This is interesting. The president of the United States gets a lot of mail. Let me rephrase that. People send a lot of letters to the president. These letters don’t actually go to the White House. They go to a government mail processing facility where they are examined before forwarding. Some of the mail sent to the president actually winds up in the White House, and the president reads some of it.

Sometimes the president responds:

Letter from President Obama to Thomas Ritter

Here’s the story:

A Texas schoolteacher who wrote a letter highly critical of President Obama’s health care law was surprised when the president himself wrote back defending his policies but admitting that health care “wasn’t the smart political thing!”

But that’s not what this blog post is all about. Here is what Thomas Ritter had to say in response to the letter he received from the president:

This bill has caused such a divisive, dirisive [sic], and toxic environment … The reality is that any citizen that disagrees with your administration is targeted and ridiculed. I hesitated to write for fear of some kind of retribution. I watched you make fun of tea baggers and your press secretary make fun of Ms. Palin which was especially beneath the dignity of the White House.

The New York Post reports that Ritter is a fifth grade school teacher, so we can hope his tasks do not involve instruction in spelling and grammar. That aside, the key point is Ritter’s reference to making fun of “tea baggers” and making fun of (former Alaska Governor) Sarah Palin (one such “tea bagger”).

And that’s it. Ritter finds it remarkable and even deplorable to make fun of “tea baggers” and even the hyperventilating Ms. Palin? Let’s be clear on one point. Even brief mention of “tea baggers” and Sarah Palin is to invite ridicule upon them. Let’s roll the Tea Party parade video:

To be fair, I need to be careful to attack the message, not the messenger. It’s possible these people have a good message they want to convey, but they are just not the most capable exponents of their cause. So let’s look at the message.

One person, face hidden by a bandanna, holds up a sign that has what appears to be some Chinese writing. Below the Chinese is a note in this person’s best of English: “You better learn to read this! Our politians represent it!”

What is this person trying to say? If he is saying our government is too cozy with the communist government of China, then from where is he getting this idea? If he is saying the government is too lenient in allowing the importation of manufactured goods from China, then he needs to look not only at our government but at the large American corporations that depend on these cheap imports in their goal to turn a profit, all the while selling cheap goods that our fellow Americans depend on for the lifestyle they currently enjoy.

There’s a sign that simply reads “1930s Gemany all over again.”

This means what? There’s a person holding the sign. Does this person know the history of Germany in the 1930s? Mass murder by the government of political opponents and others deemed a risk to Hitler’s regime. Jews disenfranchised, denied jobs, stripped of government protection when thugs destroyed their property. Look around. Do we see anything that remotely approaches 1930s Germany? Blatant disregard for facts is one thing that’s making “tea baggers” a laughing stock. No assistance from the president is required.

Another poster has trouble with the plural form of the English word “levy.” He does not want any more tax levies to support (I suppose) building and maintaining public schools. There is an annoying cadre that thinks we spend too much educating our children while at the same time exhibiting the need for better public education.

There’s a smiling couple, and the woman is holding up a sign that says “No Hussien Obama.” Forget the spelling. Does this woman actually think that the president’s middle name is what’s wrong with this country. Political conservatism should be made of sterner stuff.

Anyhow, the president doesn’t even need to put his shoes on to make fun of “tea baggers.” They are doing an excellent job on their own:

All that said, I do take issue with the president’s press secretary’s making fun of Sara Palin. He needs to stop doing that right now. That’s my job:

I have previously mentioned the devastating effect this choice had on the McCain campaign, but the movie shows a deeper view, if reviews are to be believed. But that is not what I am getting into here, so I will get some points out of the way first:

Palin was pulled from obscurity for a perceived popularity with the party’s conservative base. Palin, pumped up and clueless, was tossed into the shark pool after which party staffers begin to teach her how to swim. At that point a horrifying realization set in:

Palin has only a passing acquaintance with the truth. Todd Palin was (at least at one time) a “member of the Alaskan Independence Party, a fierce states’ rights group that wants to turn all federal lands in Alaska back to the state.” The movie shows Palin demanding when the Republican Party was going to put out a press release denying this fact.

Compared to your average college professor of political science, Palin is dumber than rocks. She is shown to be ignorant of the Federal Reserve and what it does, and she has no idea why there is now a North and a South Korea. Her knowledge about the two major world wars of the twentieth century is also vanishingly small. There is more, of course.

There is more, of course.


Bad Joke of the Week

Everybody gets their turn on this blog. Mr. President, your time has arrived. These are courtesy of Jay Leno (or his comedy writers).

Not yet

“These White House scandals are not going away anytime soon. People in Kenya are now saying he’s 100 percent American.”

“I was going to start off tonight with an Obama joke, but I don’t want to get audited by the IRS.”

On NSA surveillance: “We wanted a president who listens to all Americans – now we have one.”

On a new IRS commissioner: “He’s called ‘acting commissioner’ because he has to act like the scandal doesn’t involve the White House.”

Concerning the Benghazi , Associated Press, and IRS scandals: “Remember in the old days when President Obama’s biggest embarrassment was Joe Biden?”

On Obama saying he didn’t know about the IRS scandal: “He was too busy not knowing anything about Benghazi to not know anything about the IRS.”

“The White House has a new slogan about Benghazi: Hope and change the subject.”

“It is not looking good for President Obama. Today his teleprompter took the fifth.”

“Fox News has changed its slogan from ‘Fair and Balanced’ to ‘See, I told you so!'”

On a Chicago man who set a record for riding a Ferris wheel: “The only other way to go around and around in a circle that many times is to read the official report on Benghazi .”

On White House claims of ignorance on the scandals: “They took ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ out of the Pentagon and moved it into the White House.”

On closing the Guantanamo prison for terrorists: “If he really wants to close it, turn it into a government-funded solar power company. The doors will be shut in a month.”

No Atheists in Foxholes

I have been prompted to write this by a number of Facebook postings I have seen in the past few months. I have not preserved any of the subject postings, but nobody will dispute that they have been composed, that they have been posted and that they receive a definite following. These postings are different cuts from the same cloth, and they have a common theme: “There are no atheists in foxholes.”

A little explanation:

A “foxhole” is an infantry combat defensive position. About 150 years ago infantry firepower began to become quite deadly, and soldiers needed some protection if they aimed to hold onto a position for any time. Fortifications, stone walls, fallen tree trunks, earth embankments, all filled the need when available. On open ground the foxhole was the only solution. A soldier dug a hole in the ground and got inside—as would a fox hiding in his den. Hence the name.

During World War I, and particularly during World War II, foxholes became almost as familiar to the civilian population as they were to the soldiers. Soldiers sought shelter and fought from foxholes.

Infantry combat is a scary operation. You shoot at the enemy, and the enemy shoots at you. The enemy also drops aerial bombs and artillery shells on your position. You need to be very brave not to flee to the rear. It is common in these situations for soldiers of religious faith to call on their belief in the supernatural to sustain them. For many it seems natural to pray for divine intervention. Make the incoming shell fall a few feet further to the right.

I am sure this is the origin of the idea that there are no atheists in foxholes. In dire circumstance such as this, nobody could survive without the comforting blanket of faith.

Navy chaplain Patrick McLaughlin has written a book.

When words mean less and less, but money talks more and more; when blasphemy is a best seller, and eternal war has replaced hopeful diplomacy; in times like these is prayer even possible? Patrick J. McLaughlin thinks so. McLaughlin is an active duty Navy Chaplain who has ministered to heads of state and to soldiers living and dying in the heat of Iraq.

No Atheists in Foxholes assembles Chaplain McLaughlin’s experiences and prayers from e-mails, private notes, and personal conversations that take us real-time into realms of duty and spirit: from the quiet darkness of his infant son’s New England bedroom on September 11, 2001, to the bomshelled medical tents and blistered Army Humvees of Anbar Province. Chaplain McLaughlin believes that prayer is not only possible, but critical. “We must all learn to pray for peace,” he says, “and then become an answer to that prayer.”

The title of the book is No Atheists in Foxholes.


Whenever I see an otherwise rational person wander off into this intellectual wilderness I recall some letters I received many years ago. Here is an excerpt from one:

26 March 1968
Camp Evans
Hue — Quang Tri
South Vietnam

Dear John:

Now that our Battalion has moved up North I have finally had the experience of being “under fire.” It is really hard to believe because nothing has happened to me yet. Night before last six persons were killed here at camp Evans by mortars. They were caught getting out of bed, putting on their boots, etc. I was doing the same thing about that time. I was just more fortunate than some, I guess. The attacks are becoming more frequent. I went to the Battalion Staff briefing tonight since the Chaplain is presently in An Khe and the report was that we are to expect frequent rocket attacks between 29 Mar and 4 Apr. The Cav learned of this from the local populace who were told by tho VC to be prepare during the above period. I hope to finish my bunker by tomorrow.

Since things are so dull here at Evans, I have decided to get my kicks in other ways. I am attempting to get on the “night hunter” team. This is a team of four volunteers who go up in helicopters at night armed with M-16s and starlight scopes. The primary purpose is to avert mortar attacks during the hour of darkness. I flew my first two missions three nights ago, and my second was nearly my last. Our pilot came within a hair of crashing. I had already prepared for the inevitable collision with the ground. I am still not sure how it happened. All I know is that I was looking out the door at the ground, as was my job, and suddenly the ground began to rise very fast. Just before it looked like we were go$ng to hit, I pulled myself back inside and braced myself in the seat. The co-pilot grabbed the stick away from the pilot and pulled it back all the way and gave it the gun. The jolt was so severe that I thought we had hit and that the ship and everybody in it bad given. up the ghost. But we stalled there for about ten seconds, rocking like a boat in high seas, and then began to move forward again. The excitement sounds like fun, but it isn’t, and the fact remains that we were all almost killed. But still I have labeled myself a fool and plan to continue. I had to admit that I was a fool to do it in the first place. I haven’t gotten to shoot anyone yet, but I’m sure my chance will come. Do you think I am wrong in killing these people? I think not. Two nights ago they tried to kill me.

It’s obvious the person writing this letter was on active duty in Vietnam at the time. In a foxhole? Not exactly. In a bunker maybe. Does it count if he were not in a foxhole but was flying around at night in a helicopter with a sniper’s rifle hunting people? I can only hope so, because he is an atheist, and he was then. He is my brother.

I’m not going to let this go without dropping a bit of salacious irony on my readers. When my brother was not looking for people to kill he worked as a chaplain’s assistant.

I have more letters from my brother. One of them tells about another time he almost died. I will post it sometime in the future. In the mean time I’m going to wait until somebody posts another silly note about there being no atheists in foxholes.

Still Crazy After All These Years

There are time when you want to say, “What are these guys still doing here. Isn’t this the 21st century.”

Deepak Chopra, from Wikipedia

What brought this up is an item in Forbes about Deepak Chopra.

Deepak Chopra Gets Upset, Tries The Harvard Gambit

Deepak Chopra is upset.

Why? Well, it all goes back to statements like this one, from Chopra himself:

“Consciousness may exist in photons, which seem to be the carrier of all information in the universe.”

Chopra is upset that evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne pointed out how absurd this statement is. More specifically, Coyne wrote that:

“[Chopra’s] lucrative brand of woo is finally exposed as a lot of scientifically-sounding psychobabble.”

Coyne was wasting his breath. Rather his ink. Rather Internet bandwidth. Psychobabble is what Deepak Chopra is all about. For example:

Deepak Chopra Claims He Caused Baja Quake by Meditating

Deepak Chopra, woo guru extraordinaire, accepted blame for the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Baja California via Twitter. Seriously.

Tweeted this twit to his 179,000 followers:

Had a powerful meditation just now – caused an earthquake in Southern California.
3:56 PM Apr 4th via TweetDeck

Was meditating on Shiva mantra & earth began to shake. Sorry about that
3:59 PM Apr 4th via TweetDeck

Om Shanti
4:11 PM Apr 4th via TweetDeck

@Whitemoon7 Wont do it again–promise
4:22 PM Apr 4th via TweetDeck in reply to Whitemoon7

Speaking of twits!

Deepak Chopra; born October 22, 1947, is an Indian-American author, physician, holistic health/New Age guru, and alternative medicine practitioner. Chopra began a mainstream medical career in hospitals and universities in the Northeastern United States, becoming Chief of Staff at the New England Memorial Hospital (NEMH). In 1985, Chopra met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who invited him to study Ayurveda. Chopra left his position at the NEMH and became the founding president of the American Association of Ayurvedic Medicine, and was later named medical director of the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center.

For the uninitiated:

Ayurveda or Ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to the Indian subcontinent and a form of alternative medicine. The oldest known ayurvedic texts are the Suśrutha Saṃhitā and the Charaka Saṃhitā. These Classical Sanskrit texts are among the foundational and formally compiled works of ayurveda.

By the medieval period, ayurvedic practitioners developed a number of medicinal preparations and surgical procedures for the treatment of various ailments. Current practices derived (or reportedly derived) from ayurvedic medicine are regarded as part of complementary and alternative medicine, and, along with siddha and Traditional Chinese medicine, form the basis for systems medicine.

Safety concerns have been raised about Ayurveda; for instance, two US studies found that about 20 percent of Ayurvedic US and Indian-manufactured patent medicines sold via internet contained toxic levels of heavy metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic. Other concerns include the use of herbs containing toxic compounds and the lack of quality control in Ayurvedic facilities. Mostly Ayurvedic products are not approved by US Food and Drug Administration. There is an import alert on some Ayurvedic medicines issued by US FDA since 2007 which prevents these products entering the US.

Chopra’s credentials in modern woo are well-earned. A follow-up from Wikipedia details this:

Chopra coined the term quantum healing to invoke the idea of a process whereby a person’s health “imbalance” is corrected by quantum mechanical means. Chopra claimed that quantum phenomena are responsible for health and wellbeing. He has attempted to integrate Ayurveda, a traditional Indian system of medicine, with quantum mechanics, in order to justify his teachings. According to Robert Carroll, he “charges $25,000 per lecture performance, where he spouts a few platitudes and gives spiritual advice while warning against the ill effects of materialism.”

Chopra has equated spontaneous remission in cancer to a change in quantum state, corresponding to a jump to “a new level of consciousness that prohibits the existence of cancer”. Physics professor Robert L. Park has written that physicists “wince” at the “New Age quackery” in Chopra’s cancer theories, and characterizes them as a cruel fiction, since adopting this view in place of effective treatment risks compounding the ill-effects of the disease with guilt, and might rule out the prospect of getting a genuine cure.

Chopra’s claims of quantum healing have attracted controversy due to what has been described as a “systematic misinterpretation” of modern physics. Chopra’s connections between quantum mechanics and alternative medicine are widely regarded in the scientific community as being invalid, but nevertheless have a number of followers. The main criticism revolves around the fact that macroscopic objects are too large to exhibit inherently quantum properties like interference and wave function collapse. Most literature on quantum healing is almost entirely philosophical, omitting the rigorous mathematics that makes quantum electrodynamics possible.

Jerry Coyne’s principal remarks were about another curiosity from the world of make believe:

Pseudoscientist Rupert Sheldrake Is Not Being Persecuted, And Is Not Like Galileo

Rupert Sheldrake is a pseudoscientist who has made his name promoting various kinds of woo, including telepathy (including in dogs!), immaterial minds, and his crazy idea of “morphic resonance,” a Jung-ian theory in which all of nature participates in some giant collective memory. (He was once a real scientist, trained in biochemistry and cell biology at Cambridge, but somewhere went off the rails.)

Many of you might know of Sheldrake. He enjoys a certain popularity in the US and UK among those who think that there must be “something more out there”—with “more” meaning psychic phenomena. I don’t really understand a penchant for things that aren’t supported by evidence, but that’s probably a failure of empathy on my part—as well as a product of my scientific training to doubt. I am sure, though, that some of the same psychological tendencies that promote sympathy for woo also promote sympathy for religion.

I first touched bases with Rupert Sheldrake in 1998 after he appeared on PBS TV on a program called “A Glorious Accident.” I followed up and wrote an item for The North Texas Skeptic and eventually acquired a number of Sheldrake’s books. A remarkable idea that Sheldrake promotes is morphic resonance and morphogenetic fields. Here’s a diagram that attempts to explain how morphogenetic fields relate to biological heredity:

In the lower row the genes, in the DNA, carry the code for constructing the physical child from generation to generation. The genes pass information to the morphogenetic field (third row), but nothing passes from the morphogenetic field back to the genes. The morphogenetic field receives information from the organism (top row) and from environmental influences (second row). The morphogenetic field also passes information to the organism. Morphogenetic fields of an organism pass information from generation to generation, just as the genes do. The information passed along by the morphogenetic fields encodes the memories of the past that Sheldrake alludes to.

Coyne continues:

Sheldrake and his supporters always defend themselves as beleaguered scientists whose correct theories are unfairly attacked or neglected because they buck the current “materialistic paradigm.” That is, he thinks himself an unrecognized genius, persecuted like Galileo. The proper answer to this is given on the NeuroLogica website:

The definitive assessment of this comparison comes from the original version of the movie, “Bedazzled.” Dudley Moore’s character calls Satan a nutcase (for claiming to be Satan), and Satan replies, “They said the same of Jesus Christ, Freud and Galileo.” Moore then replies, “They said it of a lot of nutcases too.”

Some of Sheldrake’s big ideas are outlined in his book Seven Experiments That Could Change the World: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Revolutionary Science. A couple of these ideas would make for interesting tests of the paranormal. One claim is that people can tell when they are being stared at. It would be straight-forward to test this—just have somebody sit quietly in a chair and either stare at them from behind or not. If they can reliably tell when somebody is looking, then Sheldrake’s case is proved. If not, then I am sure that Sheldrake can come up with an excuse why not.

Another idea of Sheldrake’s is  that dogs can tell when their master is coming home. This doesn’t mean when their master is about to put the key in the lock, but when he’s at his desk in the office and decides it’s time to grab his jacket.

Sheldrake asserts he has reliable evidence for all of these claims,  but my own examination of his writing leads me to believe he sets a low standard for experimental proof.

Finally, I just checked, and it really is the 21st century already, and these two are still around. Remarkably, I am not saddened by this. Were it not for Chopra and Sheldrake, we would have to invent them if for no other reason than to brighten our days with their delightful antics. Too bad, though, about all the millions who hang on the pontifications of these marvelous twits. There may be no hope for them.


Long story about little.

My dad used to have this marvelous piece of firepower. It was a .22 Hornet, and it packed a real wallop. I always coveted that weapon, but quite early Dad traded it to my brother-in-law for an 8mm movie camera. Hence this story.

So, as a kid I wound up shooting a bunch of 8mm. Shortly I went to sea on an aircraft carrier, and I purchased an 8mm camera of my own and took a lot of movies aboard ship and later in civilian life at motorcycle races and other fun places.

But here’s the irony. All this time I never actually owned a movie projector. There was a family projector, but when the inheritance was distributed somebody else wound up with it. So I have all these great films I have not viewed in decades.

Along the way I also acquired a 16mm camera that used magazine load film. I was familiar with the concept, because that’s what was used in the navy for gun sight video and also to record flight operations. In the Navy there is a special rating, photographer’s mate, that does nothing but take photos and such. Aboard the aircraft carrier their job was to get up at the 07 level in the ship’s superstructure and shoot movies, takeoffs and landings. If something went wrong the Navy wanted it on film. I think I may once have seen aboard the Randolph a freezer chest packed with Kodak boxes of fresh film.

Came time to do a blog post, and I needed an old newspaper clipping. I knew right where it was. It was right here in this closet in one of these boxes. So I started pulling out boxes and searching. The result of that was I recorded to DVD and discarded a bunch of skeptical VHS tapes. In one box I came across the movie films. I decided they needed to meet the same fate as the VHS tapes.

It turns out it’s fairly easy to get the DVDs from the movies, but it’s not exactly cheap. Like $8 for a 50-foot reel of 8mm. $200 for a running hour of 16mm. For me it’s either pay and throw away the film or else throw away the film and not pay. In one case I would still have the movies, but in a more compact form.

I have sent off two reels of 8mm to a place in Longview, and this morning I drove down to the place in San Antonio and dropped off my reel of 16mm. In a few days I will begin to come into possession of DVDs containing video of a number of people, known to me, and obtained when these people were much younger than they are now and not nearly as circumspect. Here is my deal.

These people, who can be easily identified in the video, even though they are now more advanced in age, will need to pay me a certain sum, or else these videos will be posted on YouTube. You know who you are. Do I need to elaborate?

Bad Movie of the Week

People, this one is in color. I saw it first as a mere child and only caught it again this month on Turner Classic Movies (see the screen shot). It’s bad because it’s supposed to be bad. This is not so much a pirate movie as it is a spoof of pirate movies. It’s from 1952 starring Burt Lancaster as The Crimson Pirate.

Burt Lancaster and Eva Bartok enjoy victory and sexual tension high in the rigging of a mighty sailing ship.

This movie involves all kinds of wickedness, human bondage, torture and killing. All very comical.

Burt Lancaster is pirate Captain Vallo, and he heads up a scurvy and most jolly crew. His first mate is Ojo (Nick Cravat). Robert Osborne introduced the showing on TCM, and he explained this: Lancaster got his start as a circus performer, so he had an edge up going into the movies. He was very athletic with a knock ’em dead physique. This film was engineered to capitalize on his physical assets, and there are lots of scenes showing him bare-chested in tight  pants and performing trapeze stunts high among ship’s rigging and even ashore. Lancaster’s career-long partner was Cravat, who was also Lancaster’s personal trainer. The problem was that Cravat was from Brooklyn, New York, as nobody has ever been from Brooklyn before, and he could never shake his readily-identifiable accent. Dear readers, pirates do not have Brooklyn accents, so Cravat always played a mute in his films with Lancaster.

I’m not going to lay out the plot for you, because the plot is inconsequential. It’s the late 18th century in the Caribbean, and Vallo and his crew capture a royal man-of-war (that’s an 18th century gun boat). The nationalities of the parties involved are never made clear, but Vallo’s and Ojo’s names are distinctly Spanish, is the name of sweet Consuelo (Eva Bartok), Vallo’s soon to be love interest.

Consuelo’ father is el Libre, an island revolutionary, and the plot devolves into a scheme to free el Libre from prison before he can be executed. This Vallo and Ojo succeed in doing by elaborate disguise, and they also free a local scientist, Professor Elihu Prudence (James Hayter).

The net result of the scheme is that el Libre gets killed by the king’s men, and Vallo, Ojo and the professor are set adrift in the bay in a small boat, handcuffed to the boat’s gunwales. Pondering their fate (going to drift out to sea), the professor decides the only way out is to capsize the boat. I recall this as the best part of the movie. The boat settles to the bottom of the bay, with the captives underneath, breathing the air trapped in the boat. The three then walk along the bottom of the bay and up onto the beach. Science to the rescue, again!

Next comes the climatic scene as Consuelo is forced to wed the island governor, and the rebellious islanders honor the wedding party with a traditional pageant. It turns out the the traditional pageant involves Vallo, Ojo and the professor in drag disguise as island dancing girls. At a critical moment the fight starts.

The professor has pulled up the latest of 18th century (and maybe even some 19th century) technology, and the islanders have constructed crude tanks, Gatling guns, a flame thrower, nitroglycerin and a hot-air balloon. With this the islanders attack, and the evil Baron Gruda takes Consuelo for himself and escapes to his (by now recaptured) man-of-war. The pirates prevail by swimming under water 100 yards (remember, this is a comedy) and surprising the king’s soldiers by coming up on the far side of their ship.

Of course there is an epic battle (in comic style) aboard the ship, with dozens of the kings soldiers being killed and thrown overboard. Vallo defeats Baron Gruda in the ship’s high rigging, and he and Consuelo enjoy a romantic embrace perched on a yard arm. The professor arrives in his submarine, too late to be of any help in this last stage of the fight. And it was great fun, after all.

Steady State

No, this one is not about Texas. It’s some classical thermodynamics.

I’m running an experiment—making some observations. Here is what I see:

  • The outside temperature is 40F. It’s been at 40 or lower all night long.
  • The house heating system is turned off.
  • The thermometer on the wall reads 64F. It’s been at 64 all morning and into the afternoon.

Other sources of heat within the house are sufficient to maintain the temperature constant with a 24F (or more) difference between inside and outside. These sources include:

  • Two adult people (average 100 watts each). One snoozing, one writing a blog and watching TV.
  • Refrigerator cycling on and off as necessary.
  • Flat screen TV running all morning.
  • Lap top and desk top computers running.
  • Various electric lights on—mostly CFLs but one 100-watt halogen desk lamp.
  • Washed and dried a load of towels, but the dryer air is vented to the outside.
  • No significant solar heating coming through the windows. It’s cloudy today, and, besides, the blinds are drawn.
  • Hot water heater is in the garage, not in the house.
  • No fans running.

And that’s what it takes to maintain a 24F temperature difference: About 500 watts, or less. It’s basic thermodynamics. Here is the diagram from Wikipedia:

Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

While walking down the street one day a US senator is tragically hit by a truck and dies. His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

“Welcome to heaven,” says St. Peter. “Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we’re not sure what to do with you.”

“No problem, just let me in,” says the man.

“Well, I’d like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we’ll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.”

“Really, I’ve made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,” says the senator.

“I’m sorry, but we have our rules.”

And with that, St . Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.

Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people. They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.

Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go. Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises…

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.

“Now it’s time to visit heaven.”

So, 24 hours pass with the senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

“Well, then, you’ve spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.”

The senator reflects for a minute, then he answers: “Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.”
So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.

Now the doors of the elevator open and he’s in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.

The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder.

“I don’t understand,” stammers the senator. “Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there’s just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?”

The devil looks at him, smiles and says, “Yesterday we were campaigning…Today you voted.”

Skeptical Videos

I have been associated with the North Texas Skeptics since about 1988. During that time a bunch of skeptical stuff has come my way, and some it represents history. This weekend I converted a number of VHS tapes to DVD.

Alien Autopsy

Here is a list of titles and topics, in no particular order:

  1. Robert Tilton: video from the Trinity Foundation
  2. Trinity Foundation on Robert Tilton and the Jews
  3. D. James Kennedy: creationism, homosexuality and more (3 disks)
  4. McCuistion on Waco
  5. CSICOP: Beyond Belief, with Steve Shaw
  6. Frontline on Waco
  7. John Thomas interview from 1990
  8. Alien Autopsy
  9. Scientific American on pseudo science, also near death
  10. Ramtha, St. Germaine, also Randi with Jose as Carlos
  11. Prime Time Live: Men of God, featuring Robert Tilton, Larry Lee and W.V. Grant
  12. Sally Jessy Raphael featuring Uri Geller and more
  13. Frontline: The Search for Satan
  14. Firing Line: featuring Forrest Mimms and Eugnie Scott
  15. BBC – Wales: In Search of the Dead
  16. BBC – Wales: In Search of the Dead – Visions and Voices
  17. Waco, the Big Lie by Linda Thompson
  18. UFOs are Real, part 1
  19. The Truth in Love featuring Thomas Warren and Dave Miller on creationism and evolution

Let me know if you are interested in any of these.