30 December 2007

For the approaching year

The year 2007 has been quite turbulent for me: failed to hold down several unsteady jobs; managed to hold down one great, but incredibly low-paying job; had almost zero love life; have a band that's been on an unfortunate hiatus for almost 6 months; moved to a new apartment and immediately had to take on a scourge of critters; had my guitar stolen from said abode; and probably some other stuff happened that I can't recall.

On the upside, I've rejuvenated this blog (though with spotty internet here, not updated as much as I'd like), been reading tons, discovered that D&D (yes, that D&D) is really fun, returned to Brooklyn after a year in (Queens) exile, and have tried to maintain some semblance of a positive attitude. Oh, and I got the Cosmos DVD set for xmas.

The closest I probably come to espousing any sort of metaphysical worldview would be my insistence that life maintains a symmetry or balance; something along the lines of a bastardized, american taoism. There's a wave with peaks and troughs and things generally even themselves out.

Anyway, for anyone who reads this, expect a little more out of me in the near future. As I'll be saving up to buy a new guitar, that means less drinking and probably much more reading and thinking and spouting off whatever it is I do here. So I wish the best to all in their endeavors for this year...

ps - I finally added a list of labels to make it easier to search through past posts. should've done that long ago, but alas, at least it's done now.

06 December 2007

Word of the minute/hour/day/week/month/year

In my recent readings of all things skeptical and inquiring, I came across a new favorite word:


As far as I've studied and researched, this concept provides a great starting point for understanding all manner of pseudoscience, anti-science, new-age philosophy and other assorted crazy make-'em-ups the world over. Below I'll lay out the simple definition and click on the word above to see a more expansive background on this mot du jour.

Apophenia is the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. The term was coined in 1958 by Klaus Conrad, who defined it as the "unmotivated seeing of connections" accompanied by a "specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness".

05 December 2007

I want an Ann Druyan of my own

Carl Sagan The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle In The Dark

Here is a collection of essays representing a spectrum of topics ranging from UFOs and alien abduction to the effects of religion on society to the terrible deficiencies in science education among American youth. While the topics are diverse, they flow quite well together and the read never feels disjointed as such a vast array is wont to do.
Later in the book there are several essays that Carl co-wrote with his wife and collaborator Ann Druyan. These tend to be more general in scope; mostly regarding science education, science's role in society and the possibilities for societal betterment that scientific advancement provides. I thought this made sense given Ann's role in co-writing much of the Cosmos tv series. I also get the impression that she probably helped edit and improve the flow of most of Carl's pieces.
What I appreciate most about Carl's work in popularizing science is his continuous encouragement in questioning everything and keeping a sharp, critical, skeptical mind about what confronts us on a daily basis. It's such a simple concept and seems cliché, but to remain vigilant in the face of encroaching darkness and magical thinking is difficult. I can only imagine what Carl would think if he were still alive in this day of pseudoscience and anti-science, of "intelligent design" in schools and diminished science literacy in general. When I was growing up I remember Mr Wizard and 321 Contact among other science shows for kids. Do they even have that now? Sure, kids can use computers, but too many can't think and aren't exposed to methods of critical inquiry at a young age.
I've completely lost focus now and I'm just rambling. I hate to say "we're fucking screwed" even thought it often feels like it, so it makes me terribly happy and hopeful that we still have the work of Carl Sagan as a light in this terrible tunnel.