Tag Archives: woo

Knowledge from a Vending Machine

You pay someone, you get knowledge/enlightenment.  Wheee!

Something that people my age say a lot is, “The older I get, the more I realize how little I know.”

I mean, people my age who are not pompous asses.

Today, I am thinking about…thinking.

I got an email today from a website called “ESkeptic”, announcing their conference in southern California.  Well, sure, I know I can’t possibly go but I thought I would see what they’re up to, anyway.

The first thing that caught my attention, actually, wasn’t even the conference itself.  The item above the announcement did: “Waking Up” with Sam Harris.

I don’t know who Sam Harris is.  I do know that “waking up” is a common phrase used amongst people who want to promote self-awareness, myself included.  I ran a group whose main focus was self-awareness, and on the chalkboard in the room I had written, “Wake Up!”  So I am familiar with this concept.

I have never, however, heard a skeptic use language like that.

I would love to tell you what he meant by that, but I am not paying $4.99 to rent his lecture, the full title of which is “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion.”  The description reads as follows:

“In these talks, Harris discussed a range of experiences that have traditionally been considered “spiritual”—in particular the phenomenon of self-transcendence. Although such experiences tell us nothing about the origins of the cosmos, they confirm some well-established truths about the human mind: Our conventional sense of self is an illusion; positive emotions, such as compassion and serenity, are teachable skills; and the way we think can profoundly influence our lives and the lives of others. (This video consists of a one-hour lecture and an hour of Q&A.)” (email from Skeptics Society, 2/4/2015)

Our conventional sense of self is an illusion?  That’s a truth?

Sounds to me as if the skeptics are kind of desperate for members, and are resorting to promoting their own special brand of woo.  Tsk tsk.  And charging for it.  Just like they scream at others for doing.

So then I went on to read about their conference.  It costs a lot of money to attend.  Even just the open bar and lecture session is $75 (I assume the bar is extra).

I don’t see any difference between this conference and the myriad of UFO/Bigfoot/Enlightenment conferences that are held on a daily basis somewhere in the world.  Except I think the UFO and Bigfoot conferences might at least have entertainment value for the money (and they are usually cheaper).

Nope, the skeptics are after the same snob-appeal crowd that the modern-day gurus are after, except they talk about different subjects.

Do I hate skeptics? Noooooooo.  Most of my family are skeptics.  Some of my friends are skeptics.  I am occasionally skeptical about a great many things, which is why I refer to a lot of things as “woo”.

No, I just hate elitism in any form.  I don’t like anyone who thinks he/she has the market cornered on “the truth”.  Because, to me, unless you are referring to relating testimony (telling the truth about something/someone), I don’t think ANYONE knows “the truth”.

There are scientific principles, to be sure, and I do not argue against those.  I guess that’s “truth” in a sense.  But the word “truth” has almost a moralistic ring to it.  I would rather say, “It is likely that…”, or “It most probably is….”, or even “with a 95% confidence level” (as is written in peer-reviewed journal articles).

When I see someone charging for content that I often have taught for free, or blog here for free, it makes me mad.  Could I ever go on a lecture circuit and talk about things I write about here?  Not likely.  I could make money at it, for sure.  But it would be hard for me to do that without feeling like I was ripping people off.

Self-awareness et al is easy to teach – that part of the quote about Mr. Harris’ lecture is quite accurate.  In fact, you can teach it to yourself (in the 60s and 70s, lsd/peyote/psilocybin were used for that sometimes).

You do not have to pay $4.99 to rent a lecture (gee, you can’t even own it, what a ripoff), or pay $20.00 for a book (oh, it’s autographed, I know, but still…), or attend a $75 dinner party, or pay $225 for a Saturday conference session ($199 for Skeptic Society members) in order to become self-aware/learn about pseudoscience/be entertained by magicians with agendas.

If people pay for that, I think it’s much more likely they are paying for the chance to be around others of like-mind, so they can all feel smug and smart.  It’s really not like you would learn anything, like, say, you would at an academic conference.  And I guess you need to be a certain kind of person to enjoy a smug-fest. *cough* elitist asshole *cough*

What’s my point today?  I don’t know.  Maybe I am just fed up with people ripping off the public.  Maybe I am disgusted by elitism in its many forms.  Maybe I am appalled that someone would have the nerve to charge for something that’s so basic and so obvious.

Maybe I just feel that, with all their protestations that they are skeptics in order to advance science and educate people, they are still basically people out to make a buck.  And these folks do not live at subsistence level – they make quite a wealthy living from this.

I just think that’s shameful.

This week’s weirdness comes again from Gizmag, that wonderful website that clues you in on all the latest technological advances in all kinds of different areas.  This article is called “Fungi Mutarium Fuses Plastic and Fungi into Foodstuffs”.  Oh, those wacky Austrians at Livin Studios!

And…a recommendation from Hulu.  It’s another Hulu-produced series called “The Booth at the End.”  A man sits, well……….in a booth at the end (of a diner).  People come see him, tell him what they want, and he has them perform a task – then they come back and tell him about what they did and how they got what they wanted.  Is he a bad guy?  Seems so, at first, as he has people kill other people and what-not.  But sometimes people don’t do the task and they get what they want anyway.  So is he a good guy who makes people consider their actions and how those affect others?  I don’t know yet.  But it’s entertaining.

Be good.  Be kind.  Teach someone something…for free.




Life is Strange Enough – Quit Making Stuff Up!

I am going to start this entry with a book recommendation, for a change.

It’s a book written by someone who made a decent living as a “medium”, with work on the side as a ghost hunter/house cleanser.   Made a lot of money, too, what with TV appearances and book signings, the whole shebang.

She has decided to come out with the truth: she cannot talk to the dead, she’s never been in a haunted house, and now that she’s retired on her considerable wealth she wants to ensure that no one else gets duped.  She details how she conducted “cold readings”, how she rigged electronic devices to go off when she was claiming to “sense” a presence, and even how she sometimes had assistants planted in various locations to “make the experience seem more real”.

Emails sent to her, requesting readings, were saved and memorized (on her applications, she states that you need to provide basic details on your reason for a reading) – the rest is something she “fills in” when she meets the person, throws out some generalizations, then runs with whatever information she sees the client react positively to.

At live sessions, she throws statements out that are so general that someone inevitably will think it applies to them.  If, during a reading, she says something the person doesn’t relate to, she tells them to “think about it – it will come to you when you get home”.  Or sometimes she apologises and says the message is for the person sitting next to them.

She also states she got tired (and a few headaches) from pretending to be possessed by spirits.  She apparently has hit her head a few times when her assistants were not paying attention.  And, as she is getting older, it’s getting increasingly harder for her to see in the dark, a necessary condition (she says) in order to fool people better.

Additionally, she is getting sick and tired of a select group of clients and hangers-on who, while contributing a lot to her personal wealth, annoy her to the point of “mental exhaustion”.

“It’s as if they cannot make any decisions at all without my advice,” she complains. “Why can’t they just grow up and think for themselves?”

She, of course, doesn’t see that she has fostered this dependence. But hey, no one’s perfect, right?

Aside from the mental and physical exhaustion, she is beginning to worry about her own mortality.

“I don’t know what happens after we die, if anything,” she admits.  “And since I was asked to leave church because I was causing so much distraction, I don’t even know where to go to get my own spiritual guidance.  I’m getting older, and I’m becoming afraid of old age and death.”

Welcome to the club, idiot.  It’s hard to feel sorry for someone like that, isn’t it?  And even now, with this admission, she is hurting people because they now have to come to terms with their own belief in something that clearly wasn’t true.

And she’s not even giving their money back.

Internet Politeness Norms & Alternate…Everything

Today’s post is about internet politeness norms (there don’t seem to be any), alternative medicine/treatments (aka “woo”), and the general alternative reality that a lot of people seem to be living in (virtual reality in its many forms).

First of all, though, yet another health update: (Skip to Page 2 for My Usual Commentary)

I finished the antibiotics and am still sick.  The fevers are fewer and farther between, which is good, but the nausea/dizziness/upper right quadrant pain remain.  The fatigue is at bay unless I do something incredibly strenuous like, say, go downstairs to get the mail.  Then I’m done for the day, pretty much.

I don’t think people understand what I mean.  I don’t mean I am out of breath going up and down stairs – it doesn’t even get to that point.  I mean I feel like taking a nap in the foyer after fetching the mail and before returning upstairs.  Tired times a zillion and then some.

I have no idea how I am going to grocery shop next month.  I barely made it this month and when I got home I was wiped out for days.

And Dr. Wonderful?  His last comments to me via email, after I asked him if the lab results indicating I had some kind of atrophied pancreas (and the everpresent gallstones) might be the source of my symptoms, were somewhat terse – he stated that pancreas atrophy does not have symptoms and would not cause upper quadrant pain, and that the best way to “prevent illness” is a good diet, and strength training.

Can’t really disagree with him there.  However, it’s not really helpful.  My diet now consists of “eat whatever I want as long as I eat 45 g of fiber first” – which, if you have ever tried, leaves no room to eat ANYTHING else, because 45 g is a LOT of fiber and hard to achieve in one day.

Try it.  I mean, without pills or fiber drinks.  It’s tough.

My diet consists of raw vegetables (usually broccoli and caultiflower), some cooked ones (peas and artichokes, as both are high in fiber), an apple or berries, the occasional free-range happy chicken egg, and 2 c. black beans with bulgur and/or brown rice.

Sometimes I go wild and eat 2 slices of $6/loaf (yes, really) Ezekial bread, which is so high in healthy ingredients it nearly tastes like it.   Sorry, but vegetarian/health food has not changed a whole lot (ie, it still tastes a lot like cardboard) since I was a vegetarian in 1969 (I was 13 – an animal, um well not rights person exactly, I just didn’t think killing animals for food was kind or right).  I don’t think animals have rights, nor did I then.  I just don’t/didn’t think we as humans have to torture them for food/cosmetics/anything else.

They depend on us to not hurt them.  Oh, for heaven’s sake, if I was out in the wilderness and had to fend for myself I would maybe fish, as I kind of see that as an equal sporting kind of thing (I have never actually caught a fish, despite my love of bass fishing – them’s some damn smart fish and they always get away, if I am able to hook them at all, which I’m usually not).

But, in general, Americans do not need to hunt for food.  And, while even I will admit that McDonald’s burgers taste good (especially those cheddar/carmelized onion ones), they are just not worth the health issues or contributing to McDonald’s global domination.  So, I mean I don’t need to eat meat of any kind, for a lot of different reasons.

I digress.  What was I talking about?  Right, the diet and health.  So I have a boring diet and since I am rarely hungry now, I can check the “dietary lifestyle change” off my list.

Exercise, as my doctor clearly knows (because we have discussed it many times), is the tough part.  He knows I do not have a car.  He also knows I am on disability.  He knows that anything that’s not a medical errand (and exercise does not count, I already argued with Pennsylvania Medicaid and Medicare about this) costs me $6 round-trip.

I applied awhile back to the YMCA grant for poor people thing, which I got.   The woman told me, “As Christians, we think everyone should at least pay SOMETHING,” when I asked her why there was still a fee of $12/month.  “You mean you can’t spare $12 a month??” she asked.  I told her, no, but I would be glad to volunteer as anything, and if she had me do counseling volunteer work that was worth at least $25/hour so…”Oh, you have to volunteer on top of paying the fee,” she said.

Ok so that’s $12 plus transportation costs of $18/week, assuming a 3 times/week exercise schedule.  And it has to be done between the hours of 9 am and 2 pm, M-F, because those are the times the Blair Senior Services vans run (the $6/round-trip guys).

That’s minimally $84/month.  Even if I inexplicably ditched my cell phone (which isn’t practical and no, I do not want an Obamaphone – I had one once and the talk time they provide each month isn’t enough to cover the cost of calls to doctors and other necessary things, let alone call or text my kids and friends), and got rid of my internet (which is $28/month), it still wouldn’t add up to $84/month.

The classes are another issue.  The free ones are either not on the days/times I need or they are not suitable (NO Silver Sneakers for me, thanks) or they cost money.

A side issue – one that creeps me out – is that a prominent (and very elderly) doctor I have had contact with is on the YMCA board (in a visible, active, ‘hang-around-the-place’ way),  I would not want to run into him.  I had heard – through some former clients of mine – that he was into the BDSM scene as a dom, and when I met him he made it creepily clear that this was not a rumor.  I was in the middle of an exam for my back at the time.  It weirded me out so much, especially when he told me I was a “good girl”, that I left as soon as humanly possible and never went back.

It didn’t particularly shock me that Altoona has an underground dungeon or whatever.  I just really don’t want any contact with that group of folks, in any capacity.  They seem to be obsessed with sex and that doesn’t sit well with me (no obsessions sit well with me, to be honest).

So, back to the issues of diet and exercise.  Diet, check.  Exercise, um still figuring that out.  I bought a bicycle 3 years ago, and have fallen off it 3 times.  Yes, I used to ride bikes a lot as a kid and young adult.  I think the falling has to do with the peripheral neuropathy in my legs, which makes it so my legs do not do what I tell them to do, a lot of the time.  That relates back to the lower back issue, which was supposed to resolve itself without surgery but the last CT scan last week unintentionally revealed that nothing has changed.

So ends the health update for today.  That was the “everything” part of the title.