What a skeptic really is.

What is a skeptic? Is it a person who refuses to believe anything told to him? Is it a person who is closed minded to the point that he or she is not open to discussion? Does skeptic love? Can a skeptic like many fantasy things like novels, comics, movies, etc?

Before anyone tries to answer any of these questions, I’ll speak on behalf of many skeptics and myself. According to dictionary definition of skeptic, it is “a person who questions or doubts something (such as a claim or statement) : a person who often questions or doubts things”. Sounds like a person who refuses to believe anything right? Well it depends. Some people are hyper skeptic and refuse to believe anything even when there are facts presented.

However, my definition of a skeptic is someone who questions a claim, asses the evidence, and believes a claim to be true when evidence is presented that is factual. People all the time come to me and say “ghosts/bigfoots/aliens/illuminati/ are real! You can’t prove they don’t exist! and I can’t prove they are real! You should believe!”. I respond with the words of my great highschool teacher: “Show me some evidence that supports this claim and I will believe it” .  You are right. I can’t prove they don’t exist. I don’t know what lies beyond death, but so far there is nothing that shows we have an after life.  The best I can show you is that these claims are tricks. I never claim to have the answers. I never claim to know everything I answer very humble “I don’t know”. I have always been a man who says “I don’t know. Tell me”.

This should make you think “ohh you only believe what you want to hear and what you like”. Not exactly folks. I too question if my sources and information are accurate. I research more about the topic. I look it up until I can find it. I have been wrong before. I use to believe that the quote “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”. I looked up and it was not by Albert Einstein. It was just a random quote that was made up. My world was devastated, but that did not mean there was something else to take its place. Reality might shock us, upset us, or make us sad, but that’s okay. You know why? We can run to the comfort of our loved ones, our hobbies, our interests, or our own imagination to build new ideas and let creativity begin.

I read comicbooks, read fiction, watch movies, and even imagine things that are not there and that’s okay because I know that that is entertainment and fun, and maybe I can learn a thing or two about myself in the process because I know it took a great creativity and imagination for those works. My friend who is an atheist makes great music his page can be found here. Also, a skeptic can love just like anyone else. Here is Penn who makes a great point by saying “You should love with your heart and think about the world”.

In conclusion, a skepticism is not for a certain elite. It is for anyone, just like any human being is capable of love, compassion, warmth, patience, and empathy. Until next time guys. Remain full of love and skepticism!

(Belated) Throwback Thursday: Kony 2012.

Greetings to all. I type this post from yet another Starbucks. Yes! The place I love to type in! Today I decided to talk about how skepticism has helped me, not just in catching frauds and woo woo non sense, but thinking critically about the world and information I receive. One big topic that arose from social media was Kony 2012.

What was Kony 2012? Why did it matter to many people? What was the issue? How did it become so popular with many groups of people? Fear not; those and many questions will be answered in this nostalgic post.  According to Invisiblechildren.com,

The KONY 2012 campaign started as an experiment. Could an online video make an obscure war criminal famous? And if he was famous, would the world work together to stop him?

The experiment yielded the fastest growing viral video of all time. The KONY 2012 film reached 100 million views in 6 days, and 3.7 million people pledged their support for efforts to arrest Joseph Kony.

It proved our theory that if people only knew what Kony had been getting away with, they would be as outraged as we were. But knowing is only half the battle – Joseph Kony is still out there.

If I did not know any better, this sounds like a legitimate cause with good intentions, honest people, and a very life changing message as well. However, in the words of Billie Mayes, “THERE’S MORE!”

ht_kony_nt_120307_wblog
A lot of my facebook friends, favorite musicians, celebrities, and even politicians who shared the video called it “life changing!”, “inspirational!”, “sad”, and among other very nice words to spark the interest and curiosity of any soul. I, on the other hand, noted something was fishy about it. Why did it have such a big following? Who was Kony? I decided to reject the offer of the latest internet band wagon and do some investigating on my own. What I found was not as beautifully painted as the producers of the film made it out to be.

If you have not watched the video, take 30 minutes of your time and watch it.

If you could careless and skip the video, I’ll summarize it as much as I can: the video mentions how Kony is a bad man. He is responsible for the kidnapping of a lot of children. Furthermore, the producer Jason Russell features his son Gavin more than the actual victims of Kony. The video ends the charity Invisible Children telling the viewers to donate to the cause and to petition president Obama to take action and send troops to Uganda .

president-yoweri-museveni-state-house-uganda

H. E. Yoweri K. Museveni

The criticism that many have made against the film is the simplification of a complex issue. Russel made the conflict in Uganda a black and white issue when it was more on the gray scale. According to my research, Kony is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army or LRA for short. The reason for his rebellion was to over throw the president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni. According to House of Uganda.com,  Museveni has been “president” of Uganda since 1986.

The question that I ask many of my readers is does Museveni sound like a president or some type of dictator? In my humble opinion, he is a dictator who angered many people. Among the angered people was Kony. Once again, according to Encyclopedia Britannica,

 

During the 1990s and continuing into the 2000s, Uganda was faced with an increase in rebel activity, particularly from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony. Established in the late 1980s, the LRA abducted tens of thousands of children to serve as slaves or soldiers in its fight against Museveni’s government. Its vicious attacks on civilians in the northern part of the country—including rape, murder, and acts of mutilation, such as cutting off the ears, noses, lips, and limbs of their victims—terrorized and displaced more than one million Ugandans, creating a humanitarian crisis in the early 2000s. After years of refusal, the LRA agreed to meet with government officials for peace talks in late December 2004. However, the talks broke down in early 2005, and the LRA resumed their brutal attacks on civilians. Peace talks resumed in July 2006, and although a cease-fire agreement was reached in late August, talks again broke down, and negotiations to end the decades-old conflict continued intermittently. In late 2008 Uganda began a joint military operation with armed forces from the DRC and southern Sudan (now South Sudan) to target LRA bases in the DRC. The campaign’s goals were to capture or kill Kony and to destroy the organization’s command structure. The operation was poorly executed, however, and ultimately failed. Kony escaped, and the LRA, which dispersed throughout the northeastern DRC and into Sudan and the Central African Republic, continued its acts of terror in those countries

 

Kony

Kony

Anyone who has a decent morality would agree that Kony should be stopped and that children should not be involved in war. However, Museveni’s government is not quite innocent as they sound. According to a statement from the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy:

children are being absorbed into the LDU [local defence units, government-allied militia groups] especially, as well as the UPDF [Uganda People’s Defence Forces, the national army]. This is due to a number of factors, but there is a reality of children being in the LDU and the UPDF. We have now negotiated with the government of Uganda. I have just met with the president today, and we have agreed on some principles to deal with the specific issue relating to child combatants or child soldiers who may be in the LDU and the UPDF.

There is also a video interview with Kony about the conflict.

Interesting how a reporter can find him, but not the government. Is he that dangerous? or is this some conspiracy? Naw, conspiracies are b*ll$#!t.

The issue of Uganda and the LRA has more complexity to it than meets the eye, but this post is not about Uganda’s conflict: it is about Kony 2012.

So why did this movement start strong and fall flat? According to Truthloader’s video, Kony 2012 lost its spunk after the first video and slowly started heading down hill. Other videos after Kony 2012, had little to nothing to do with Kony and Uganda, but instead focused on another agenda from Invisible children. Also, npr.org mentions how the fall of Kony 2012 happened.

In addition to the fall of Kony 2012,  an official Invisible Children’s document shows that more money was spent on the campaign’s awareness than actual help for the people of Uganda. There is also a picture of Invisible Children’s members holding guns. Ironic, a group advocating for peace holds up weapons. What was their reason? It was a peace meeting and they were bored.

stop-invisible-children-kony2012-545x361

Furthermore, Jason Russel was caught masturbating in public as he had a mental breakdown in 2012. The same year his documentary was released.

I do not blame Russel for the breakdown. We all can suffer from a breakdown. However, as a leader of any cause, you have to set the example and be strong for your people.

In conclusion, Kony 2012 mislead a lot of people and did little to nothing in the end.Some may ask: does this mean that one should not fight for what one believes in? Not at all. If you join every band wagon ever created, good for you. If you share videos and hope for change with or without taking action, good for you. The important thing to remember is to know what you are supporting before you get involved. There is sometimes more to a cause than the formulaic “good vs evil”. I invite you all to do your own research and look at as much sources as possible for any cause you think about joining. Not everyone is a saint, and not everyone is a devil either.  For if you do not think about what a cause really advocataes, you will fall victim like many of the supporters of Kony 2012 and not even know it. As for my very grateful facebook friends who had their lives changed by this film, they continue to mope, whine, and complain about their first world problems and insult others as they did before they watched Kony 2012. 

College: educating you at your own expensive…and mine. Part 1

Greetings to all once again. Today, I do not find myself at the regular Starbucks I attend, but at my girlfriend’s house. I decided to take a break from hunting and slaying quacks, for a new topic that goes beyond the supernatural: college.

My face is a gun believers; your argument is invalid.

My face is a gun you believers; your argument is invalid.

As John Stossel has said, ” Want to go to college? It’s expensive.” indeed it is. However, the questions that are asked: is college truly affordable? Should you, your child, or anyone you know go to college? Let me explain why you should or should not go to college. Yes, I, the college student writing this blog is telling you about how college is a bad place and maybe you should think twice before going to one.

With this vision, the mission of the University is to promote excellence and engagement in teaching and learning, research and scholarship, creativity and artistry, and outreach and service.

In pursuing our vision and fulfilling our mission, the University values:

  • A community of diverse people, ideas, services, and scholarly endeavors in a climate of respect for the intrinsic dignity of each individual
  • Access for a broad spectrum of students to high quality undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs that prepare them to be lifelong learners and productive, socially conscious citizens
  • Engaged teaching and learning that evolves from the synergy of research, artistry, and service
  • Research and artistry in creating, transmitting, expanding, and applying knowledge
  • Student success supported through academic and co-curricular programming and activities
  • The application of current technology in enhancing and broadening all institutional endeavors
  • A system of shared governance that incorporates input from faculty, staff, and students in decision- and policy-making
  • Commitment to a public purpose addressing regional, state, national, and global challenges and opportunities

This mission statement is taken from my school’s official website.  First of all, let’s try to interpret the statement and pick some points where it may not succeed as it claims. We will begin with the first:  “A community of diverse people, ideas, services, and scholarly endeavors in a climate of respect for the intrinsic dignity of each individual”.  The first goal of the mission statement is saying that NIU is a place of ideas, “diversity” (which I will argue why it falls flat), and why the whole “respect” is just nice word for “we censor your speech”. Yes my friends. Northern Illinois University, the college I attend, is abridging the first amendment. However, NIU is not only place where the censorship of the first amendment happens.

According to Foundations for Individual Rights in Education (or F.I.R.E for short), NIU has a red light ranking. What does this mean? It means that the first amendment is not being properly protected as it should. At a quick glance, some of the policies that are put in place are safe enough right? WRONG. One policy at NIU’s website states that you cannot use its network for political rallies, this includes college democrats, republicans, libertarians, green party etc. So if you are a very passionate college student when it comes to politics; forget it. You are a problem. Want to facebook your friend about how to vote? Nope. You can’t do it. You are violating policy.  Furthermore, the policy also states that one cannot use the network for ” Sending or storing for retrieval patently harassing, intimidating, or abusive material”. Let that sink in for moment. What does that mean? Are crude words like bitch, faggot, jerk among them or maybe you talking against god is also offending. These rules are so vague anything  harassing, intimidating, or abusive can mean anything!

Moving on, there is also a policy that mentions how NIU will crack down on discrimination. Sounds like good intentions right? WRONG AGAIN. Why is this policy bad you ask? It is good that one is not discriminated for their race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. If you can do the job, do it. The issue arises when there are terminations that must be done for legitament reason. The problem with these policies that are not well written is that, if a person is terminated, he or she will try to use an excuse that it was a trivial issue and not for an actual reason. Take a look at this John Stossel clip.

Also, Penn & Teller’s: Bullshit!, episode about college, covers this topic of free speech and discrimination in a college setting very well.

It is understandable that being fired for being old, Catholic, Muslim etc. that there is a need to file a lawsuit, but what if I got fired at my job because I was a lousy worker and slacking and then I pulled a the race card? I would sue the hell out of the school or company, and the innocent souls of the school or company would pay for y compensation -I wouldn’t because suing hurts innocent people-. However, discrimination laws are a whole different topic and not so much what NIU’s policy is about. So we will move on to the next part of the “discrimination policy”.

Another part of the discrimination policy states that

The occasional improper comment and/or joke, generally, will not create such a hostile
environment and/or be indicative of racial discrimination unless such conduct is severe, pervasive, and/or occurs on a frequent basis.

Guess what folks? You can’t say “bad” words. How does this affect the learning environment? Let me show you with an anecdotal account where many of you might find yourselves in. In my English class, we were taking about Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, when the word “nigger” was brought up. According to the fineprint found in NIU’s handbook, we were violating the policy . Imagine if we were spending a whole week or two in that section; all of us and the professor would have been up for the biggest law suit ever. In addition to these rules, intellectual discussion is capped for one must abide by the rules that limit ideas, imagination, creativity, and discussion. Isn’t college a place where great minds discuss ideas? Not anymore. Even laws and rules like California’s yes means yes law, does not abridge free speech per se, but makes everyone a possible rapist. That means have your partner say yes; have their consent; sign papers; say yes; sign forms; fax them to your legal team; and then have sex. Yes, have sex after months of legal documentation. Guess California is a place I will not go for my sexual escapades anytime soon. Unfortunately for some students -and maybe even me-, I will not have any sexual activity for NIU has some iffy policies as well.

Examples of sexual harassment in employment or education include, but are not limited to, uninvited sexual comments or innuendo, oral, written, or electronic communications that are sexually explicit in nature or sexually explicit questions, jokes, or anecdotes about gender-specific traits.

Take a look at this older piece about free speech and college by John Stossel. If the video does not load properly, just click around 36:43

And this piece about “sexual harrasment” policies. If the video does not load properly, just click around 6:31

So don’t you dare offend anyone! Just be quiet! Furthermore, your free speech at NIU is limited to a certain area. Forget speaking in other places; your freespeech is here.

On the other hand, free speech is not the only problem with college: money and loans that are putting a lot of people in debt. Why does it happen? Shouldn’t college be more affordable? Shouldn’t the price go down and not up? It is a conundrum and a problem that fuels itself. Let’s take a look on why it is so expensive.  According to www.finaid.org, tuition has gone up higher than inflation. Let’s take a look at a chart from 2005.

College is way more expensive than living!

College is way more expensive than living!

But Octavio! look; it has gone down right? Wrong. There is a chart with general cost of college.

"Up isn't a cut." - John Stossel

“Up isn’t a cut.” – John Stossel

But Octavio! You are using old information! This is old! You are just skewing the facts and taking it out of context. Okay, let’s use a more credible source: a government website. According to National Center for Education Statistics, the cost of college in 1981-1982 from went up from $2,871, in current dollars, to $16,789. If I did the math right, that is a 484.78 percent increase. However, why is this so? Why did the price increase by such a large number?  According to this official government document,the Higher Education Act of 1965  was designed to help students in financial aid to achieve higher education. However, little did the law makers know, the act would have unintended consequences. Let’s take another look at National Center for Education Statistics’ site , from  the period of 1964-1965, the cost of a higher education was $950. Logs from 1965-1966 show small increase from $950 to $983. Not a big change. However, the log from 1966–67 shows an increase from $983 to $1,026. What a bigger change from the original cost of college. Compare that cost to the cost of tuition from 1950-1959: $600, to the cost of $ 983 in 1966. Mind you this information is from an actual University: Penn State . The reason for increases like these are because of government subsidies in the form of loans and grants. However, let’s look at the rise of tuition of my own school.

Look at that beautiful rise and prediction.

Look at that beautiful rise and prediction.

Scary isn’t it? At least my tuition will not be as bad as my siblings,younger friends, mentees, my children, grandchildren, and future generations. Sucks to be them! What does this lead to? A lot of things: student debt, increased deficit, reckless spending by schools, and increased taxes. This will all be discussed in part 2 where we will see how along with how NIU spends its money; NIU’s enrollment rate and rentention rate; and the big question will be answered: is college worth it in the end? Until next time friends, for I will now hunt psychics, ghosts, quacks, frauds, the religious, and liars like Lockdown from Transformers: Age of Extinction.

To be continued…

There is still no Eastern Solution (A Christopher Hitchens Tribute)

Greetings to all. I sit at the same Starbucks where I wrote my previous posts -see a pattern?-. Today’s post will touch a controversial topic. A topic that there has been debate about as well as some conflict. Some might agree, some might disagree, and some might not even care. All of the outcomes are fine, but what matters is my take on it. So I invite you to take some time to read about my argument against Buddhism and how it is a religion that offers no answer to any of our questions, no philosophy what so ever, no “enlightment”, and especially no respect or admiration from me or the great Christopher Hitchens, who inspired me to right this post.
Buddhism; what is it? According to aboutbuddhism.org,

“The founder of Buddhism was Buddha Shakyamuni who lived and taught in India some two and a half thousand years ago. Since then millions of people around the world have followed the pure spiritual path he revealed. The Buddhist way of life of peace, loving kindness and wisdom is just as relevant today as it was in ancient India. Buddha explained that all our problems and suffering arise from confused and negative states of mind, and that all our happiness and good fortune arise from peaceful and positive states of mind. He taught methods for gradually overcoming our negative minds such as anger, jealousy and ignorance, and developing our positive minds such as love, compassion and wisdom. Through this we will come to experience lasting peace and happiness. These methods work for anyone, in any country, in any age. Once we have gained experience of them for ourselves we can pass them on to others so they too can enjoy the same benefits”

Buddha

Buddha

Furthermore, the website says that  Buddha was born from royalty and meditated for 6 years and attained enlightenment by sitting next to a Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India. After that, he spent his time, like Jesus, teaching about his enlightenment and spreading his teachings and such. He claimed that one must reach nirvanna or inner peace in order to stop the cycle of karma and re-birth. In addition to the story of Buddha, there has been debate as well about whether he existed or not. Just like Jesus, there are those who argue that he did and others who disagree. As a man who adopted James Randi’s philosophy, I’am keeping an “…open mind, but not that [my] brain leaks out” and “I cannot prove a negative”. I do not completely agree that he was a living being, but if he was he probably was man whose exploits were carried on for ages just like Jesus. However, if I may point out, according to Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Volume 7, to the Hindus, he is regarded as Gautama the 9th avatar of Vishnu. This leads to his existence being less credible and more of a fairy tale. This is also a parallel to how Muslims view Jesus: he was important, but not as important as the the prophet Muhammad. Again, this does not help for the case in favor of Buddha’s existence.

The existence of Buddha is another argument for another post and day, but today we shall talk about Buddhism. Moving forward, let us look at some of the definition. A lot of Buddhist apologist claim that Buddhism is not a religion, but a philosophy, a way of life, and some form of enlightenment. According to merriam-webster.com, Buddhism is” a religion of eastern and central Asia that is based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha”. Before I make a fool of myself and commit a logical fallacy with sustaining my argument with definition and popular belief, I will also define the word atheist as well to further my case against Buddhism. Once again, according to merriam-webster.com, Atheism is “a disbelief in the existence of deity”. If one examines the beliefs of Buddhism, there are similarities with belief of a soul found in other religions. The Buddhist concept of the mind that can be compared to the concept of a soul. The mind is formless, just like the belief of a soul. The only exception is that the mind enters another body, while the soul goes to some heaven. Furthermore, there is also the idea of Karma that can also be compared to the idea of works which are similar to that of Christianity and Catholicism. As an ex catholic raised in a Mexican family, works and good deeds were a big part if one wanted entree into heaven. As the website describes Buddhist beliefs, one’s good karma determines whether we break the cycle of rebirth or are stuck in an endless loop of death and birth that the mind continues to be reincarnated into a new body. I will admit that Buddhism has no god. Technically speaking, an atheist can also be a Buddhist. And Buddhist are atheist by this logic. Even some atheist agree that an atheist can be a Buddhist. While other atheist, such as Hemant Metha, think that the idea of an atheist believing in Buddhism is a silly concept. To me, the idea of an atheist being a Buddhist is just a silly a the term “gay republican”. It makes no sense, but it is plausible. Here are some videos discussing the issues.

Now that we have established the definitions of Buddhism and atheism, let’s continue and dive into the inconsistency of an atheist believing in the teachings of Buddhism. Buddhism has the teaching of karma which talks about how good things happen if you do good things. To begin with, there is no proof that if one does good it will lead to good things. The idea that this is to be true is the cognitive bias that makes patterns. For example, one might think “I did that one good deed yesterday, maybe I am getting repaid with this good thing that happened to me today”. However, if we did a good deed and nothing happen, our brain will completely forget the pattern. Another issue with an atheist believing in Buddhism is that there is no proof that reincarnation is a proven fact. How is it that the idea of reincarnation can work in the real world? Think about it for a moment. If reincarnation is true, why is it that the world’s population continues to increase? Some might say “ohh it’s because new souls are born”. This answer my friends is a trait of pseudo science: adding explanations and not keeping logic consistent. Furthermore, there are such outlandish claims that have no verifiable proof or evidence that can demonstrate that Buddhist beliefs are fact. Let’s take a look at the excerpt from the site.

“This uninterrupted cycle of death and rebirth without choice is called ‘cyclic existence’, or ‘samsara’ in Sanskrit. Samsara is like a Ferris wheel, sometimes taking us up into the three fortunate realms, sometimes down into the three lower realms. The driving force of the wheel of samsara is our contaminated actions motivated by delusions, and the hub of the wheel is self-grasping ignorance. For as long as we remain on this wheel we shall experience an unceasing cycle of suffering and dissatisfaction, and we shall have no opportunity to experience pure, lasting happiness. By practicing the Buddhist path to liberation and enlightenment, however, we can destroy self-grasping, thereby liberating ourself from the cycle of uncontrolled rebirth and attaining a state of perfect peace and freedom.”

Again, no proof can demonstrate such claims to be true. In addition, Nirvana seems to be a synonym for heaven, for it is a place where one can reach peace.

Before some readers argue that this is a post having a skeptical perspective, let us look further into why Buddhism is more as a religion in this day and age than a belief. Christopher Hitchens describes nirvana in his book God is not great as  “…the dissolution of the intellect…whenever it is tried, it produces a Kool-Aid effect in the real world” (Hitchens 198).

The reason that I argue that Buddhism acts more as a religion is its current Dali Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.

The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.

The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.

I will admit. He is quite a charming and unique individual, but he is not as holy as he claims to be. In the episode Penn & Teller’s: Bullshit! “Holier than Thou”Both Penn and Teller make a case against Dali Lama and expose a dark history many choose to repress or ignore completely. Take a look as how Tenzin is exposed for the real person  he is.

Some might argue that it is nothing more than some conspiracy nuts bashing the Dali Lama, but mind you it is not. According to this government website, there was a subsidy of  180,000 dollars given to the Dali Lama and half a million dollars given to Tibetan fighters. This signifies that there was at one point a violent resistance by the Tibetans and the Dali Lama. Ironic, a man who proclaims non violence and who claims that one must “let go of earthly possessions” receives a handsome amount of cash for a lavish life style. This is very similar to those pastors who live lavish life styles and preach to give away money so god can offer better blessings. Furthermore, Tenzin is regarded as holy man who must not be made fun of. According to Joseph “Violent J” Bruce’s book Behind the Paint, he was asked not to make fun of the Dali Lama in his song “Fuck the world” from the album The Amazing Jeckel Brothers.

What exempts Tenzin from the first amendment of the constitution? Because of his holiness? Or his claim that he is the fourteenth reincarnation? Again, there is no proof he is some divine being or reincarnation of previous Dali Lamas. He acts as if he were some self righteous and superior being who has all the answers and must be helped, when in reality he is not and deserves no help at all.

In conclusion, Buddhism has the traits that are more similar to a religion than some type of philosophy that is more “enlightening” or better than Christianity when it is just as bad or worse.  As Hitchens described at the end of chapter 14 of his book God is not Great, 

“Although Buddhist now regret that deplorable attempt to prove their own superiority, no Buddhist since then has been able to demonstrate Buddhism was wrong in its own terms. A faith that despises the mind and the free individual, that preaches submission and resignation, and that regards life as a poor and transient thing, is ill- equipped for self-criticism. Those who become bored by conventional “Bible” religions, and seek “enlightment” by the way of the dissolution of their own critical faculties into nirvanna in any form, had better take a warning. They may think thet are living the realm of despised materialism, but they are still being asked to put their reason to sleep, and to discard their minds along with their sandals”

The debate may continue on and some might disagree with my view. In the end, Buddhism has many traits that are similar to many religions of the world. Therefore, making it the same category as Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, minus the the deity and replacing it with unproven facts, silly philosophies, and self righteous monks.

Jake McConnell: A believer, a conspiracy theorist, a reverend, and ….

Greetings to all. Today’s post will be a little more different from the rest. Today I talk about a man. A man who passed away and his views differed a lot from mine. His name is Jake McConnell. Jake was a young man who was attending college in Chicago. He was also an art major. At school, he would spend time up late with his art or some other subject from his school. When we would meet, Jake would tell me about karma, the zodiac, cryptids, and some other superstitions I did not believe in. I could have ignored him and called him out, but I did not. I listened instead, not because he was wrong or because I wanted to prepare a counter attack, but because he was a great man.

Yes, my friends. I, Octavio Ocampo, listened and tolerated Jake McConnell. A man who believe in the supernatural. Before I explain why I listened to him when I did not agree, I will tell you about a philosophy I live by. This philosophy I live by is a quote from the video game series Metal Gear Solid. The quote comes from Solid Snake: “War is no reason to end friendship…we were just soldiers doing our jobs”.  I take that quote and give it my own spin: ” War, religion, ideals, political parties, sexuality, and ideas are not a reason to end friendship”. Yes indeed, Jake and I were doing our jobs. We both had our belief or lack of belief respectively and always shared it with each other, not because we hated each other, but we respected each other even though we had different views of the world. If one thing my culture and family have taught me, each head is its own world. Our heads contained a different world, ideal, and a different reality.

So how does this man tie into my blog? Why even mention him? As a skeptic and an atheist, I do not view death the same as a believer: Life is precious; Life is finite; Life has an end; and Life is valuable. Depressing isn’t? I have nothing to look forward when I die nor will I see the deceased. Therefore, The ouija board, psychics, and anyone or anything claiming to communicate with the deceased are not good enough for me. However, the one channel or spiritual conduit, if you will, is the memory of a person, the pictures, and the emotions that one shared. God is not in my world either. He never was, nor is a heaven or a hell, but their is a world that I as skeptic must appreciate, for life has an end.

This post is about how we skeptics have emotions too. We have different ways of dealing with death of individuals. We mourn too, but for me I try to celebrate life and not mourn the loss of this man. Jake McConnell passed away sometime this week, and I found out today. Jake was great man and very talented artist. If there was anything about him that I would share, he spoke about his interest with such passion. He probably spoke with more passion about his beliefs than I did with my skepticism.

I don’t know why he passed away. I refused to believe that he had died, but as a man of evidence, I need proof that he did. Jake, the great man, had passed away. I do not have the answers to the universe or if there is more beyond this life. All I know is that we are living here and we have to make the most of it. If you are a skeptic, atheist, believer, or a nihilist, make the most out of this life. We do not have much out of it. Tell those people in your life you love them. I listened to Jake for he was watching over me. If anyone prosthelytizes about anything, I will listen, just like I did with Jake. He believed that I had a soul and he told me how I can be safe. I can respect that. We carry the answers to our existence no matter how logical or outlandish they sound.

I put my differences aside and admit that friendship is not about how  much you have in common, but how much love, tolerance, and respect we have for each other. I had a lot of respect and love for Jake. He was a good person. I know he may not hear me or maybe he is. I do not know if there is a heaven or hell, but I’m talking to you now and talking about much of a good person he was. We had many promises and trips to make, but he had reached life’s limit and can no longer accomplish them, but that does not stop me from living for his memory and telling tales of his greatness to the next generation.

Jake McConnell:  A believer, a conspiracy theorist, a reverend, and my friend. You will be dearly missed, but not forgotten. The world feels emptier and lonelier without you, but your memory and love will live on through your art and the many people you touched. As I look at the grand scheme of things, our differences meant nothing in the end and your friendship meant the world to me and everyone who loved you. It has been barely 24 hours since the news of your death and I already miss you friend. Rest in power. Live your life my friends. Do as much as you can: accomplish your dreams, achieve your goals, and tell each other how much you love each other, for today we are here and tommorow we may gone.

Rest in Power old friend.

Rest in Power old friend.

Ebola: The zombie/ new world order/ deadly epidemic or an epidemic of fear?

           Good evening, morning, or day to you all. Today, as I sip on a starbucks coffee and jacked up on caffeine, I decided to write about a topic that has taken the nation and possibly the world by storm: Ebola. What is it? Is it as deadly as we think it is? Can I get it? Will zombies come after me? Fear not my friends; I will debunk this and cease your fears.

They discover that the former operator of the facility James Marcus, along with Ozwell E. Spencer and Edward Ashford, discovered the Progenitor virus which, when combined with the Ebola virus, created a strain that, despite being photosensitive, caused rapid mutations. Ashford originally wanted to use the virus to help the handicapped through its regenerative effects, but after his death Spencer and Marcus began research on its applications for bio-weapons, combining it with leech DNA which eventually led to the formation of the t-virus.
Resident Evil Zero plot summary taken from the resident evil wiki page

 

THE EVIL ZOMBIES VIRUS THE GOVERNMENT WANT S TO KILL US ALL WITH!

THE EVIL ZOMBIE VIRUS THE GOVERNMENT WANTS TO KILL US ALL WITH!

That? That's just ebola; NOT A B.O.W (BIO ORGANIC WEAPON).

That? That’s just ebola; NOT A B.O.W (BIO ORGANIC WEAPON) that the government wants to use and  kill you with.

 

 It seems that the excerpt taken from the wiki page is what people think Ebola is or what conspiracy nuts would think the virus is. A lot of people on my facebook page -even myself at times- have been misled and tricked into believing Ebola is much more dangerous than what it really is. However, I can assure you that Ebola is not some zombie virus like Resident Evil’s T-virus nor is it a manafactured virus created by the government to kill us off. Some may ask: How can you be sure? According to World Health’s Organization’s website, “Ebola virus disease (EVD) first appeared in 1976 in 2 simultaneous outbreaks, one in Nzara, Sudan, and the other in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter occurred in a village near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.” (World Health Organization International). This is not some new disease that just came out of nowhere and we don’t know how to deal with it. Of course, technically speaking, it would be a recently new disease, but it did not appear yesterday. It has been around for years. The reason that the outbreak in Africa has been so deadly is for the lack of human resources and the poor immune systems of the citizens of the African countries. Furthermore, According to World Health Organization International:

It is thought that fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are natural Ebola virus hosts. Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.

  The virus spreads even faster for animals are also spreading it. However, bats are the natural carriers of the virus, not some C.I.A agent that dropped a vile in Africa or whatever outlandish story the poor guy who lives in his mother’s basement came up with -no disrespect to those who live with their parents. I live with mine, but come on now. You are not a scientist-. I would also argue, if Ebola was man made and taken many lives, who invented the bubonic plague that nearly killed of the human race if we did not have any of the technology we have now? Sketpics: 1. Conspiracy theorist: 0.

Now that we have made it perfectly clear that Ebola is not a man made virus nor were some bats engineered into being carriers. People, things like this happen and we do not know why. Accept it!  Furthermore, how deadly is the virus? Can it kill us? Yes it can. How does it kill you?  According to World Health Organization:

First symptoms are the sudden onset of fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding (e.g. oozing from the gums, blood in the stools). Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.

Not only that, but Ebola annihilates your immune system and kills you from the inside out. It can also take up to 21 days for any symptoms to show! Oh no! Call Leon Kennedy, Jill Valentine, Rebecca Chambers, Barry, Wesker, Chris Redfield, and any zombie fighting character!

"What's the play Octavio?" "It's time for reinforcements!"

“What’s the play Octavio?”
“It’s time for reinforcements!” Capcom. All rights reserved. All Resident Evil Characters are property of Capcom.

We are doomed! Before you hide under a rock, isolated yourself from the world, and have a panic attack, let’s take a look at the reproduction rate of Ebola using this colorful chart.

The truth about Ebola chan.

The truth about Ebola chan. All rights reserved.

Wait a minute! Ebola has less of a reproduction rate than measles? But Octavio, we have a vaccines for Measles and not Ebola! We are still done for! Yes, you are right. We do have prevention for Measles, Mumps, Sars, and Hepatitis. If you want more proof that it is not that contagious, click this site.  Once again, according to World Health Organization, there are two Ebola vaccines being researched and waiting evaluation. We might not be there, but…OHH NO! WE ARE DOOMED!
Screen-Shot-2012-09-10-at-10.48.33-PM

Hold your horses folks; we are not quite doomed yet. Again, according to World Health Organization:

Ebola then spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.

Health-care workers have frequently been infected while treating patients with suspected or confirmed EVD. This has occurred through close contact with patients when infection control precautions are not strictly practiced.

Burial ceremonies in which mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased person can also play a role in the transmission of Ebola.

People remain infectious as long as their blood and body fluids, including semen and breast milk, contain the virus. Men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery from illness.

Have you been in contact with anyone with Ebola through bodily fluids? If you answered “I don’t know”, see a doctor, but if you did not, you do not have Ebola and are fine. According to the CDC, Ebola is not transmitted through air, water, food, or casual contact. Only by human bodily fluids, infected meat and animals, and contaminated equipment. Yes people, Ebola has not mutated yet and we are safe. Furthermore, some might argue that we are in danger for there are reports of Ebola in the US. Yes there is, but let’s do some quick calculations. According to census. gov , there are 319, 134, 152 people in the U.S.A and counting. That is alot of people. We rank number three in the most populated countries of the world. Now we know that there have been so far 1 reported death in the U.S.A. That should scare us correct? After all there are more possible cases appearing, but when we count the cases to the millions living in the U.S.A. Ask yourself; what percentage of people have Ebola? Are we really in some crazy epidemic at the moment? I don’t think so.

I for one am skeptical of the government and what they say, but I am not worried that Ebola will kill all of us. We have the training, resources, and preparation for any viral epidemic. The only fear and worry here is what our misinformed colleagues tell us. I am not saying to be careless about Ebola -but you can be ignorant to the facts if you wish-, but just be informed. Learn the facts; read about it; and take the necessary steps to protect yourself. How can you, you ask? Click here, here, here, and here. I am concerned about Ebola, but I’am not afraid nor will I live my life under a rock just because the media is using this hype to get higher ratings or because my friends believe every fake news source such as this one that was debunked by this site . Friends, family, and strangers alike, life is about taking risks. Don’t waste your precious time over thinking Ebola, fearing it, or quarantining yourself. There is nothing wrong with preparation, but do not let fear control you into living your life. Go outside; have fun; and be safe! Ebola is not a big of a threat as we make it out to be. As always friends. Stay skeptical!

Skeptical of Skeptic Magazine: A review.

Good morning, day, or evening. About last week or so, I was walking around my university campus and heading to my advanced composition class when I saw the atheist, secular, agnostics, and free thinkers society of my school with a table set up. Most of the time, the tables at my school are boring and that is why I ignore them. However, this one actually interested me, and I decided to see what it was all about. I talked to the students at the table about subjects that interested me: skepticism, atheism, religion, and how the word agnosticism made one a coward in my opinion. But the one thing that did stand out from the whole conversation and table was Skeptic, a magazine published by one of the most influential skeptics of our time: Michael Shermer. The issues that they were handing out are posted below.

skeptic redesign

skeptic redesign

You cannot imagine the excitement, thrill, and joy I was feeling when I saw these books, as well as knowing that there were other people like me. That day, I had work and couldn’t wait to read them that is why I decided to write a review for Michael Shermer’s magazine.

To begin with, all of the articles are very well written. It is not some joe schoe who is talking about what he thinks. Unlike the believer, we skeptics are very big on evidence, removing cognitive biases, and trying to be a clear as possible. All the articles had citations which was a very big plus for anyone who wants evidence and proof to any claim. The article that intrigued me the most was ” The Multiverse and the Deity” by Richard Grigg. The article talked about how it is possible for various universes to exist, but it also argues, if multiple universe exist with multiple outcomes and versions of every possible versions of ourselves -we are serial killers, shorter, on a different path, etc-, how can god let evil happen and say it is part of some plan? And if he does let this happen, he is just as cruel as a lot of people point him out to be. There were other articles, but this stood out the most and showed me I was going to read good articles. I was not disappointed at all.

mshermer

Michale Shermer, Editor in Chief of Skeptic

 

The magazine starts off with columns where one can find great columnists and skeptics such as “The amazing” James Randi and among others. It then continues with articles that are very, very well written by other members of the skeptic community. Furthermore, like most magazines, Skeptic also has reviews books written by other skeptics. However, this was not just a magazine trying to be some boring journal written by doctorates, it was also a magazine filled with some humor in between to ease up the seriousness, and it had a section for the “junior skeptic” -as the magazine called its future generation of skeptics-. If anyone has children or siblings who would like to learn about skepticism, the children’s section dives into topics of the supernatural, science, and religion that a child can understand. The children’s section also features some more vivid imagery, than the section written for us boring adults. Finally, the magazine included a catalog for anyone who wanted to get previous issues of the magazine, books, audio lectures, dvds, and children’s materials for the young skeptic. The catalog section also got my attention, for I found the dvd collection of Penn & Teller: Bullshit!; books by other great people: Richard Dawkins, James Randi, Carl Sagan, and Michael Shermer; and I found lectures that I might purchase to hear what other great minds have to say about things I question the most.

james

Penn & Teller with The Amazing James Randi

 

The plus about this magazine is that it is way more than a magazine with so much useful information and material to purchase. The price is not bad for six dollars; you get so much content. As for the other piece that makes it worth more than the value is that it will always be useful for years to come. Unlike most tabloid magazines that just rot your brain and become irrelevant after a few months -or days in some cases-, this one will last you until science finds new information on the topic or until we are proven wrong. Internet cut off for an undisclosed amount of days and need some material to educate you? No problem. Use the catalog found in the back, mail in the cash, and you will have material ready for you! This magazine is definitely worth your time and money. However, there are some down sides to it. The small price to pay with purchasing Skeptic is that the pages are quite rough and it lacks colors at times. But it could be a smart move done by the publisher in order to keep costs down. Either way, the pluses definitely outweigh the negatives here.

In the end, this magazine is a must for anyone with the time, money, and desire to strengthen his skepticism. There are so much goodies in the magazine that it seems as if the magazine was made to educate, not entertain one with mindless, useless trivia like tabloids or magazines we see nowadays. I highly recommend it for anyone needing further stimulation and knowledge. Until next time my friends, remain skeptical!