Friday, 9 January 2009

Already put my foot in it...........or have I?

I  was having another look at my site of the week.  The very excellent and the information therein.  Its got to be said that the sites principle, Brian Dunning, is very well informed and I find his articles an invaluable source of information.  The article on the Min Min Light  was great.  For a subject,  the explanation of which to have alluded serious reason for so long,  I found both amazing and relieving.  Some things are just difficult to explain but I am certain that most things do end up with a rational scientific explanation  even if i may not understand that explanation in full.  I know that sounds a bit strange but I prefer a scientific explanation to anything spiritual because it satisfies my curiosity in the same way that any metaphysical one leaves me cold.  I had never heard of the Min Min Light and to discover the phenomenon and the explanation in the same article was quite a catch.  

That got me to thinking.  Was I a bit hard on Brian in my last post for him trying to prise almost a whole dollar for one of these articles? Its something I pondered for a while.  If THIS blog grows he should be receiving more traffic and thus increase his chance of making more money from his site.  He should be as entitled as anyone else to make a few quid from his hard work of course.  But something about charging anything at all over the operating costs doesn't sit well with me, especially as sceptics spend a considerable effort debunking people making pots of cash for nothing more than pretending to bend a spoon.  Its an awfully good site and I am sure the extra hours tagged on to Brian's week are hard to come by.  I have a family life to juggle in amongst my work and private time so I understand the commitment he´s making,  a noble one.  But he´s selling a book and a Video / DVD and has a website to help him promote these things along with going to the trouble of having T- Shirts printed up - (not cheap either).  There is something of an marketing plan in place here somewhere.   

I´m happy to support Brian's efforts to inform us and maybe entertain us a little.  I´m not ready to stump up a dollar if 69,000 others are doing the same every week and netting him a cool  3.6million bucks a year for his  450 odd hours work.  That's some hourly rate which ever way you look at it and a LOT of money.   I doubt that is happening of course,  he seems a very likeable guy,  and as he is an incredably well informed  sceptic as well I ask my self;  would he pull the wool over everybodys eyes and say that only 6 people are bothering with the donations?  I don't actually believe he would,  I think he´s trying to cover his costs and make a few extra buck,  but as a sceptic myself I don't know for sure.  In short,  I don't want to pay for him to get rich but I´m happy to pay my share of a decent and honest return on the investment he makes of his time.   I do hope that he continues,  I find him very easy to listen to and his research seems thourough.  I will make a decision soon about this and keep you informed.........I´ll probably end up subscribing, I will definatly be spreading the word about his podcasts, I have 150 of them on my phone and have barely listened to anything else since I discovered him so I guess you could say I am a fan.   Check him out 


Hi Everyone,

I just wanted to say hello and introduce my new blog.   

My name is Marc Johnston,  and I am a musician by trade.  I have always had an interest in theology,  faith and philosophy but I am always left wanting more.  Religion doesn't do it for me, I cant see it.  I hate watching people getting screwed by psychic hot lines and spoon bending maniacs.  I recently found that there are a movement of people who think a bit like I do and while I don't claim to understand or agree with all they say,  I do find a certain comfort in their being around.  I´d like to have a few sentences at the start of this scary but exciting time to outline my intentions for this place so here we go.

1.  These are just my own views and as I am embarking on a journey into skepticism and my own reaction to it,  will very likely change frequently.  I am currently very open to all things aimed at outing the underhand removal of anything of any value from the vulnerable, be that money, material things or just messing with their mind.  Amongst other things, this means psychic drivel,  paranormal bullsh!t and mass scaremongering for the benefit of any kind of gain and that includes the regular collections in churches, TV evangelism and Astrology.

2.  I don´t believe in a higher supreme being,  God,  Deity,  sun worship or any other kind of worship FULL STOP - for now,  nor am I looking to.  I am trying to stay open to what I don't know and don´t personally understand,   but so far have been repelled (rather than attracted to)  by any kind of organised religious faith by the very means and ceremony used to entice and call to prayer.  This DOES NOT and I want to make this perfectly clear,  ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT  mean I have any problem with anybody else exercising their right to what ever belief comforts them and I will never intentionally set out to personally offend anybody.  If my beliefs clash with anybody Else's,  I hope we will be adult enough to understand that its this diversity that makes for intelligent debate,  and we all know where misinterpretation and non compliance in religion can get us,  even putting aside the cultural differences that religious belief can add to the mix. 

Its going to be difficult at times,  I know.  My inspiration for this blog comes from the discovery of James Randi and his Educational Foundation,  from there I have read a few other sites,  links, blogs and downloaded podcasts from them also,  and at times it seems the movement its self is becoming a little too like a religion.  Herein lies a problem for me.  I don´t like being corralled into anything.  

One podcaster,  Brian Dunning at the excellent Skeptoid  is asking for donations of 99c a week for his very well put together weekly podcast,  but goes on to say that 70,000 people downloaded the last one.  If half of them paid (i didn't, but I am considering a smaller contribution as I realise the work that goes into the recording and his hard work does deserve re numeration)  his (and I´m guessing here) $35,000 podcast starts to look a bit like the reason I am starting this blog - even a tenth of that for a 10min mp3 is enough in my eyes.  Go to any half decent hotel and you will find those helpful Gideons have nipped in before your arrival and placed a copy of the bible there for you for free.  The TV programs churning out vast amounts of woo-woo are even provided for free in my country of residence.  

Now I admit,  I can no more understand the finances relating to the maintenance of a site of the magnitude of than I can those of a lunar landing.  I simply do not understand the amount of physical work that goes into the production of that excellent podcast in terms of research,  but as a recording engineer - part of my job as a musician,  I would consider myself lucky indeed to be re numerated to the tune of a few hundred dollars for a 10 minute recording of a single voice.  I am guessing again here as the sonic quality could be somewhat obscured by the effect of the compression applied on conversion to mp3 format,  but it does sound a bit on the "home made"  side especially the production technique using "telephone EQ" setting for external quotes,  but I digress,  I love them.  All of them have so far given me something - I just can´t seem to put a dollar value on them when there are 70,000 of them going out each week,  these are just audio fliers at the end of the day.  It must be the natural socialist in me and I apologise if the poor guy is taking a hit producing them,  but my opinion is,   for what it may or may not be worth,  its too many beans!.  

So,  even in my intro I am doubting my own doubts........skeptical of the master skeptics.....well, lets see where it takes me.  Again,  I have no wish to offend.  I hope to spread the word of Skeptiod and sceptic related sites like JREF,  and maybe people will find the excellent work appealing enough to pay the full whack - I´m not ready just yet. 

I hope you come along for the ride on my journey and I am looking forward to some scintillating debate.