Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sarge's Shack

This is somewhat overdue, but William, Juliana, and I stopped at a little roadhouse called Sarge's Shack both going to and returning from Magna Faire.

Sarge's serves a pretty standard "roadhouse" menu of steaks, chicken, and fish dishes with southern country sides. The beauty is that it's all good. On the way down, I ordered a pretty small steak medium rare, and when I first saw it I was worried that -- being on the thin side -- it would be overdone. Nope, it was a perfect medium rare. The cooks at Sarge's absolutely know what they're doing. If you're traveling between Nashville, TN, and Huntsville, AL, Sarge's Shack is an excellent place to stop for lunch or dinner.

I took pictures on our second stop, on the way back from Magna Faire for Sunday lunch, so -- unfortunately -- no steak pictures.

Sarge's is at Exit 14 off I-65, south of NashvilleSarge's ShackSome of the interior
Menu, side 1Menu, side twoThey know what RARE means
Chicken stripsFried catfishFried green tomatos and potato soup

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dickens Festival

Franklin, Tennessee has a Dickens festival every year. Last year I drifted in by accident because I wanted to have lunch at McCreary's Pub. This year, I actually planned to attend (and dressed warmly enough). Like most street festivals, this one has food vendors, art and craft stands, and street performers, like this handbell choir...

In addition to the video, I took some ordinary pictures of the festival, too. Didn't seem as crowded this year; possibly a combination of the gloomy overcast and it being Sunday instead of Saturday.

Cratchet GangCouldn't pass it upFranklin
Best Uniforms EVERFaginFinally got to try a sugarplum
Marley?I need this elementary school recorder ensemble to record a dance albumTrombones

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Brief Moment of Idiocy from Ray Comfort

Much like Allecto, Ray Comfort is a train wreck that I can’t help watching. Unlike her, he produces a steady stream of nonsense, so I don’t really have to wait very long for him to say something absurd and irrational. I’ve found it mostly pointless to post responses on his weblog, since he almost never bothers to address any of the points people make, so I'll contribute to my blog instead of his.

The Religion of Evolution

I was asked recently during an interview if I thought that the Theory of Evolution was a religion. I said that I think it is.
Cue Ray projecting like a movie theatre.

If evolution is responsible for everything that has evolved--everything, then it is worthy of praise. What it did was miraculous, and time is the miracle-method it used. Its prophet was Charles Darwin (the faithful can pay homage to his facial hair in the Natural History Museum, in London), and Richard Dawkins is the sitting pope.
Worthy of praise? No one who accepts the Theory of Evolution thinks it's worthy of “praise”. It’s worthy of recognition for its accuracy, which means that it has earned its place in classrooms. You could call that “praise”, I suppose, but it's not what Ray's talking about.

Charles Darwin was not a prophet; he was an ordinary naturalist who made an observation and happened to publish his discovery before anyone else. He didn’t ask people to believe him on faith, he showed them the evidence he had collected and explained the conclusions he’d drawn from it.

Richard Dawkins is not a religious figure; he’s an advocate for scientific thinking. As far as I can tell, Ray has ever experienced scientific thinking, which might explain his endless misunderstandings of the thought process.

According to his decree, if you disagree with the canon of evolution you are "wicked." So those who don't believe, should therefore be excommunicated from the realm of science.
Dawkins does not make “decrees” that people are wicked for disagreeing with evolution, but he’s not shy about criticizing people who lie about evolution, as many creationists routinely do.

The "Bible" of the Darwinian believer is On the Origin of Species. If you write a mere Introduction that disagrees with its sacred contents, it is tantamount to blasphemy. Be prepared for an inquisition from believers and threats of book burnings.
There is no more a “Bible of Evolution” than there’s a “Bible of Newtonian Physics”. The Origin of Species just describes the theory as Darwin developed it, and evolution theory has changed over time as new information has become available. It’s historically important for being the first published description of the theory, but it's not some kind of unchangeable scripture. If you write an introduction that disagrees with it, that’s your business, but if your introduction is full of misinformation and long-refuted claims about the theory and about science in general, people are going to call you out on it.

So, if you believe in evolution, don’t question dating methods, or the credibility of revered paleontologists, or the learned priestly professors.
Actually, if you believe in evolution, feel free to question any of these things (although you’ll be hard pressed to find a “priestly professor” outside of a theology department), but actually learn what the theory says before you start criticizing it. If you question seriously and actually do the science, you’ll come to the same basic conclusion: the Theory of Evolution accurately describes how the diversity of life on Earth developed from a common origin.

Just believe.
That’s what you do, Ray.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Magna Faire 2009

Well, I have a day off today, so I suppose it's high time I at least posted some pictures from Magna Faire. Magna Faire was essentially an all-dance event for me, as I didn't think I'd have time to get in and out of armor around performance times.

Yes, we had live music for the ball. Very good for three musicians who had never played a note together before, if you ask me.

I have video my entry with Juliana, but I'm waiting to do a little editing before I post it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Science vs Superstition

OK, I'm not using the same terms as the video author, but I completely agree with the sentiments.

If you're reading this, you do so because scientists are right about electromagnetism, chemistry, and mathematics. Think about it. If you spent money for a computer, you're trusting in the science used to design them. If you trust them on that, do you have a good reason to arbitrarily distrust scientists in other fields of study?

Science has a track record of success to which pseudoscientists try to attach themselves like leeches. Meanwhile, people who don't like the information that science discovers try to undermine it. If it gets undermined enough, civilization as we know it will collapse, and we'll descend into a new dark age.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Quote About Life and Evolution

Even a superficial glance is sufficient to show that all the innumerable forms in which the life-urge of Nature manifests itself are subject to a fundamental law -– one may call it an iron law of Nature -– which compels the various species to keep within the definite limits of their own life-forms when propagating and multiplying their kind.

If you can tell me who wrote that, you're probably not a raving creationist.

Ghost Lab: It's Lame

So, in the pursuit of "puppy time" last night, I lazed on the couch and watched half of an episode of Ghost Lab. Yep, it's basically Ghost Hunters on Discovery.

They were at a restaurant called the Catfish Plantation south of Dallas, TX, that supposedly has a few ghosts in it, one of whom reportedly likes to move small objects. Consequently, they had high hopes for filming some objects "moving by themselves". As many cameras as they put in the house, they never managed to actually film anything moving itself, but naturally they had an array of "personal experiences". They also got a couple of odd visuals that couldn't actually be called evidence of supernatural activity, but which they considered pretty spooky all the same. Big surprise that people who are already believers have "experiences" in a supposedly haunted restaurant while staying up all night inside it in the dark.

Since the ghost has a reputation for moving silverware when you're not looking, they carefully set the tables in the restaurant dining room. A couple of times the flatware did move "when no one was looking" (and naturally the cameras were off at those times, too), but there was never a time when anything moved when there was actually no one in the room, let alone when being observed by a camera. Funny, that.

The "moving things" that they did catch? A butter knife that they'd balanced on top of a vase eventually fell off while they were interviewing the restaurant manager on the last day, and a door at the edge of a dark shot of the dining room appeared to be moving back and forth slightly. The door? It looked like a camera artifact to me: bad resolution combined with being at the very edge of the frame resulted in an unsteady image. The knife? The minor vibrations of people walking around the room could easily destabilize something like that over the course of hours.

In short, they got nothing (which they admitted) and called it a win (huh?). I called it quits after the first segment. As expected, their efforts at control were really, really weak, and they were steeped in confirmation bias. It rates a big "ho hum" from me.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Crystal Ball

Sadly, I didn't get a whole lot of pictures from Crystal Ball because, during the dinner break between class time and ball time, I left my camera at Tsire's place. I do have a few pictures from the early part of the day, but nothing very exciting, with the possible exception of this video from Mistress Alphia's Spanish Pavan class.

She graciously consented to doing it with me for video after teaching it. Spanish Pavan is from Orchesography, Thoinot Arbeau's 1589 dance manual from France. I haven't gone back to read the original text yet, but I gather that the actual choreography isn't specific; Arbeau only describes the music and the basic steps: the actual movement around the floor is arbitrary. This choreograph is, I believe, from a team A&S entry of Alphia's.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Skeptics' Circle 123

The 123rd Skeptics' Circle is up at Blue Genes Science News. If you're finding out about it from me, you've probably already read my contribution, but there's plenty more skeptical goodness for you to read.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Tinfoil Hats

You are standing on a street corner, waiting for a light to change, when a stranger approaches you. He has a tinfoil hat on his head. He offers a tinfoil hat to you and says, “You need to put this on.”

“Why do I need to do that?” You ask.

“You need to block out the alien mind-control rays. It’s the only way to be safe.”

You say, “I don’t believe there are any aliens. There’s no evidence they exist.”

He says, “Of course there’s no evidence; they use their mind-controlled minions to eliminate any evidence. The only way to be safe is to wear a tinfoil hat.”

You say, “I’m not aware of any alien influence.”

He says, “Their control is subtle. The mind-control itself keeps you from realizing you’re being controlled. You’ll never know the difference unless you put on the tinfoil hat.”

You say, “I haven’t noticed anyone behaving like they’re controlled by aliens… except maybe you.”

He says, “You just don’t recognize the alien mind-control, but surely you know about all the crimes, murders, and suicides in the world. That’s all the result of alien mind-control. If you don’t put on the tinfoil hat, you could be next. There’s no telling when they might decide to have you kill yourself or someone else.”

You say, “Things like that have happened for as long as people have existed; it’s just one of the bad sides of human nature. There’s no evidence that it’s the influence of aliens.”

He says, “The aliens have been around for at least as long as we have, and like I said, they erase all evidence of their existence.”

You say, “If these aliens want to control everyone, but a tinfoil hat can block them, why do they let you walk around distributing tinfoil hats? Wouldn’t they use their mind-control powers to force some of us to stop you? By taking away your tinfoil hat, for instance?”

He says, “I don’t know why they let me do this. They’re aliens: their motives make no sense to us. But for that very reason, you need to wear the tinfoil hat. There’s no telling what these inscrutable aliens might decide to make you do.”

You say, “Sorry, I don’t want to wear a tinfoil hat, it looks dumb.”

He says, “Of course you think it looks dumb; that’s their mind-control at work. But can you really afford to keep walking around without a tinfoil hat? What if I’m right? You might walk off a cliff or run over your best friend tomorrow if you don’t.”

Looking around, you can see that there are actually quite a few people around wearing tinfoil hats, so you agree to wear one. You notice absolutely nothing different when you are wearing the hat, except that people who aren’t wearing them think you look silly, and people who are wearing them congratulate you for wearing yours. While wearing your tinfoil hat, you do a little research, and you can’t seem to find any evidence that people wearing tinfoil hats are responsible for fewer crimes or have fewer accidents than people who don’t wear tinfoil hats.

In your research, you also discover another group of people who think you need protection from the alien mind-control rays. However, they say that wearing a tinfoil hat won’t help at all; you actually need to be wearing an aluminum foil hat. In fact, they say wearing a tinfoil hat will amplify the alien mind-control rays, making you more vulnerable to their influence. According to aluminum-foil-hat-wearers, the tinfoil-hat-wearers have been fooled by the aliens or even collaborated with them.

Not long after that, you discover the copper-wire-basket wearers and the lead-lined-baseball-cap wearers. They also want to protect themselves from alien mind-control rays, and they each say that their method is the only real method of stopping the rays. They also say that the other groups are influenced by the aliens to trick you. None of them can offer evidence for their claims, saying that the aliens make it impossible to provide any.

So what do you want on your head?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Star Trek: Voyager "Threshold"

It's no secret that "Threshold" is the worst Star Trek episode ever. It's badly written (curse you Brannon Braga), makes zero scientific sense, and ends with an off-screen reset to the status quo. The "discovery" that they make in the episode is, of course, dropped without comment and never mentioned again in the series. Chuck Sonnenburg took one for the team in order to review it and share the pain.

Part 1 of Chuck's Review

Reading and watching his review, though, I noticed something that he apparently missed. The plot can be interpreted as a horribly mangled sexual initiation story.
  • Excited talk about getting over the "threshold" -- CHECK
  • Rather "climactic" behavior from Tom as he goes over the "threshold" -- CHECK
  • Bizarre allegory to getting STDs from going over the "threshold" -- CHECK
  • Unplanned pregnancy as a result of going over the "threshold" -- CHECK
Now your mind is scarred by this episode, too. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Army of Darkness

And we close out the month with what might be the greatest Halloween classic of all time.

You can't go wrong with Bruce Campbell. And just for fun, we'll make today's a double.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Changeling

I saw this movie back in the eighties, and it is pretty scary without being a gorefest.

Rated R back then, apparently, but I would barely rate a PG today, I expect.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Green Lantern

From what I understand, there actually is a movie in development, but this video is a mash up of clips from assorted movies with some pretty good tweaking.

One can only hope that fan videos like this will influence some casting decisions.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Legend: Dance

Not only is this a very sensual seduction to evil, but it's one of the reasons I adore Mia Sara.

And the scene continues...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Noodle Ad

I don't know what it is, but it scares the hell outta me!

Monday, October 26, 2009

New Shameless Commerce

So I tried Google Ads, and not only did they not actually get any attention, they were usually idiotic products like spells from the dubious "Magicks of the World" site. So, I'm going to try Amazon ads. At least I get to decide what will actually be advertised. I will shamelessly promote books and music that I like.

Things to Remember If I’m Ever in a Horror Situation

Something that came up in conversation at the Halloween party over the weekend. I'm sure that this could be expanded greatly.
  1. Neither I nor any of my friends/allies will go anywhere alone; splitting up to gather supplies or search an area is right out.
  2. If I have shot the killer/monster in the chest and it hasn’t been affected, I will at least try a headshot.
  3. I will make use of the known traits of any killer or monster that is threatening me; if it’s afraid of cats, for instance, I won’t go anywhere without one.
  4. I will wear sensible shoes, so I won’t have any difficulty running, should it become necessary.
  5. I will never abandon a weapon; you never know when it will come in handy. Needless to say, if I suspect there's a hostile person or monster about, I won't go anywhere unarmed.
  6. I will get a pocket maglite with a lanyard and keep it handy.
  7. I will be immediately suspicious of anyone that causes dogs to bark or cats to hiss. At the first sign of trouble, I will endeavor to obtain a friendly dog or cat as a warning system.
  8. Finding a wandering cat after hearing a strange noise does not mean that I have found the source of the noise.
  9. I will not dismiss a “supernatural” threat just because I’m a scientist or skeptic; if it has observable and repeatable effects, it moves into the realm of the “natural”, anyway.
  10. If I’ve incapacitated a murderer/monster with a history of surviving “mortal” injuries, I will dismember the body; burn the parts; secure the ashes of each in separate, sealed containers; and bury the individual containers at widely separated locations.

Junk It!

She's the most frightening character in Mystery Men.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Halloween Party

My big Halloween party was early this year, on the 24th, at the lovely home of Dakyn and Ginevra. I arrived in time to help with some party prep work, then everyone went on a trip to the Bell Witch Cave before coming back to the house to costume up and party down.

Dakyn von MunsterGinevra MunsterDeath to Pumpkins
Bell Witch Cave entranceThe intrepid spelunkersSpooky rock
Rum eyeballsTroll toesCreepy goodness

The whole album is online, of course.

Top 10 Giant Movie Monsters

You'll be very surprised by number one, but I think the best moment of this review comes toward the end of number three. Language warning on this one, if that matters to you; the narrator is a bit free with the four letter vocabulary.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


It's a good day to abuse some more anime.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Candy Man

More editing into creepy trailers.

Of course, in this case, the real thing isn't much less creepy than the faux trailer.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

If I Ever Become a Vampire

Found this list linked from, but it's probably been floating around for a while.

  1. I shall wear tweed, and cheerful bright clothing. Further, I shall only wear trenchcoats if it is raining or foggy.

  2. I will not take my victims home. My neighbors are far too nosy.

  3. I will be secure in my immortality. I do not have to share my story with any reporter or struggling writer.

  4. I will not purchase an expensive foreign sports car or motorcycle. An economical, multi-terrain vehicle with 4 wheel drive will be just fine.

  5. I will immediately become Agnostic, disarming any cross-wielding religious maniacs.

  6. I shall not keep a coffin in the basement, that's the first place people look.

  7. I shall immediately purchase a Hooked on Phonics tape, in order to lose any Romanian accents I may have.

  8. My ghouls shall have good posture.

  9. I will purchase a digital watch with an alarm. I will set this alarm for TWO hours before sunrise, giving ample time for traffic and other inconveniences.

  10. If I feel truly alone, and need a companion to share all of eternity with, I shall purchase a dog. Preferably one that is not larger than I am.

  11. If the neighborhood kids are snooping around my house, I will not change into a giant wolf and attempt to destroy them. Instead, I shall call the police and have them arrested for trespassing.

  12. If I believe far too many people are becoming suspicious, I shall not attempt to kill them all. I will simply move, and leave no forwarding address.

  13. There is no logical reason for someone to mistake another human being for a fifteen-foot bat, not even in hysteria. Therefore, I shall refrain from such transformations in public.

  14. Artists are over-emotional and unstable. I shall not keep company with them whatsoever.

  15. I will not attend gatherings of my own kind. If I'm a lethal killing machine, doomed for all eternity to destroy those around me, they probably are too.

Conversation with the Devil

From The Prophecy (1995)... he's not a very nice person, is he?

Bet you never look at Aragorn quite the same way again.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Brand New Day

Can't let the season go by without Dr. Horrible.

And for extra horror, here's the karaoke version.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Abominable Dr. Phibes

Warning: Gruesome death scene ahead (by 1971 standards, at least).

I really want to see the whole thing, actually. It's Vincent Price!

Monday, October 19, 2009


Condensed version of a classic. Nice soundtrack, too.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rave on Bald Mountain

What might have been, if Disney had made Fantasia in the 21st century.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Death of the Witch King

Speaking of brain hurting, let's go back to nostalgic memories of the TV adaptation of The Return of the King.

OK, the delivery sucks, but I actually think the script is better than what we got from Peter Jackson. I mean, Eowyn at least got to deliver her speech, no matter how badly. The ham-handed exposition from Merry and Pippin drags it down, though.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Crystal Skull Bottles: Just in Time for Halloween

I went by a liquor store last night in my quest to slowly restock my wine rack. I was amused to see that they are now carrying Crystal Head Vodka. According to the staff, a lot of people are buying it just so they can have a skull-shaped bottle sitting on a shelf somewhere; they have no intention of ever opening it.

I don't think I'm willing to pay $50 for a shelf ornament. The store staff says customer reports on the vodka itself (for those who actually tried it) are mixed: some like it, some hate it.

I left it in the store, having better things to spend my money on (a sentiment that the salesperson shared, actually). Come to think of it Moldovan wines are both pretty good and typically come in interesting bottles.

Batgirl Captured by Lord Ffogg

I had forgotten how awful these plots could be. Robin must have been captured because he wouldn't dare hit a girl.

My brain hurts, now. Nonetheless, I'm fond of Batgirl because I got to teach Yvonne Craig to deal blackjack at a charity casino night at Magnum Opus Con one year.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Could it be... Satan?

This clip came from a childrens' show, The Adventures of Mark Twain, but I agree with the guy who posted it to YouTube... this would scar you for life.

Glad I never saw this show on a Saturday morning.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

They're Taking the Hobbits to Isengard

How about a little more Tolkien action... only sillier.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


More animated nostalgia. I really liked this version of The Hobbit when I was little.

When I re-read the book, Richard Boone is still the voice of Smaug to me.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Kroenen is the undead Nazi hitman from the 2004 Hellboy movie. Pretty badass.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dancing Baby

This is not one of the scary Halloween videos. This is Kaitlin going to town at the hafla at Sherlock's Book Emporium on Saturday, October 10, 2009.

Kaitlin was the life of the party.

Boy Eats Girl

Never seen it, but it looks suitably absurd.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Food Porn: Steiktar kótilettur í raspi

For this issue of Food Porn, we go to Iceland, since I found a marvelous Icelandic cooking blog. The dish of the day is breaded lamb cutlets; well, actually pork cutlets in this case.

Finished dish

I won't steal their content by reposting the recipe here, but I will say that I adjusted the recipe a bit by adding some cheese ravioli to the onion sauce (since I didn't have the potatoes normally served as a side dish). I did also take pictures of the dish in progress.

A ladel in lieu of a meat malletBrown side 1Brown side 2
Fry to cook throughBoil ravioli, fry onionsMix onions and ravioli
Set the tableServe the platesFinished dish

There's easily enough butter in there to satisfy Paula Dean. Who knew that they could cook Southern in Iceland?


I actually saw this movie on DVD a few years ago. It's not a half-bad adaptation of an HP Lovecraft story (although it made me think of The Shadow Over Innsmouth, not Dagon).

Friday, October 09, 2009

Bloody Mallory

Why not a full-length "horror" movie? Not terribly horrific, this is more like the illegitimate love-child of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena: Warrior Princess, adopted and raised by Special Unit 2.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Vampire Hunter D

I think Vampire Hunter D introduced the term "dhampir" and the concept of the "half-vampire" to the world. In spite of that, it's still not a bad movie.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Fang Friends

Back to humorous installments with another silly video from Dragon*Con TV.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Calls for Cthulu

While he waits for the stars to align so he can rise and destroy humanity, Cthulu answers your calls!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Heavy Metal: B-17

Back to something nice and creepy for today's installment of Halloween video goodness.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Why is the Rum Gone?

Pirates are Halloweenish, right? And rum is appropriate for any occasion. And the wanton destruction of rum is terrifying.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Carol of the Old Ones

More creepy video goodness for the Halloween season.

You may also be interested in this version in which you can follow the lyrics.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Scary Mary

Not exactly new, but still quite awesome...

I wonder if I can keep this up all October.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Food Porn: Something Resembling Minestrone

I haven't written about food in months, I think, so in the absence of something truly bizarre, I'll share something improvised. I like minestrone, but I suspect that it's probably one of those "throw in whatever you've got handy" dishes. Whether my suspicions are accurate or not, this is definitely a "hmmm... what's in the freezer and cupboard" sort of soup.

Ingredients in this little jewel include:
  • 2-3 cups of beef broth (I didn't measure, it was about half the carton)
  • 1/4 cup of beer (the bottle was open, so why not)
  • a suitable number of turkey meatballs (from the grocery store's frozen case)
  • a cup or so of multi-colored whole-wheat elbow noodles
  • a can of diced tomatoes
  • some frozen lima beans
  • Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
And the process is delightfully simple. Put everything in the pot, bring it to a boil over high heat, cover and simmer over low heat for about twenty minutes. That's all.

Dead Air

Remember how yesterday I said that there are two zombie movies coming out this month? Well, for your next installment of October YouTube goodness, I present the trailer for Dead Air.

I daresay everyone has already seen plenty of trailers for Zombieland by now.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Re: Your Brains

Tomorrow is the beginning of October, so I figure that a good way to start off the Halloween season -- particularly when it's going to be a month with not one but two zombie movies coming out -- is to share this video from Dragon*Con TV.

Bon appetite!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Warehouse 13 Finale

Warehouse 13I’m sure everyone who reads the Saga knows by now that I watch SyFy. One of their better offerings of late has been Warehouse 13, a show about collecting supernatural artifacts and stuffing them into a giant warehouse for safe-keeping. So far, it’s had good characters, continuity, and writing.

It would certainly be unreasonable to expect this show to never have a bad episode, but there are different ways a show can go wrong. A good idea with a bad execution, for example, is different from a bad idea with a good execution.

I think that the Warehouse 13 finale was more of the latter. The actors and directors are doing great, but the script resorted to handing out idiot balls to the leads in order to railroad them to the cliff-hanger conclusion. I’ve seen this pattern repeatedly in Heroes, too.

So, Warehouse 13 writers, get some science fiction buffs who’ve read the Evil Overlord list and its counterpart for heroes to vet your scripts for stupidity before implementing them, eh? Smart people can still get into trouble, but they don’t have to walk into it foolishly, ok?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Syfy Original Movie "Lightning Strikes"

So I found myself watching Lightning Strikes on Syfy over the weekend. It's a Syfy original movie, so you know it's going to be bad. I don't want to go into too much detail, but there was just one stand-out-stupid incident that won't let me rest until I share my pain.

I suppose this could be considered a spoiler, but it's the first scene of the movie, so it's not spoiling much. A couple of people are driving down a road when the Lightning Storm of Evil breaks out. The lightning strikes are obviously targeted to threaten the car, but that's to be expected in a movie like this.

Then a prolonged lightning bolt strikes in front of the car, and as the car drives through it, the lightning cuts the car in half.

I kid you not: it cuts the car in half. But it's unnatural lightning, so that -- in itself -- wasn't what really bothered me.

For the rest of the movie, no one calls attention to the fact that lightning should not be able to do that to a car. When people say that a car is the safest place to be in a lightning storm, they aren't far off the mark. A car functions like a Faraday cage: the metal frame conducts electricity around anyone inside and grounds it through the tires. If you are in a car that gets struck by lightning, you may get blinded by the flash and deafened by the thunder, but you won't get electrocuted, and the car definitely won't get cut in half.

Would it have been all that hard for just one character, like one of the three storm-chasing scientists, to point out that this event was distinctly unnatural? Everyone acted like the only strange thing was that the lightning struck the car, not what happened to the car as a result.

Creationist Cut-and-Paste

I'm a part-time lurker at Ray Comfort's weblog, which is a haven for creationist idiocy*. Occasionally one of Ray's sycophants will post something they think is a real shocker that will instantly convert someone from “evolutionism”. Poster "Quasar" left just such a little jewel in the comments there around the beginning of September.

Just for fun, I'm going to see if I can find the answers to these “devastating” questions.

Students, give this test to your teachers. When they fail it, ask them why they are teaching this nonsense!

Teachers, give this test to your students if you really want them to know the truth about evolution!

1. Which evolved first, male or female?

I don't even think any research is necessary for this one; the nearest earthworm is a clue. Genetic information exchange actually evolved pretty early in the history of life on Earth; sexual differentiation evolved later, and both genders evolved together.

2. How many millions of years elapsed between the first male and first female?

Zero. That was easy.

3. List at least 9 of the false assumptions made with radioactive dating methods.

I get it! This is a trick question, right? There aren't any false assumptions made when using radiometric dating, if you're doing it correctly.

Here's a starter article on radiometric dating. It's obviously a pretty complex subject, so I wouldn't take the word of a creationist who knows nothing about it on what “false assumptions” are made.

4. Why hasn't any extinct creature re-evolved after millions of years?

Marsupial and Placental mammal convergenceBecause that's not how evolution works. Species diverge like branches of a tree, each one evolving from different starting materials to adapt to a different set of circumstances. If you prune out a twig, you won't ever get the exact same thing again, since anything new evolving to fit the same niche will have a different starting point. That said, there's a surprising amount of convergent evolution: similar forms evolving to adapt to similar environments.

Questions like this one make it obvious that the questioner really has no understanding of the principles of evolution.

5. Which came first: the eye? the eyelid? the eyebrow? the eye sockets? the eye muscles? the eye lashes? the tear ducts? the brain's interpretation of light?

Oh, dear... not the evolution of the eye thing again. Darwin himself was able to answer this question back in the 19th century. Without doing any research, let's eliminate the eyelid, eyebrow, and eyelashes right off the bat: have you ever seen a fish with any of those? Me neither.

What you really need first is a light-sensitive cell, and almost any cell can react to sufficiently intense light. From there, it becomes a matter of specialization for light sensitivity, then development of light-sensitive cells in clusters, then an organ to start focusing the light.

It goes without saying that scientists have answered this repeatedly for over a century.

6. How many millions of years between each in question 5?

One scientific estimate predicts that you could go from eyespots to sophisticated eyes in about 350,000 generations. The amount of time would depend on the reproductive cycle of the species evolving the eyes, but it could realistically take less than a million years.

7. If we all evolved from a common ancestor, why can't all the different species mate with one another and produce fertile offspring?

I know that the writer has no clue about biology, but this one is just so pathetic. By definition, speciation requires populations to become so dissimilar from each other that members of one group don't mate with members of the other to produce fertile offspring.

8. List any of the millions of creatures in just five stages of its evolution showing the progression of a new organ of any kind. When you have done this, you can collect the millions of dollars in rewards offered for proof of evolution!

Kent Hovind never had millions of dollars to offer as a reward (in fact, his offer was only $250,000). Unlike the James Randi Educational Foundation, who make the account information for their Million Dollar Challenge public, Kent never offered any proof that he could actually pay a reward. Further, Kent made himself the arbitrator of what would constitute proof, and his standard of evidence would have required time-travel. Kent's now in prison for tax fraud, so... yeah.

But I got side-tracked. An organ in five stages of development. Trying to find something with illustrations took some work, but let’s look at whale flukes, shall we?

  1. Pakicetus: An aquatic mammal with four legs and a thin tail.
  2. Ambulocetus: An aquatic mammal with shorter legs and a stronger tail.
  3. Rhodocetus: An aquatic mammal with a still stronger tail and legs diminishing toward flippers. This species would have little or no mobility on land.
  4. Durodon: A large aquatic mammal with limbs utterly incapable of moving the animal on land; the tail is flattening and spreading into flukes.
  5. Aetiocetus: A large aquatic mammal with distinct flukes; the hind limbs have diminished to nothing, and the forelimbs are purely flippers.
  6. Modern whales
9. Why is it that the very things that would prove Evolution (transitional forms) are still missing?

Archaeopteryx? Tiktaalik? Australopithicus? Ambulocetus? Have you really never heard of any of these? There are all kinds of transitional fossils. I suppose you're one of those who thinks there should be "crocoducks".

10. Explain why something as complex as human life could happen by chance, but something as simple as a coin must have a creator. (Show your math solution.)

First, the Theory of Evolution does not say that life happened by chance. In fact, it doesn't address the question of how life started. It only addresses the question of how life diversified into the many species that we see today after it started.

Second, life is the result of chemical reactions. Many complex chemical reactions occur spontaneously.

Third, we know exactly where coins come from, since we make them ourselves.

EDIT: I should add that the simplicity of a coin actually helps distinguish it as something designed by humans. Human engineers typically make things as simple as possible to reduce the number of things that can go wrong. Nature, on the other hand, often produces things that are needlessly complicated because of all the ancestral baggage they carry.

11. Why aren't any fossils or coal or oil being formed today?

Umm... what makes you think they aren't? It'll just be a long time before the “fossil fuels” forming today finish forming.

12. List 50 vestigial or useless organs or appendages in the human body.

50? Damn... that's a tall order. Sure, the appendix isn't doing much, nor is the tail bone, but 50? I'm not sure that we actually have that many that are seriously vestigial (which isn't necessarily the same as “useless”, btw).

13. Why hasn't anyone collected the millions of dollars in rewards for proof of evolution?

Because there's no evidence that the money exists, maybe? Or because the evidentiary standards required by those offering the supposed “reward” are unrealistic?

14. If life began hundreds of millions of years ago, why is the earth still under populated?

What's your definition of “under populated”? There are plenty of people claiming that the Earth is currently OVER populated (at least by humans).

15. Why hasn't evolution duplicated all species on all continents?

Why is that something you would expect? It's certainly not something that the Theory of Evolution predicts. Would it really be that much of a burden for you to actually learn the theory before you propose all these questions? (But what should I expect? This is just another cut-n-paste routine.)

*I'm not saying that all creationists are idiots, mind you... they're mostly just disinformed, but it's hard not to throw labels at people when they pass around long-refuted garbage that someone probably sent them in a chain letter. The content of this Quasar's post is idiotic, even if Quasar isn't.