On Being Fat: discrimination against the obese

The blogosphere and comment threads were a buzz last week over an article on the Marie Claire website in which a dating and relationship advice columnist, Maura Kelly, writes:

“I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.”

She was writing about the CBS sitcom Mike & Molly, featuring an overweight couple who apparently met in a support group for the overweight (I’ve never watched, or heard of, the show before this article so pardon any misunderstanding I have about it’s plot). She went on to write that obesity is something people can control if they put their minds to it. Overall she was critical of any messages in the media that might normalize obesity out of concern for rising health care costs for illnesses associated with being overweight and/or inactive. … continue reading this entry.

24 Hour-News: Home to Great Journalism

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes, it's a UFO. You decide which one this is. Here's a hint. The "tobacco" was "harvested" by "aliens."

Now, I haven’t seen the original research the various 24-hour news sources put into their new expose on Churchill and UFOs, but it must be really phenomenal.  The most compelling article is from Fox News who put up an article that says that Churchill classified a UFO back in the 50’s!  ABC News added in an article as well, but it uses all these stupid words like “alleged” – at least they didn’t try and cover it up, right?  Because you can’t hide the truth!  This stuff is important!

It seems that Britain just declassified a bunch of previously classified UFO data, about 5000 pages of it.  And one of those pages is a letter from a pilot who says he saw a UFO!  Whoa!  Are your minds blown?  This wasn’t anybody, guys.  This was a pilot.  And we all know the truth: pilots are infallible. … continue reading this entry.


In the grand tradition that Americans have adopted in using “–gate” as a suffix on anything controversial, ScienceBlogs brought us “Pepsigate” last month. This issue is resolved at this point, or maybe just dead in the water, but I think there are lessons that the skeptical community might take from this.

To summarize what Pepsigate is: ScienceBlogs is a commune of scientists and various scientist-like experts who blog. It was created by the shiny popular science magazine Seed who saw that in the blog boom there was also a growing market of science blogs as well as a growing readership for that type of material. Seed gathered together many of the more successful nascent science bloggers, talked a few people into starting up a blog with them, and Voila! created a one-stop shopping site for personal opinions about science and academia and whatever, delivered in a conversational manner by experts. Instant cache. As Seed is a for-profit magazine, they also created advertising opportunities on the site, and it has been a successful branch of their company for several years. Then last month, ScienceBlogs had a new arrival: Food Frontiers, a blog whose focus would be “on innovations in science, nutrition and health policy.” But before you click that link and are confused by the result, trouble arose when readers and bloggers at ScienceBlogs read the fine print: … continue reading this entry.

I want to be a headline writer!

If only this article had a headline demeaning my intelligence...

"If only this article had a headline demeaning my intelligence..."

I really love my new job.  I hang around with kids all day and I just try to make sure they have fun, don’t hurt themselves, and hopefully learn something.  It’s incredibly rewarding and it’s a ton of fun.  The unfortunate thing is, my job ends at the end of October.  That’s just when our season’s over, and there’s nothing I can do about it.  So, I’ve got to start getting ready to go job hunting soon.  Luckily, I think I’ve found the new great career for me: headline writer.

I’m not trying to buck the system here.  I want to do as good a job as all the great headline writers out there.  So I’m doing my research.  I think it’ll be a great exercise for me to take a look at how the pros do it, then maybe I’ll be ready to take a shot at it myself! … continue reading this entry.

What does Jukt Micronics teach us about fact-checking?

Taken from Flickr user lhls photostream

Taken from Flickr user lhl's photostream

You may not have ever heard of Jukt Micronics but it’s a California software firm that, in 1998, was the victim of a 15-year-old hacker named Ian Restil. Concerned that Restil or others would do even more damage, executives at Jukt Micronics decided to hire the very 15-year-old hacker who broke into their network as an information security consultant.

Those executives even sat down with the boy at some hacker convention where they negotiated to pay Restil more money than the 15-year-old knew what to do with:

Ian Restil, a 15-year-old computer hacker who looks like an even more adolescent version of Bill Gates, is throwing a tantrum. “I want more money. I want a Miata. I want a trip to Disney World. I want X-Men comic book #1. I want a lifetime subscription to Playboy – and throw in Penthouse. Show me the money! Show me the money!”. . . .
Across the table, executives from a California software firm called Jukt Micronics are listening and trying ever so delicately to oblige. “Excuse me, sir”, one of the suits says tentatively to the pimply teenager. “Excuse me. Pardon me for interrupting you, sir. We can arrange more money for you. . . .”

We know all of this because of a lengthy article featured in the The New Republic over a decade ago called “Hack Heaven.” The author of that article was a young, rising star reporter named Stephen Glass. … continue reading this entry.

David Shenk fails to deliver

Genius in all of usOn Saturday, March 13, David Shenk, the author if The Genius in All of Us delivered a lecture to the New York City Skeptics.  The book’s press release promised a lot, saying Shenk would give us reason to “Forget everything you think you know about genes, talent, and intelligence.”  Shenk said there was a “mountain of evidence” for a level of “talent abundance” that we had previously not known about.  The talk totally failed to deliver on these promises, as did his book. … continue reading this entry.

H. L. Mencken, the Holy Terror of Baltimore

menckenThe pedant and the priest have always been the most expert of logicians – and the most diligent disseminators of nonsense and worse. The liberation of the human mind has never been furthered by such learned dunderheads; it has been furthered by gay fellows who heaved dead cats into sanctuaries and then went roistering down the highways of the world, proving to all men that doubt, after all, was safe – that the god in the sanctuary was finite in his power, and hence a fraud. One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms. It is not only more effective; it is also vastly more intelligent.

H.L. Mencken, Prejudices: Fourth Series

Henry Louis Mencken was the most famous public intellectual of his day—primarily the 1910s and ‘20s—and enjoyed an influence that no single person could ever hope to achieve in our media-saturated age. He is also the only writer who can make me laugh three times in one sentence.

Nowadays he is best known for the rather shallow caricature of him in the play and movie Inherit the Wind (where he is fictionalized as cynical reporter E.K. Hornbeck); for his famous definition of Puritanism (“the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy”); and for coining the term “Bible Belt.”

What particularly recommends him to skeptics is his relentless skewering of what would eventually be called the religious right, his devastating coverage of the Scopes trial, and his keen eye for humbug in all its forms. Mencken was also a relentless foe of what was not yet called alternative medicine; the mere mention of homeopathy or chiropractic could send him into gales of mirth. … continue reading this entry.

On Skeptical Blogging

I’ve been writing for various internet publications now for going on two years. It’s not a long time to a lot of people, but for me, it feels like a while.  It started out easy. Like with all writing. There’s that early work you do where you had like five or six things to say but then, all of a sudden, that’s it, no more ideas in your head. It started out for me being about Bush. I tried to keep up with his weekly radio addresses, writing parodies of each one point by point. That was fun for about a month. But after you listened to Bush complain about how Congress wouldn’t do exactly what he wanted week in and week out, well… you get sick of it. The election was big.  I was, at my peak, writing five blogs a week on the Huffington Post’s comedy site, 236 (now defunct). Not all of them were good, but they all went out there. … continue reading this entry.

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