San Francisco resident Lisa Marie Miller bilked a Santa Clara woman out of $108,000 and a sports car by giving her "spiritual cleanings", according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle (available here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/12/09/BA8H14KOHF.D... ). Lisa Miller apparently was carrying on the family business: her mother in law was recently convicted on similar charges, and a sister in law is under investigation for bilking a woman out of $36,000 in payment for a similar "psychic cleansing." She received two months in jail, five years probation, and is required to pay restitution. Oh -- and not to ever engage in fortune telling, spiritual advising, and the like. There is considerable commentary on story at the Chronicle's blog.
I recently trekked up north to Bigfoot Country. This prompted Genie Scott to request that if I should encounter Bigfoot, "Get an interview for my talk!" I traveled the Bigfoot Highway, visited Bluff Creek where the infamous Patterson-Gimlinfootage was filmed, and stopped by the Willow Creek - China Flat Museum, a center dedicated to local history, and Bigfoot lore. Unfortunately for Genie's talk, and cryptozoologist's worldwide, I encountered some fascinating anecdotal evidence, but I didn't encounter any historical evidence, or Bigfoot... California claims more Bigfoot sightings than anywhere else in the world. (Other cultures have different variants, such as the Yowie of my native Australia.) But does Bigfoot call the San Francisco Bay Area "home"? Like the USGS earthquake map, the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) have a Bigfoot map that pinpoints sightings reported throughout the country. According to this database, Big
Last weekend I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to interview Ben Radford, Managing Editor of the Skeptical Inquirer, for the Skeptic Zone Podcast. Radford, an intrepid scientific paranormal investigator, got his revenge when he sprung an interview on me! Representing the Bay Area Skeptics, I appeared on Science Watch, the weekly live show and podcast of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason. We discussed issues of paranormal and pseudoscience in the Bay Area, including failed psychic political predictions and the recent Bigfoot hoax. We also mentioned Bay Area Skeptic's own Genie Scott, and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). With alien-plagued Roswell, New Age Santa Fe and a slew of local ghost stories, New Mexico could quite possibly rival California as America's most supposedly 'supernatural' state!
--- Wednesday November 19, at 4 pm: "Your Fiction Science Defense Kit: Dealing with Astrology, UFO's, and Other Astronomical Pseudo-sciences" A non-technical talk by Andrew Fraknoi, Foothill College Harney Science Center, Room 127 University of San Francisco Physics and Astronomy Department Colloquium; free and open to educators and students. For a campus map, see: http://www.usfca.edu/online/gen_info/map_c.html (Please allow yourself time to park and find the room. Street parking around campus is not always easy to find.) An enormous amount of media attention has been given to some pretty amazing claims on the fringes of astronomy. These include the idea that your life path and romantic destiny are determined by the position of objects in the sky at the moment of your birth; that extraterrestrial space-craft have regularly landed on our planet (and kidnapped innocent citizens without being noticed); and that an ancient race left us a message on the planet Mars in the shape of a human face. In this illustrated talk, astronomer and popular lecturer Andrew Fraknoi will discuss the most famous "fiction science" claims related to astronomy, and provide the background and analysis needed to appreciate them properly. He will share some rece
The Skeptic Zone is a site maintained by the Australian Skeptics. On Friday November 7, they posted a podcast recorded between Australian Skeptic president Richard Saunders and me. It was rather a lot of fun, since Richard is a good interviewer. Most of the discussion has to do with creationism and the problem with antievolutionism in the US (and elsewhere). You can listen to it or download it at http://www.skepticzone.tv/.
Wonderfest is the San Francisco Bay Area Festival of Science. This is a fun and informative weekend of seminars, discussions, debates, competitions, comedy and much more. Tucker Hiatt, a member of our Board of Directors, is also the Director of Wonderfest 2008! As a part of Wonderfest's Bay Area Science Expo, the Bay Area Skeptics will be in attendance. As a fellow Board member, I'll be representing our organization, so stop by and say "hi"! We'll have flyers, copies of our BASIS newsletter, a sign-up list for you to receive our newsletter, access to our website, and a selection of skeptical magazines that illustrate our interests and objectives. Where will the Bay Area Skeptics be? Saturday, November 1, 4-7 PM Stanford University Hewlett Teaching Center Sunday, November 2, 11.30-2.30 PM University of California, Berkeley Bank of America Forum (Next to the Anderson Auditorium in the Haas School of Business) See you there!
For all of you who can't get enough skepticism, there is a new skeptic blog to set your RSS feed to. Called Skepticblog (natch), it can be found at http://skepticblog.org/. It is written by some familiar names from the skeptic world: Michael Shermer, Phil Plait, Steven Novella, Kirstin Sanford, Brian Dunning, Yau-Man Chan, Ryan Johnston, and Mark Edward. Skimming over the current posts, one sees the particular interests of the various bloggers expressed in their different entries. Shermer's libertarian tendencies appear in his posts on the economic crisis, the Bad Astronomer notes UFO news, Mark Edward blasts psychic Sylvia Browne. Worth checking out from time to time.
BAS member and BASIS contributor Paul DesOrmeaux has an article in the November/December Skeptical Inquirer titled "More Cool Careers for Dummies: Ghost Hunter". Gotta admit, Paul sure has that Halloween vibe. BASIS readers will recall Paul's acupuncture article, available at http://www.baskeptics.org/category/medicine/acupuncture . An earlier SI Forum article by Paul was published in the March/April SI and was titled "Cool Careers for Dummies: Psychic Detective". It is available online at http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-34419223_ITM. If you're not familiar with accessmylibrary.com, it is a truly cool site. You need to have a library card to access the full article -- but you should support your local library anyway.
It appears that a new movie is being launched, "Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie", though it is not at this writing being shown in the Bay Area. It concerns the efforts of two Ohio men, friends, who are convinced that Bigfoot lives in the wilds of Ohio . The New York Times says, "the film???s main emphasis is on depicting the everyday lives of regular, financially struggling folk who just happen to have an unusual hobby" and that the evidence of the two men is not "convincing enough to sway the opinions of skeptics, but that isn???t really the aim of this documentary. The Times review is at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/17/movies/17bigf.html?ref=movies. The film's website is http://www.notyourtypicalbigfootmovie.com/, and another review of the movie can be found at the Salon site, at
From the Bay Area's number one news source... craigslist:
Hey guys. Today was amazing. I can't really write too much about it for I have been talking about it all day, and into the night with folks. Some shit is going down. I don't know whether this is preliminary surveilance or I don;t know, The Galactic Federation of Light scoping the scene pre-October 14th, but a good friend of mine and I were at the park today and saw several unidentified flying objects. They looked exactly like the white lights in the day sky over Guadalajara from 2004. They formed a perfect isosceles triangle over Dolores Park, and many appeared afterwards. Later on, I guess about two hours ago, they came back. The same friend I was with earlier in the day called to tell me they were out in the sky again, I ran up to my roof and saw them as well. This time at night. She saw what had to have been a thousand in a fleet over near Potrero Hill. And I saw around 10 near the mission from my roof. They move together, and fast, but they will pause and cease to travel if you stare at them for a long enough time. There was a huge streak unlike that of a shooting star or burning up space debris(I know what that looks like), and they all disappeared. This is no joke, no lie, no delusion. I have seen it along with my friend. On