Category Archives: Rebecca Watson

Hot Air

Why PMS?

Should The Loved One ever come to her senses and throw me out of our happy home, I might take consolation in the fact that I then could be available to woo the redoubtable and comely Rebecca Watson.

Watson

Rebecca Watson

She’s the biggest shot among the new generation of big shot female skeptic/scientists. Meaning, she and her cohorts stand on their heads to bring the facts about ghosts, quack medicine, alien flying saucers, anti-vaccination hysteria, fad foodism, and the like to a blithely gullible public. She started what is now the must-read Skepchick blog back in 2005 for the express purpose, as she put it, of “promoting skepticism and critical thinking among women around the world.”

She describes herself thusly: “I’m a writer, performer, feminist, atheist, skeptic. Not necessarily in that order.”

My kind of dame.

Watson’s got a YouTube channel as well as a Patreon page, on which she opines, sermonizes, teaches, and tsks approximately twice a week. Her latest vid tackles a recent news media flurry about some researcher’s suggestion that women get PMS because it’s evolutionarily advantageous. As in, when your co-worker snaps at you every 28 days for your innocent habit of cracking your gum, it’s only because Natural Selection has turned her into a monthly gargoyle just so’s she can weed out substandard potential mates.

Weird, huh?

See, acc’d’g to the researcher, an Australian named Michael Gillings, only manly men of the stoutest character would hazard a lifetime of woe with hyper-PMS-y women, whereas pantywaists and milquetoasts would shrink away in unmanly diffidence. It all sounds rather romance novelish, and in truth it prob. indeed is fiction. There’s next to no evidence that Gillings’ hypothesis is true.

Nevertheless, news outlets like the Huffington Post and a pile of papers in Australia gave Gillings’ ramblings the attention they so richly do not deserve. Natch, Rebecca Watson’s take on the affair is entitled, “PMS and the Science of Making Shit Up.”

It’s a swell primer on how to read science reports in the media with a critical eye. Check it out:

Science Goes Woo!

Speaking of science, have you caught this? Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have found evidence that two people, separated by 5000 miles, can directly influence each other’s thoughts — as long as they’re hooked up to each other though scalp electrodes, a few high tech machines, and the internet.

Wow! Or should I say Woo!

Grau, Ginhoux, Riera, Nguyen, Chauvat, et al.

Binary Code Messaging Across 5000 Miles

The whole business is called EEG-based brain-computer interaction (BCI). Researchers for years have been toying with individuals connected to computers and have successfully demonstrated that, using a similar wire-up, a person can think into a computer. That is, the test subject is given a message, s/he thinks about it, and that thought is then communicated to the computer. Sheesh! The ghosts of Jules Verne, HG Wells, and Arthur C. Clark have got to be stirring.

Now, though, the Beth Israel mad scientists have replaced the computer on one end with another human. According to a recently released paper, the experiment worked. So this whole apparent science fiction story isn’t woo at all.

In this case. one guy in India was fed a message, translated into binary code. He thought about it while hooked up to the EEG/electronic translator/internet apparatus and — voila! — the message appeared in the peripheral vision of the guy hooked up to the other end of the apparatus in France.

At this point Stephen King joined the aforementioned dead scifi authors in a circle dance.

You have to read about this experiment. It’s all further proof that you don’t need to be suckered into believing in chemtrails, e-meters, homeopathy, reiki, and other voodoo pseudosciences if you want to be blown away by nature. In fact, we take the seemingly miraculous — but demonstrably true — for granted these days. Witness Louis CK’s riff on air travel:

No And No

A fellow named ________ from Movoto contacted this communications colossus to tell me about the relo website’s recent “10 Bloomington Stereotypes that Are Completely Accurate” post. I suppose he wants me to help spread the word about the post so at first I thought, Hey, baby, you want me to flack for you, pay me!

Then I remembered people went all Facebook gaga over this list a little while ago so it’s doubtful any loyal Pencillistas don’t know it exists. Ergo, this won’t be flacking.

Although, if ____ wants to cut me a check, I’d be thrilled to cash it.

Anyway, I’ll take issue with two of Movoto’s “completely accurate” assertions:

  • No. 10) “Bloomingtonians Are Crazy Proud of Being Hoosiers” — If this means we dig being citizens of the great state o’Indiana, well, no. The next person from Bloomington I meet who’s happy to call IN her or his home state will be the first. In fact, I’d guess no one on this good Earth loathes Indiana more than (as Movoto so awkwardly puts it) a Bloomingtonian. In double fact, Movoto pre-contradicts itself with item No. 3: “Don’t You Dare Group Them in with the Rest of Indiana.”

Giordano's Pizza

No Caption Necessary

  • No. 7) “Bloomingtonians Are Real Pizza Connoisseurs” — Um, no again. People here eat pizza. This town has a number of different pizza options. Pizzas places even deliver here, as they do in the rest of the civilized world. But Bloomington pizza is to real pizza as Chef Boyardee® from the can is to a homemade mostaccioli dinner. The entry lists, for example, Cafe Pizzaria which, I’m sure, is run by nice people and is an institution here but they don’t even know how to spell pizzeria, for pity’s sake. Don’t start with me; I know pizza. My mother made it. I make it. From scratch. I grew up eating all sorts of pizzeria pizzas in my beloved hometown, from Salerno’s in Little Italy to Ricobene’s on 26th Street. I am to pizza as Albert Einstein is to special relativity. Although I haven’t tried Trailhead‘s pizza yet and I’m told it’s good. We’ll see.

Personal to _____: As The Dude once said, “By the way, do you think that you could give me that $20,000 in cash? My concern is, and I have to, uh, check with my accountant, that this might bump me into a higher, uh, tax….” Aw, forget it.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.” — Joseph Conrad

THE STRONG CAN BE LAID LOW

Sarah Sandberg commandeered her sister’s Facebook account last night at about 9:30pm to pass on some alarming news and to issue a warning.

I’m hoping Sarah’s prediction that Susan will be back to work soon is a lot more than wishful thinking.

Susan Sandberg is royalty among Pencillistas. Join me in hoping her doctors have a lot of tricks in their black bags.

Pencillista Queen

MY GUY ROGER

America’s best movie reviewer and an incisive cultural observer in his own right, Roger Ebert, has weighed in on the Aurora, Colorado atrocity.

Check his take in the Chicago Sun-Times. Here’s a quote from that piece:

“The hell with it. I’m tired of repeating the obvious. I know with dead certainty that I will change nobody’s mind. I will hear conspiracy theories from those who fear the government, I will hear about the need to raise a militia, and I will hear nothing about how 9,484 corpses a year has helped anything.”

Or you can read his New York Time op-ed piece. Here’s another quote, this one from that piece:

“Should this young man — whose nature was apparently so obvious to his mother that, when a ABC News reporter called, she said “You’ve got the right person” — have been able to buy guns, ammunition and explosives? The gun lobby will say yes. And the endless gun control debate will begin again, and the lobbyists of the National Rifle Association will go to work, and the op-ed thinkers will have their usual thoughts, and the right wing will issue alarms, and nothing will change. And there will be another mass murder.”

This ain’t no movie, kids. This is life. Guns are designed to take it.

TRUTH IN HUMOR

Toles Cartoon From The Washington Post Syndicate

DOWN WITH JOE

Penn State University is doing the right thing.

Workers Tear Down The Paterno Statue At 9:30 This Morning

Now, maybe the people who run the institution can refocus on something novel: the development of students’ minds.

Joe Paterno made a lot of dough at the school. He signed a three-year contract in 2008 that called for an annual salary of a half million dollars a year. He made piles more — several times that amount per year — from ancillary sources.

The late unindicted co-conspirator was responsible for nothing more than the likes of instructing running backs on which way to turn when linebackers were approaching. It seems to me that particular aspect of the education of young men can be done by any number of “teachers” who’ve studied football (read: “have sat in front of the TV on Saturday and Sunday afternoons”).

Me? I’d spend half a million bucks on five teachers of a different sort, say:

  • Lynda Barry, creative writing and cartooning — The creator of “Ernie Pook’s Comeek”, “The Good Times Are Killing Me” and other works of reality-based fiction and visual art, Barry has transformed the struggles of an outsider into brilliantly funny and therapeutic entertainment. Think of what a role model she’d be for geeky, self-deprecating teenaged girls.

  • Rebecca Watson, general science — The founder of Skepchick, she works tirelessly to upgrade the status of brainiac girls and female scientists around the world.

  • Tariq Taylor, Humanities, black studies — As a Morehouse Collage grad student, Taylor visited Thailand after having never traveled in his life before. His experiences in that country were documented in the video “The Experience,” which reveals how travel can profoundly affect young black men who’ve been cloistered in racial and economic ghettos their whole lives.

  • Amy Goodman, journalism — The boss of Democracy Now!, Goodman digs deeper than just about any reporter alive.

  • Harriet Hall, MD, philosophy — The SkepDoc, Hall strips away the masturbatory bullshit that passes for curiosity and inquiry in the New Age and alternative medicine worlds today.

Wouldn’t you think a hundred G’s a year would be good pay for each of five individuals whose words and guidance might affect literally thousands of students a year? Oh, and none of those students would have to be winners of the gene pool lottery wherein they’d have been born bigger/faster/stronger than 99.9 percent of their peers.

Call me a dreamer.

WHERE THERE’S SMOKE…

As if anybody needed more proof that Tony Robbins is a con artist:

Or that people who buy into his brand of fraud are dopes?

Here’s how I waste my time. How about you? Share your fave sites with us via the comments section. Just type in the name of the site, not the url; we’ll find them. If we like them, we’ll include them — if not, we’ll ignore them.

I Love ChartsLife as seen through charts.

XKCD — “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.”

“What If?” From XKCD

SkepchickWomen scientists look at the world and the universe.

IndexedAll the answers in graph form, on index cards.

Flip Flop Fly BallBaseball as seen through infographics, haikus, song lyrics, and other odd communications devices.

Mental FlossFacts.

Caps Off PleaseComics & fun.

SodaplayCreate your own models or play with other people’s models.

Eat Sleep DrawAn endless stream of artwork submitted by an endless stream of people.

Big ThinkTapping the brains of notable intellectuals for their opinions, predictions, and diagnoses.

The Daily PuppySo shoot me.

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, games, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

Twin Lakes Recreation CenterAmerican Softball Association Slow Pitch State Tournament; all day

◗ IU Wells-Metz Theatre“The Taming of the Shrew”; 2pm

◗ IU Willkie AuditoriumCultural fair: Silk Road Bayaram Festival; 3-6pm

The Player’s PubBenefit for Margery Sauve; 6pm

Bryan ParkSunday Concert: Steel Panache, steel drum band; 6:30pm

Bear’s PlaceRyder Film Series: “Oslo, August 31”; 7pm

Buskirk-Chumley TheaterBig Brothers Big Sisters fundraising gala; 7:30pm

◗ IU Wells-Metz TheatreMusical, “You Can’t Take It with You”; 7:30pm

◗ IU Auer HallSummer Arts Festival: Pipe organ faculty recital; 8pm

The Root Cellar at Farm Bloomington — The Size of Color, Minus World; 9pm

The BishopDaniel Ellsworth & the Great Lakes, the Shams Band; 9pm

Ongoing:

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • John D. Shearer, “I’m Too Young For This  @#!%”; through July 30th
  • Claire Swallow, ‘Memoir”; through July 28th
  • Dale Gardner, “Time Machine”; through July 28th
  • Sarah Wain, “That Takes the Cake”; through July 28th
  • Jessica Lucas & Alex Straiker, “Life Under the Lens — The Art of Microscopy”; through July 28th

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • Qiao Xiaoguang, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts” ; through August 12th
  • “A Tribute to William Zimmerman,” wildlife artist; through September 9th
  • Willi Baumeister, “Baumeister in Print”; through September 9th
  • Annibale and Agostino Carracci, “The Bolognese School”; through September 16th
  • “Contemporary Explorations: Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists”; through October 14th
  • David Hockney, “New Acquisitions”; through October 21st
  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Paragons of Filial Piety”; through fall semester 2012
  • Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan, “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers”; through December 31st
  • “French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century”; through December 31st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits:

  • Kinsey Institute Juried Art Show; through July 21st
  • Bloomington Photography Club Annual Exhibition; July 27th through August 3rd

◗ IU Kinsey Institute Gallery“Ephemeral Ink: Selections of Tattoo Art from the Kinsey Institute Collection”; through September 21st

◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit, “Translating the Canon: Building Special Collections in the 21st Century”; through September 1st

◗ IU Mathers Museum of World Cultures — Closed for semester break

Monroe County History Center Exhibits:

  • “What Is Your Quilting Story?”; through July 31st
  • Photo exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

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