was a severe disappointment.

First off, Island is a failure as a story. In a decent story, the protagonist or protagonists have an obstacle or enemy which they try to overcome or escape. In Island, the protagonists, located on the tropical island of Pala, recognize they have enemies very early, in the person of their hereditary ruler, Murughan, Murughan’s mother (who is ruling until Murughan is old enough to take over), and Colonel Dipa (ruler of the neighboring island of Rendang). It is assumed that when Murughan shortly ascends to the throne, under the influence of his mother, Colonel Dipa, and a European education, he will drastically change the way of life on Pala for the worse—yet they do nothing of substance to stop this fate. Some arguing with Murughan occurs, but it is assumed anything more active, such as overthrowing the monarchy, is doomed to fail. And so the plot unfolds in the most obvious, uninteresting way possible, with Pala going out with a whimper with the reader cheering the soldiers of Rendang on.

The reason for this pathetic plot is that the plot is purely an excuse for Huxley to present a vision of an ideal society. Some of what is presented is actually good. There is a lot of emphasis on preventing problems, whether they be in health, behavior, or anything else, before they occur—an idea which much of the planet could greatly benefit from. However, much in the structure and operation of government is left indistinct, which is troubling since this leaves big questions about the decision-making process. It is one thing to ban motor-scooters when the reasoning for it is made explicit; it is quite another when the decision is handed down by an anonymous committee, the composition of which is never made clear, nor how they got to be a committee, nor their reasoning. (Worries about “materialism” do not in and of themselves constitute a reason, as they can be used to ban anything material.)

Extremely disturbing is the attitude toward religion presented. On one hand, there is a constant assumption made that atheism is correct. I say “assumption” because not a single shred of evidence is given that no god exists, rather just repetitive harping on religion’s real or alleged negative effects on people. At no time is any attempt made to prove atheism (in any scientific sense of “prove”). We hear nothing about what is impossible or improbable about the concept of a deity or historical problems with any scriptures. What we do hear is harping about the worst religion Huxley can imagine, Calvinism, and how those subjected to it suffer from it in horrific situations (unhappy marriage, metastatic cancer). However, suffering is not a valid disproof of the existence of any god (the Christian Trinity or otherwise). That a creator god would necessarily make this universe perfect and fair—and thus free of undeserved suffering—is nothing more than an assumption with no basis in physical reality. No matter how good the universe is, one can always imagine an even better universe. For example, if everyone lived forever in cloud-like conditions with a beer fountain, a stripper factory, rivers of milk and wine, and beautiful music, one could still insist that one was suffering too much for any god to exist due to not having something one considers better, such as seventy virgins. Because of this, one could always claim that the universe is too awful a place for a good Creator to exist. This makes this test completely non-informative, and as such it is scientifically useless for determining whether any god exists.

On the other, there is the promotion of Shaivism and Mahayana Buddhism. The attitude is not one of religious tolerance; the atheistic hierarchy of Pala actually promotes Shaivism and Mahayana Buddhism among the populace with the expectation that the sufficiently intelligent and educated will become atheists. This practice is akin to the cruel joke that many Americans play on their children, encouraging them to believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, only to reveal years later than they were shamelessly lying. In essence, the government is inviting people to distrust it. An even better comparison might be to the practices of the Bene Gesserit in the Dune series by Frank Herbert; like the Bene Gesserit, the government hijacks religion in order to manipulate people into unwittingly implementing its agenda. The most prominent example is the perversion of Tantra, an esoteric and elite method of obtaining enlightenment, into a popular method for birth control and pacification of the masses through sex. Considering that morality is often important to serious atheists, it is a shock to see advocacy of deliberate deception and manipulation.

(Tangent: The use of Tantric methods as described is also likely to backfire. In Pala, Tantra is taught to teenagers who are encouraged to practice it. Somehow I doubt that beginners are likely to perform correctly early on. The issue of “accidents” is never discussed—and neither is the morality of encouraging people not mature enough to raise children to engage in a practice which may well result in them. The matter of sexually transmitted diseases is likewise ignored. Considering that Huxley also indulges in annoyingly poetic descriptions of the bodies of teenagers, he arguably has hebephilic tendencies and is engaging in self-indulgent fantasy.)

Adding contradiction to deception, in Huxley’s utopia, children are taught atheism as well. In one scene, children put this teaching into action by playing with scarecrows designed to look like gods. This does not bode well for the children, since they are being taught blatantly contradictory beliefs; this can only confuse them. There is no guarantee that what they eventually decide is correct is atheism. If atheism is the desired belief, better to just teach it to them straight.

Even more hypocritically, the Palanese actually try to integrate mysticism into atheism. If one is a true, “no resort to the supernatural” atheist, one forfeits any ability to invoke mystical concepts upon pain of contradiction, no question. Nevertheless, Palanese atheism promotes having mystical experiences, not only through perverted Tantra, but also through use of a psychoactive drug. These experiences are taken to be actual mystical contact or union with Mind (in general) with the classic mystic realization that All is One. While acknowledging that the drug experience might be just a drug experience, the idea that the realizations made in a mystical state might be wrong is never considered, despite the fact that mystical experience in reality can lead people to incorrect conclusions (not to mention behavior that violates all moral conventions). Such uncritical acceptance is blatantly irrational and a gross distortion of what serious atheism is supposed to be about.

Finally, Island is plagued by a disgusting level of arrogance. The message the reader is constantly hit in the face with is that the Palanese have the One True Way and anyone who does not follow it is obviously stupid, ignorant, evil, or sick. Now, anyone with any sense will realize that their society is far from perfect, yet many people in said societies still turn out OK. In Island, the Palanese are all practically perfect and everyone else is horribly screwed up. The only exceptions to these are the narrator, Will Farnaby, an outsider who increasingly embraces Palanese ways, and Murughan and his mother, who have rejected Palanese ways. Murughan is depicted as a materialist whom the narrator suspects is having a homosexual affair, and his mother is a religious lunatic with delusions of prophecy. Everything that is related happening outside Pala is a tragedy of some sort. Outside society is practically irredeemable. Outside religion is cold, sterile, and depressing. Only the Palanese are happy; everyone else is miserable. This is too unrealistic to swallow. Arguably it is fitting that the cardboard cutout of Pala falls to the forces of Rendang without a fight.

Anyone reading this who wants to read good theology fiction, find a copy of Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny instead and enjoy yourself.


Thursday, May 3, 2007

‪ט״ו אייר תשס״ז * 3 May 2007: ל׳ בעומר


Robert “Bobby Awesome” Olsen has been grounded again for posting to my blog without getting my permission in advance. I have not been told if Liz has been grounded yet.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is the BACON WALLET. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


emo day

hey dudes!!!

my friend elizabeth "zee" whitlock wrote this cool story its better than anything AARRON ever puts on this thing enjoy

The Boy Who Cried “Emo”

Once upon a time about two weeks ago, a boy named Sammy was all alone and bored at a mall. So since he was bored, he decided to pop into Hot Topic.

There he saw magical emo kid clothes that made him feel deep and sensitive to other’s feelings. On the labels they called the clothes “emo.” Sammy decided to call himself emo.

“I’m totally emo!” he proclaimed to everyone.

Just then a group of emo kids came by, hoping to find new meat to train in their whiney, retarded ways. Instead, they said, “Hey! He’s not emo! We’re leaving!” So they did.

Sammy was annoyed. So he went out and bought tight jeans and band t-shirts. The next day he came back to Hot Topic and proclaimed: “I am very emo!” The same group of emo kids came back. They were not impressed.

“No you’re not, you’re a poser! You’re not emo!” they said. They warned him not to cry “emo” again or they wouldn’t come back.

So the next week all he did was do that hair-flippy thing and listen to nothing but the Get-Up Kids and the sound of his own tears.

Sammy mustered up the strength to go back to the mall again to be emo one last time. He yelled, “Look, guys, I’m emo!”

To that they replied, “You’re emo, huh? Well then, go kill yourself.”

And he did.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

‪י״ג אייר תשס״ז * 1 May 2007: כ״ח בעומר/Save a Rhino Day


Relevant to today’s quasi-holiday: The Wikipedia “Rhinoceros” article.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is the Hollywood Walk of Fame Star Generator, which allows people to generate improbable sidewalk markings, such as this:

As everyone knows, I am much more likely to write screenplays. Enjoy and share the weirdness.