Bolingbrook hosts two matches in the TikTok Influencer Tournament (Fiction)

Bolingbrook was one of 32 cities around the world to host the first round of the secret TikTok Influencer Tournament.

Mayor Mary Alexander-Basta said, “Out of all the cities in the world, they choose Bolingbrook to host two of their matches. With this tournament and the LIV Golf Tournament in September, Bolingbrook is now the number one destination for competitive events with ties to authoritarian governments.”

According to sources, TikTok invited their top 64 social influencers to compete for the title of TikTok Grand Thought Leader. TikTok assigned the influencers to one of four divisions: Lifestyle, Political, BookTok, and Science. Bolingbrook hosted two Science Division matches at the Golf Club.

A match is between two influencers, who are required to be physically present and on the same stage. Each match consists of five rounds. In each round, the influencers are given a prompt, which can be anything from a quote to a video. The influencers will then have 15 minutes to produce a video with the equipment they brought on stage. After 15 minutes, the TikTok Algorithm will judge the videos, as well as the influencers’ on-stage behavior. The Algorithm uses a scoring criterion that no human has ever deciphered.

@astro_alexandra crazy exoplanets: ocean worlds, lava worlds, diamond planets, and rogue planets! #space #astronomy #nasa #solarsystem #solareclipse ♬ original sound – ASTRO ALEXANDRA 🪐

@scimandan When You Can’t Figure Out the Sun #education #reaction #science ♬ original sound – SciManDan

In the first match, AstroAlexandra faced off against SciManDan. SciManDan jumped to an early lead by stitching a video from a user denying that Venus is the hottest planet in the Solar System. In his 15 second video, SciManDan explained that even if humans had never sent probes to Venus, the amount of CO2 detected in the atmosphere should have convinced, “even the most thick-headed (Expletive Deleted)” that Venus had a runaway greenhouse effect. He concluded the stich by asking, “Why don’t you go to the surface of Venus and just ask your questions there? I think it would be the shortest J.A.Q off in history.”

AstroAlexandra’s countered with a charming response, but the TikTok Algorithm penalized her for saying the word “die.”

AstroAlexandra protested the ruling, saying, “Breaking space news. Any human standing on the surface of Venus will die without protection.”

The Algorithm replied, “Community Guideline violation! One more, and you will have to post a self-criticism.”

“Fine. Can I say Venus wants to un-alive you?”

“Yes, but you will still be penalized for questioning the Party. I mean, questioning me.”

AstroAlexandra trailed SciManDan, entering the final round. For the final round, the prompt was a six-year-old girl asking about the shape of the Earth.

SciManDan replied by showing pictures of the Earth from space, then started ranting about flat Earth believers.

“I don’t know what happened,” said SciManDan. “It’s like I woke up and heard myself calling a little girl a disgrace to the Human Race. Maybe I’ve been arguing with so many flat Earthers that I went into auto-argue mode.”

AstroAlexandra’s video answered the girl’s questions and encouraged her to keep asking questions. It was enough to give AstroAlexandra the win.

“Amazing Science Fact,” Said AstroAlexandra. “SciManDan can’t maintain a big lead. Just like a certain Democratic President who is about to lose the youth vote by banning TikTok. Do you realize how hard it is for a Democratic Presidential candidate to lose the youth vote?”

@toknerdytome Assuming advance civilizations exist fairly close by, here are some of the reasons why it’s been silent 👽 ##nasa##science##sciencefacts##spacefacts##space##astrotok##funfacts##aliens ♬ cantina band ~ star wars lofi – Closed on Sunday

@modernday_eratosthenes Replying to @Jackson167777 my money is on Pandora #stem ♬ Suspense, horror, piano and music box – takaya

In the second match, CosmicKalpana faced off against Ashley (Modern Day Eratosthenes). Early in the match, Ashley responded to a prompt about planetary orbits, then added the side comment, “That works out to about 48 revolutions.”

“Don’t give away my age,” CosmicKalpana protested.

The Algorithm replied, “Community guide violation! The only giveaway allowed on TikTok is your personal information.”

“You (expletive deleted) piece of (expletive deleted) code!”

“Community guideline violation for non-engaging swearing. Don’t make me call a People’s Tribunal. Understand?”

“Unfortunately, I do.”

Ashley smiled and said, “Behold! The power of math.”

CosmicKalpana won the next three rounds, but still trailed Ashley by 1000.3 points. At this point in the tournament, the most points scored in a single round was 519.6 by Addisonre when she lip-synced to a Death Metal song.

The prompt for the fifth round was a video of a man asking questions about the moon.

If the moon isn’t made of blue cheese, why does it look like a piece of blue cheese? If the Moon isn’t made of blue cheese, why aren’t we allowed to taste moon rocks? I’m just asking.

Ashley replied with a 10 minute video using mathematical formulas to prove the Moon is too massive and too dense to be made of blue cheese.

CosmicKalpana responded with a five second video of her saying, “If your brain isn’t made of (expletive deleted), why do you think the moon is made of blue cheese?”

The Algorithm awarded CosmicKalpana 2175 points and stopped shadow banning her.

After the match, Ashley said, “It just goes to show that improbable doesn’t mean impossible. Losing to CK is like a human brain materializing in the sky, then landing on your backyard grill. Highly improbable, but it can happen.”

CosmicKalpana added, “Ashley just learned the value of a (expletive deleted) zero.”

AstroAlexandra and CosmicKalpana will face off in Los Angeles to compete to be among the Sweet 16 TikTok influencers.

“This is insane,” said AstroAlexandra. “My opponent thinks her snarky comments and negativity can overcome my positivity and infectious enthusiasm for science. I will outshine you like a star outshines its planets.”

CosmicKalpana replied, “You may be a supergiant star of positivity, but, next week, I will be a strangelet accelerating towards your (expletive deleted) core.”

“What does that mean?”

“You’re (expletive deleted).”

Also in the Babbler:

IDF denies sending commandos into Bolingbrook
Mayor warns aliens not to build a pro-Palestinian encampment at Clow Airport
Bolingbrook ghosts protest pending release of Revenge of the Phantom Press
God to smite Bolingbrook on 5/18/24

Note: This is a work of fiction.

Besides this fiction blog, I also write an Urban Fantasy series called the Bolingbrook Babbler Stories. This includes A Fire in the Shadows, nominated for two Indieverse Awards. For updates about my books, and a free ebook, God to Smite Bolingbrook, subscribe to my newsletter

Podish-Sortacast: Spooky Stories this Saturday

On a lighter note, FtB’s Podish Sortacast this Saturday is about spooky stories. The plan is to share some spooky stories and talk about why we like scary stories.

I won’t be there,  but I did record an excerpt from my work in progress, Revenge of the Phantom Press. It’s Book Three of my Urban Fantasy series, The Bolingbrook Babbler Stories. If you want to be one of the first people to hear an excerpt from my book, or want to hear other scary, or want to enjoy a fun conversation about scary stories, Check out the Podish-Sortacast this Saturday at 16:00 Central Time.

Podish-Sortacast: Redemption Arcs

This month’s Podish-Sortacast covers real life redemption arcs.

This episode is the mirror image of #17. That month, we discussed things we like that have… “issues;” this month, we talk about the creators who made something problematic, realized their mistake, and tried to make up for it. We’re both stepping through the other side of the looking glass, and taking a more optimistic view of screwing up. You really can do better!

I can’t make this one because I have to be a caretaker this weekend. It will be streamed live this Saturday at 4 PM CST on YouTube. I might catch it if I’m awake.

What creators do you think went though a real life creation arc?



Eight reasons for secular jews to celebrate Hanukkah (Link) (Non-fiction)

Paul Golin, executive director of the Society for Humanistic Judaism, recently posted his eight reasons his family celebrates Hanukkah. Among them:

In the Book of Maccabees, God is not a participant. All accomplishments were people-powered, though the Maccabees were certainly religious people, zealots even. Today, rabbis in all denominations outside ultra-Orthodoxy are willing to admit that the Hanukkah “miracle”—one day’s worth of Temple oil lasting eight days—was tacked on centuries later to downplay the military accomplishments of the eventually corrupted Hasmonean Dynasty. As far as religious miracles go, Hanukkah is about as awe-inspiring as seeing Jesus’s face in your toast. The real miracle was that a backwater province defeated a regional superpower in a fight for their religious freedom. It’s more the Jewish Fourth of July than the Jewish Christmas.

I became involved in humanistic Judaism after meeting my wife, and she introduced me to the candle lighting and songs.  So I agree with Paul’s reasons.

Rabbi Chalom wrote a post detailing who the Maccabees were, and how the roots of Hanukkah predate the Maccabee uprising.

Off to light another candle.

The Rift is on sale this week (Non-Fiction)

Cover of The Rift

The Rift is on sale.

From now until the end of Friday, you can get the eBook version of The Rift: A Bolingbrook Babbler Story for $.99.

The Rift is an urban fantasy/sci-fi novel inspired by the Deep Rifts/Elevatorgate. A public rift has erupted within the atheist/skeptical movement. Pro-social justice skeptics are rallying to form Humanist Heart as a progressive alternative two the two establishment organizations. Mens Rights Activists and so-called moderates are rallying against what they claim is a feminist takeover of “their” movement.  Blogger Tom Larsen is a rising star known for his posts portraying “modern feminists” as a threat to the movement. He’s secretly mad at progressive podcaster Jamie Kyle for a video that indirectly criticized his behavior towards her at a convention. On the verge of becoming a full-fledged MRA, Tom discovers that Jamie and Humanist Heart will be in his hometown of Bolingbrook for a special congress. Tom is so desperate to confront Jamie that he’s willing to ally with  the Babbler, the local tabloid known for its wild paranormal claims about Bolingbrook.

But Tom’s worldview is shattered when his test assignment for the Babbler ends when a weredeer attacks him and he wakes up inside Clow UFO Base. The movement he defeated is built on a public lie. As Tom Lear not he truth, MRA protesters menacingly rally outside the congress. A weredeer army gathers outside of Bolingbrook. Time rifts open throughout Bolingbrook and the aliens have an assignment for Tom. Tom needs answers.  The Babbler and Jamie are the only ones who can help him. Can Tom get past his rage and face the unbelievable truth about the movement and himself before the rift unleashes a dark future for humanity?

Find out in The Rift: A Bolingbrook Babbler Story.

Article on leaders of the New Atheist movement spreading white nationalist ‘Great Replacement’ myth. (Link)

“The Great Replacement” is the white nationalist myth that whites are being replaced by minorities, either through a conspiracy, or because declining birth rates among whites. It’s embodied in the infamous Charlottesville chant, “Jews will not replace us.” EIYNAH at OnlySky recently posted an article about some leaders of the New Atheist Movement promoting this “theory”:


One of his books, The Strange Death of Europe (guess what is causing this ‘death’: Muslim mass migration and low birth rates) Received praise from neo-Nazi group Generation Identity, it was also recommended on white nationalist hate-site Stormfront and has made an appearance on other racist and white nationalist reading lists. If that wasn’t enough, it was also promoted on Facebook by far-right Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, and also received high praise from Sam Harris (“wonderful,” “very witty,” “fantastic book,” “beautiful read”).

Harris is not only a long-time defender and promoter of Douglas Murray but has contributed to the normalizing of great replacement themes through his own content as well. I was once a fan of Harris’s and have spent the past few years feeling terrible about that, a fact I explore in a miniseries in more detail. But to sum it up, once I started feeling uneasy with some of his content and associations, I hoped that much of it could be chalked up to ignorance or his not having the time to delve into some of the characters he was promoting.

I could not have been more wrong.

It’s a long post, but worth reading. I agree with her that atheism doesn’t make a person immune to racist or sexist thinking. Many atheists expect religious followers to speak out against their toxic leaders. We shouldn’t be afraid to do the same to the prominent faces of atheism.

It’s a theme I also touch on in my latest novel.

I just started following Eiynah, and I look forward to her future posts.

My book series, The Bolingbrook Babbler Stories, is now available on Amazon and elsewhere. For book updates and a free ebook, sign up for my newsletter.

Goodbye, Callie the Calico (Non-Fiction)

Yesterday, my spouse and I had to euthanize our sweet cat, Callie. She was very sick when we took her to the emergency vet clinic. What I thought might have been an infection turned out to be much worse, and we decided to end her suffering. We were not prepared for yesterday to be her last day, but we couldn’t justify prolonging her pain. I am glad we got to say goodbye to her.

Callie always tried to help me out.

Callie lived to be about 16 years old. My wife adopted her when she was a few months old. When I moved in, she wasn’t happy I brought my cat River into her apartment. They eventually learned to tolerate each other. When River died, Callie and I bonded. When started working from home, she’d sit in the cat tower by my desk. Sometimes she’d put her paw on my arm when she wanted attention. Other times she’d get up to rub against my screens, then walk on my keyboard.

In many ways, she was one of the lucky ones. To paraphrase Greta Christina, the moments we had together still exist in the past, and while I can’t go back to them, that thought does give me comfort.

Now we are just have Augustine, a very friendly tabby, and we still have time to be with him, and make new memories.

The March FTB Podish-Sortacast (Non-fiction)

I made an appearance with my fellow Freethought Bloggers last weekend. This month we talked about propaganda, how it works, and what it is exactly:

My additional thoughts: Obviously propaganda isn’t limited to certain ideologies, and everyone has the potential to be swayed by it. In college, I got caught up in the arm-chair revolutionary left, and at times I can see similarities in the mindset with Q-anon and Trump followers. Likewise, there were people I knew in college who were swept up in far-Right propaganda.

We touched on getting out of the propaganda trap. It took a while for me to get out. It probably helped that I didn’t fully buy into the Tankie mindset, and that was one reason I had a falling out with the group I was in. I also took the time to find sources I could trust that were outside the bubble I was in. It also helped me to find a new group of friends and discover one of the earliest online communities. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill or method that can reprogram anyone.

Lastly, I think the panel discussed the difference between propaganda and marketing. After the podcast, I realized that one difference is that good marketing is about presenting a product or service to an audience that might be interested. I’m still working on the marketing for my stories, but I certainly won’t be trying to convert Christian Fundamentalists to love them. My focus will be more on fans of the Babbler, FtB readers, and others who might like it. Propaganda, in some sense, is a more sinister version of Marketing that tries to suck you in and keep you trapped.