little rose, giant flag, dylan’s birthday tomorrow


Sights I have seen recently:

(A) Musicians playing Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks album. This very fine performance was a reminder of how good these songs are live. The encores included “Like a Rolling Stone” preceded by a band member shouting, “I don’t believe you!” That made me get out the Royal Albert Hall CD and hear the guy in audience yell, “Judas!” 

(B) Little red rose with little red car.

(C) The frighteningly huge flag at the corner of Delridge and Andover. Hard to tell in the photo but the flag is so massive that it could cover up a good chunk of that building. Look at its reflection in the windows. It’s like someone shouting, “I’M PATRIOTIC, DAMN IT.” Fitting for the Trump era.

i go to new york


Decided to attend NECSS in Manhattan. That’s the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism. Some of the NECSS highlights for me included:

  • Most of the medical-related sessions. Of particular interest was hearing doctors give accounts of dealing with patients who are also seeing and getting advice from alternative health providers.
  • The Skeptical Extravaganza of Special Significance was very entertaining and funny thanks to the wonderful George Hrab and the wide variety of stunts and activities.
  • Bill Nye was both amusing and inspirational when discussing climate change.
  • Richard Wiseman’s keynote. He combines engaging and enlightening in a perfect way.

In addition to the conference, I got pizza, of course. Multiple times. A little place called Amadeus was the local slice source for me. Also visited Central Park and the American Museum of Natural History. I spent hours at the latter, including attending a spectacular Hayden Planetarium show. Also saw a very fine production of Matilda.

(1) The naked cowboy (2) Hailing a cab. (3) Massive brick edifice. (4) Entrance: Chelsea Pods. (5) Where Kong died. (6) Colorful Matilda stage. (7) Famous museum dino. (8) Large museum head. (9) Walking the Highline (elevated park). (10) Strawberry Fields.







ask the universe


The universe – an incomprehensibly large expanse strewn with billions of galaxies, each full of billions of stars. And it’s expanding. Then toss in dark energy and dark matter, even though no one currently knows what that means. Add gravity and stir. 

Maybe, like me, you have heard someone ask the universe for help. They’ll say something like, “I want to live in a tropical paradise, so I’ll put the intention out there and see if the universe supports me.” However, I’m pretty sure that the actual universe doesn’t care if you live or die, let alone where you live. Go ahead, just ask it if it cares. 

Yet some people believe that an invisible force underlying all reality will “support” them if their wish is in cosmic alignment with … universe energy! Or something vague like that. Years ago, I held a similar belief – everything is made of consciousness, so you can do anything. It’s kind of like “the secret,” which says that if you really want something you’ll get it. After all, you create reality, so the world will rearrange itself according to your desires. 

In other words, it’s magic. Some people will make ridiculous claims that quantum physics somehow supports this belief in magic. It doesn’t. Go ahead, ask a quantum physicist at the nearest university physics department. I’ll wait. 

These beliefs are not different than the old “praying for what you want” gambit. If your prayer (intention) comes true, the lord (universe) has granted your desire, and if it doesn’t come true, it wasn’t just part of the deity’s plan (energies not in alignment). 

Ask the universe to send you a bag of dog chow. Tell the universe you want to meet the love of your life. Ask it to resurrect a dead tulip. Best of all, ask it for something really vague, such as to make everything work out according a plan you can’t know about. That’s the universe’s specialty.

And if the actions of the universe are indistinguishable from random chance, well, maybe that’s how it prefers to operate.


more words laid to rest


These are words and phrases to destroy.

“Nestled” when describing the location of a town or village. Examples: “Dogville is nestled at the foot of Wiggly Mountain.” In point of fact, every stinking town in every travel site or brochure and in every human interest story in the world, is nestled somewhere. Stop.

Science-related stories: Never, ever again use any variation of Einstein’s “God doesn’t play dice with the world.” Never. Just tired of it, that’s all. While you’re at it, stop talking about Schroedinger’s cat, and “spooky action at a distance.” I don’t care if the cat is alive or if the action is spooky. Give it up. Think of a new way to talk about quantum physics. In fact, quantum physics is so misused that let’s just say QP for a while and quickly move past it.

Can we give the Fermi paradox a rest for a while? It might seem cool to say or write it, but it’s really just tiresome.

I’ve decided to give up “meme.”  I’ve rarely found it useful in a conversation. “Popular idea” or “viral concept” or even “idea” alone seems to work as well or better in most circumstances. And with those replacements, people don’t respond with, “What did you say? Mean? Beam?” So why bother? For now, meme is out.

Curmudgeon is going to stay. I might have it tattooed on the palm of each hand.