Happy Darwin Day

February 12, 2008

codemonkeyhappy_darwin_dayMonkey launcher

Hug a monkey, it’s Darwin Day.

Today I was thinking back to my pre-iPod and (gasp!) pre-DSL life, where I spent a stupid amount of time manually downloading new podcasts and shuffling them between my laptop and puny 256MB MP3 player (good grief, it actually needed batteries). I would then run into real difficulties if I decided that I actually liked a podcast, because it would take about a week to download the backlog of episodes over my crappy dial-up connection (which tended to drop out whenever someone looked at the telephone).

Well, I’ve moved on since then, but I still tend to spend a pretty large proportion of my time plugged into my MP3 player (now a shiny new iPod, thank my dear and fluffy non-existent lord) so I thought I’d go over some of the skeptical and freethinking/atheist podcasts that have crossed my earphones over the years:

Skepticality (Skepticism/Critical Thinking/Monkeys) Well, this was probably the first skeptical podcast I ever came across (and despite what you might hear, the real home of Monkey News). Derek and Swoopy did something new and funny and and it introduced me to luminaries like the Bad Astronomer and James Randi and a community of skepticism and critical thought I hadn’t realized existed. Some people have been critical of a lack of scientific expertise/focus, and I have been a little disappointed lately as the show has become less regular and moved toward a more formal interview format at the expense of the news and nerdy banter and discussion that I used to enjoy, but regardless, Skepticality remains a pioneer in the genre and a staple on my iPod.

The Skeptics Guide To The Universe (Skepticism/Critical Thinking) The SGU is the regular weekly podcast of the New England Skeptical Society (NESS) and is probably the best current example of the skeptical genre. It has great panel discussion, news and interviews all held together and directed by the indefatigable Dr Steven Novella. It is also associated with the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) and the beautiful and brilliant Skepchicks. Hard to go wrong really.

Skeptiod (Skepticism/Critical Thinking) Hosted by Brian Dunning. Similar to the SGU in technical content it’s an excellent, concise and short (around 10 minutes) skeptical podcast with a focus on a single topic each episode.

Point Of Inquiry (Secular Humanism and some Skepticism) The podcast of the Center For Inquiry hosted by D. J. Grothe. It’s credentials and reputation are impeccable and it presents an amazing array of interviewees, but I’m afraid it just doesn’t gel with me. While a lot of people like Grothe’s devils advocate style of interviewing, to me it seems a little disingenuous, and the whole show tends to come across a little like propaganda that’s trying to not sound like propaganda. (Though to be fair, Grothe also tends to side on the Nisbet side of the Atheist Noise Machine debate, so he kind of rubs me the wrong way anyway.) I don’t subscribe, but I grab the odd interview when it looks interesting.

Freethought Radio (Freethought/Atheism) The podcast of a nationally broadcast secular radio show hosted by Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The show has general programming for non-religious listeners with a main focus on separation of church and state issues. It suffers a little from the time constraints of the radio format, but is generally very informative about ongoing church/state issues in the US.

Logically Critical (Skepticism/Critical Thinking) This is a funny one. Each episode has a single theme that is addressed with basic logic, analogy, humor, funny voices and sound effects. The host makes a point of not using statistics or historical information, and thus the show tends to tread a fine line between skepticism and comedy, leaving many listeners divided on whether the podcast is brilliant or fatuous. Either way, his sarcasm and exasperation sometimes sound a lot like the voices in my head, so I tend to rather enjoy it.

The Infidel Guy (Atheism) A pioneer in the Atheist radio genre hosted by Reginald Finley, founder of the Atheist Radio Network. This show has an enormous archive, but unfortunately is a subscription based resource (the above link is to a small selection of free content). There are some amazing interviews available, but I find Finley’s interview technique uneven, especially when debating scientific concepts, and the more recent episodes of the show also tend to suffer from the frequent soliciting for paying subscribers. Like Point Of Inquiry I don’t subscribe, but tend to grab individual shows if they look interesting.

The Geologic Podcast (Skepticism/Atheism/Music/Theatre/Funny Har Har) I originally came across George Hrab via Skepticality, but I only just discovered that he also had a podcast. It’s brilliant, funny, smart (and often NSFW) with excellent production values. (I wasn’t super impressed by the first episode, but it turned out to be a recording from a radio show he used to do. Episode 2 onwards is the podcast proper.) Anyone who likes Monty Python as much as he does is my kind of people.

Well, that’s me. Anybody have any other suggestions?

Monkeys packing heat

February 23, 2007

Evidence of monkey tool building skills.Monkey launcher

Sure, it’s just a stick – now. But the next thing you know it’ll be a bigger stick. Then two bigger sticks. Eventually it’ll be fully automatic gas cooled sticks with mother of pearl handles and matching clam-shell holsters.

Hopefully they’ll evolve mandatory background checks soon. You wouldn’t want any crazy old monkey getting his hands on that kind of hardware.

Monkey tech skills

February 14, 2007

Proof that monkeys rock. From the article:

The study adds to growing evidence that culture — passing complex social information from one generation to the next — is not unique to humans.

codemonkey

I could have told you that. I learned how to code in BASIC from my father on a Tandy TRS-80.

10 PRINT "HELLO WORLD!!"
20 GOTO 10

Crazy old monkey.

They don’t make ’em like that any more though. Sure, my Dell at work as a dual core processor, bucket loads of RAM, multiple screens and, well, a hard drive. But I still kinda miss that warm green glow on my TV while I waited for a tape to load so I could play some bodgy four color flight simulator or spend hours arguing with ZORK over just what constitutes a valid command.


> YOU ARE IN A DARK ROOM. THERE IS A DOOR ON THE EAST WALL.
> E
> THE DOOR IS LOCKED.
> UNLOCK DOOR
> I DON'T UNDERSTAND THAT.
> OPEN DOOR
> THE DOOR IS LOCKED.
> GET KEY
> YOU GET THE BRASS KEY OUT OD YOUR PACK.
> OPEN DOOR
> THE DOOR IS LOCKED.
> UNLOCK DOOR
> I DON'T UNDERSTAND THAT.
> FCUKING OPEN THE DOOR YOU BASTARD
> I DON'T UNDERSTAND THAT.
> KEY DOOR
> THE DOOR IS UNLOCKED.

Ah. Memories.

Happy Darwin Day!

February 11, 2007

happy_darwin_day

Happy Darwin Day!

This is my little buddy Sebastian J Monkey. He is an Atheist and subscribes to the theory of evolution, because monkeys are hoopy froods who really know where their towels are.

If you’re planning on going monkey wild today like Sebastian, here is a list of Darwin Day celebrations taking place in a habitat near you.