Alien Invasion

Watching “Curiosity: Alien Invasion”; it occurs to me that we really don’t know how aliens will react toward us–different “experts” will justify their own hunches–but we have a pretty decent guess as to how we would act toward aliens. This was from the old blog, a couple of years back:

Daringly, erringly,
Children in Panama
Saw a strange being, and
All held their breath:

Certain the creature was
Showed they were human, and
Beat it to death.

In some of the pictures, the “creature” looks like E.T., or “a fetus”, or some unidentifiable alien being. In the video, it is fairly clearly (to my eye, anyway) a three-toed tree sloth. But “teens beat sloth to death” is not nearly so cool a headline as “unidentifiable creature found in Panama” (the title of the linked video). Note the use of “unidentifiable” rather than “unidentified”; a small but crucial difference.

There are a great many stories already, and there will be more. Even CNN is going with the “unknown/unknowable” angle. As of this writing, Google news lists a mere 120 news articles. Any bets?

My favorite coverage thus far is this nicely skeptical article:

The story begins at a waterfall near the town of Cerro Azul, Panama. A group of teens, four in all, were playing in the area when the mystery creature, a large hairless monster, shuffled out from a cave hidden by the waterfall. According to most accounts, the creature approached the boys. Growing alarmed, they began to throw rocks at the monster. They continued to do so until it — Gollum, E.T., monster, whatever — stopped moving. Satisfied that they had killed the hairless mystery creature, the Panamanian emissaries of Earth tossed E.T. into the water.

But in all the pictures being circulated on the web, E.T./Gollum looks more like a hairless sloth (and has been identified as such by many who have seen a full body picture of the Panamanian mystery creature), which means that the animal moves at an extremely slow pace (it is difficult to move across the ground on its hooked-claw feet). Which means that the teens might have been alarmed when they first saw the creature but could have easily outran it, so remaining frightened at something that presents no real danger probably did not occur. And they certainly did not have to pelt the mystery creature with stones until it died. That the teens decided to make a sport out of hitting the mystery creature with rocks sounds like a typical teen reaction. But it is doubtful they did it out of fear.

So they lied. They’re teenagers. It’s what they do best, besides eat and sleep and whine about being bored.

There are other news outlets showing evidence that it is a sloth:

Nevertheless the local media has played up the story, reporting that zoologists are unable to identify the “alien-like” creature. But DNA testing should soon confirm what most are saying: the animal is a sloth.

As a consequence of a slow news cycle towards the end of summer, August and September tend to be peak months for sightings of “strange” and “unidentified” creatures including unusual marine life, malformed animals and the mythological beasts like the Chupacabra, the Mongolian Death Worm, Big Foot, and the Loch Ness Monster.

I wonder how long it will take CNN to correct themselves?

It’s a sloth. They are teenagers. Ignorance->fear->kill it. No wonder the aliens all choose to show themselves to isolated individuals with lousy cameras. They are scared!

Good News, Bad News

The flip of a coin
Tells which group you will join;
There is no more investment than that.
It’s a “minimal group”
But you’re one of the troop
And you’ve taken up arms in the spat.

If the star-bellied sneetches
Are best on the beaches
Then what would the plain-bellies say?
The most trivial stuff
Can be more than enough
To let intergroup biases sway

And as quick as you know
You’ve turned friend into foe
For as near as no reason at all
Just the flip of a dime
And a moment of time
And you’re ready and willing to brawl

If you think that a fight
Over which side is right
Means that something important’s at stake
Just remember, it’s known
We will fight for our own…
And a coin flip is all it might take

The bad news is, skeptics are fighting among themselves. The good news is, skeptics are fighting among themselves.

“Minimal Group” experiments (Tajfel and colleagues, in the early 70s) showed that something as simple as the flip of a coin was enough to engender ingroup/outgroup bias effects. The Hatfields and McCoys had generations of feuding to generate ingroup/outgroup bias; Tajfel found that biases did not need much at all to get started.

Now, I’m not saying there are not very real and meaningful differences. I’m just saying that the fact that people are sharpening pitchforks and lighting torches does not mean that the differences they fight over are worth fighting over. People choose up sides at the drop of a hat. Oh, and once they do, and do so publicly, we start hearing less about Tajfel and more about Festinger. We are motivated to maintain and defend our publicly stated opinions… even if, yeah, the original differences in opinion were trivial.

Let’s throw one more classic name in social cognitive psychology at you–Muzafer Sherif. Sherif is the name thrown about when we try to join groups together, instead of dissecting them apart. His solution? Superordinate goals–common goals that redefine two separate groups as part of one larger group. For example, Reagan (more than once) claimed that our differences with the Russians would disappear if earth were invaded by Martians.

Too bad it seems that it takes the presence of a common enemy to bring peace. But one hopeful possibility is that the skeptics are fighting among themselves because the common goal is closer to resolution than in the past. Without the clear and present danger, we have the luxury of fighting among ourselves.

Still and all, I’d really rather we didn’t.

Untested Belief

I’ve been fooled by illusions
And, in my confusion,
Seen things that are simply not there.
My memory distorted,
I’ve sometimes reported
False “facts”, as I now am aware

When the truth is revealed
Of how far I’m afield
I am shocked to discover my error
But the evidence shows
So that everyone knows
And I’ll reach a conclusion that’s fairer

If I’m liable to make
Such a blatant mistake
When there’s evidence there for pursuing
I could never deny
There’s a likelihood, I
Have some other beliefs worth reviewing

My point, to be brief—
Unexamined belief,
No matter how firmly invested
Could be right, could be wrong
But remains, all along
Nothing more, and no less, than untested.

So, yeah, I watched the Discovery show “Curiosity” last night, and the brief discussion following the show, and I wanted to throw a shoe through the television. Fortunately, cuttlefish don’t wear shoes, so the tv was spared. Sean M. Carroll did a great job (even though he says his great concluding remarks were left on the cutting room floor), and I applaud him. As always, though, I really wish there had been another scientist there, representing experimental psychology.

As is often the case, the god that the theologians believed in was “transcendent” and untestable. Carroll, quite correctly, kept trying to get at whether this god ever intervened–ever mucked around with the observable universe–but they did not fall for it (although one claimed that the universe simply would not exist without god). And without a claim of effect, physics has nothing about god to test.

But. I’d like to have seen someone there able to explore not the physics of the universe, but the psychology of belief (and no, not Shermer). The theologians (and some clips of physicists) obviously held their beliefs in god strongly; what do they know of how we come to believe? (I am using “belief” very broadly here, including evidence-based and faith-based beliefs)

We believe things, as physicists often do, because the data point to them. But humans are not perfect perceivers; we sometimes believe things that the evidence actually opposes, because we misperceive the evidence (N-rays are a fun example). If, when there is actual evidence to be had, we still sometimes get it wrong, why on earth should we be more accurate in the absence of evidence? The foundation for the theologians’ belief is the flimsiest house of cards imaginable, yet they pretend an authority and “invite Hawking to the table”. Sorry, no, that’s the kiddie table.

Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On

Last night I dreamed in perfect verse—
A pretty nice trick, it would seem—
I’d post it today, but damn the luck,
I always forget what I dream.

Yeah, last night I actually did go to sleep mulling a verse around, and I know (as much as one can know these things) that I figured out several stanzas, moving bits around, finding rhymes, fixing meters. This morning, post-coffee, I have absolutely no idea what I wrote last night.

Part of the problem is that I read some really interesting stuff while having my coffee. Over at ICBSEverywhere, Barbara Drescher had done what she so often does, and brought deliberation, critical thought, and evidence to bear on the skepticism/atheism kerfuffle. I don’t agree with 100% of what she says, but in real life I’ve given talks that are better than 80% in agreement with the stuff she has posted this morning (that’s right, I have a real life). There are three posts; I’ve linked to the first one. Worth reading, and worth sharing.

Even if it cost me a dream verse.

Asking Questions, Questioning Answers

In the seeking of knowledge,
From cradle to college,
No matter the issue or task
It’s a pretty good bet
That the answers you get
Will depend on the questions you ask

The answer, my friends
Very often depends
On what question was asked, and of whom?
In the world that we face
It’s not often the case
There’s an expert right there in the room

It’s a process. We ought
To use skeptical thought
But the thing is—unless we’re omniscient,
You are different from me
So we might disagree
On what evidence we find sufficient

One man may be liable
To look to the bible
Another may look to his heart
If they honestly question,
Then here’s my suggestion:
That’s all we can ask, for a start.

I hesitate to weigh in too much on the skepticism/atheism kerfuffle, mainly because I suspect that much of the kerfufflage is the result of overreaction on both sides. A specific complaint is seen as a general one, colorful language is used, et voila! Molehills, mountains, teapots, tempests.

So, although I could be wrong, I don’t think this is a big deal. Of course skepticism and atheism are not the same thing; that’s trivially true and easily demonstrated. It’s not a major issue. One can easily be a skeptical Christian. I was, and it led to my atheism. My sister was, and remains a Christian (in my opinion, she asked the wrong people, and was shown bad evidence, but that’s a very easy thing to have happen where she lives; she has also been able to avoid science classes in her education, and may be ill-prepared to evaluate the evidence she gathers).

The real reason for writing this post, though, is to share this video. This man was a skeptic while he was a Christian, and does a great job describing the sorts of questions he asked, the answers he got, the puzzles he puzzled… His experience was different from mine (for one thing, he left Christianity younger than I did), but it had a familiar feel to it for me, and he is (unlike me) a comfortable speaker just telling his story, without notes, to a rolling camera.

And as of this writing, it only has 190 views. It deserves more.

Sceptics Circle, 24 March 2010

The Big News in skepticism this week is a story which, in a perfect world, would not be news at all. James Randi, at the age of 81, has chosen to come out of the closet. In what is the worst or best kept secret in history (judging from people’s reactions), Randi is gay. Some in the skeptical blogosphere have used this opportunity to make observations. Some of my favorites include Jeremy at Endcycle’s musings on what the atheist movement could learn from the GLBT movement, in terms of gaining public acceptance. Ed Brayton’s bit is also nice; he notes that this announcement tells us a great deal more about society than about Randi. The Bad Astronomer (former JREF President Phil Plait) has been asked “how will this affect the JREF?” (Answer: Not at all, but it may help society as a whole.) Rebecca, at Skepchick, writes a short piece, and maybe I am projecting a bit, but it seems almost as if she, like the others linked here, are having a really tough time saying much more than “congrats”, because the skeptical community is already full of accepting, diverse, and open-minded people. I will not link to the literally thousands of blogs which have posted on this topic (a google blog search returns over 9,000 sites when I limit the search to just this week!). I do include all the above links, though, for one particular reason: it is really a wonderful thing to read through the comments of each of these posts, and to see the overwhelming support and love for Randi. I recently read through a news site with online public reaction (not about Randi, but about a religious topic), and the contrast between the commentaries could not be greater. Anyway, congratulations, both J and C!

I did not know—I did suspect,
But knew it was none of my business—
I’m glad that he has someone there;
Who cares about her-ness or his-ness!?

And so, congrats, or mazel tov!
May your life evermore be just dandy—
Now back to work—I know you will;
It’s the modus, of course, opeRandi

On to the regular edition of Skeptics Circle!

Joshua Zelinsky’s entry was the very first submitted. In a concise and informative essay, we are shown where we, as skeptics, may overstate our claim to be “using the scientific method”. It’s not that we are necessarily doing a bad job of being skeptics; rather, the claim oversimplifies what science is, what falsifiability is, and what sorts of hypotheses are or are not falsifiable. Zelinsky does a really nice job illuminating a complex subject, so I will do a piss-poor job describing it in verse:

When skeptics claim reliance
On the ways and means of science
They are often overstating, and it pays to check the claim—
It’s a complex situation,
But through close examination
We can check our core assumptions, and can re-adjust our aim.

My dearest friend PodBlack Cat blogs her report from #AtheistCon (known to us non-Twitter-types as the Global Atheist Convention). It is a nice follow-up to the Zelinsky piece, since just as the connections between skepticism and science can be examined, so can the connections between skepticism and atheism. PodBlack writes of her adventure as The Token Skeptic (no, she was not the only skeptic in attendance, but that *is* the title of her show); as always, a PodBlack post contains more than meets the eye, and is worth more than one read-through, but the bit that grabbed my eye (this time through) was the advice (and firsthand report) about contributing through public speaking. I am impressed as all hell by people who are up on stage talking to thousands, lucidly, cogently, coherently, while I seem to stutter even in print, let alone in person, let alone in front of an audience (classrooms don’t count, clearly–for me, anyway). It’s why I am a cuttlefish–I prefer to hide in my ink.

A skeptical cat is a serious matter,
It isn’t just one of your everyday cats
Our PodBlack could never be one of the latter—
You see, she wears too many skeptical hats.
First of all, there’s the blog that I’ve linked (just above this)
With posts about science, religion and news,
About all sorts of stuff (likely why you all love this)
So any at all may find something to choose!
Next, she’ll be found on the Skeptic Zone podcast
Contributing interviews, doing reports,
(With more, I am sure, than we see being broadcast)
And all of it stuff of the skeptical sorts.
Third, as a host of the Melbourne convention
Fourth as a teacher, Fifth as my friend
Sixth through One Hundredth, I’ll choose not to mention
In order to bring this poor verse to an end.

The next submission in my inbox contained not one but four excellent posts from 360 Degree Skeptic, and permission to choose what I like! I liked all of them–the blog is, from what I can see, a nicely focused skeptical blog, with some very helpful methodological critiques of some over-reaching claims. I’ll comment on one of them, which links to another of them; the two are a nice one-two punch of methodological smackdown. “Controls and crap science” focuses on the value of proper control conditions in experiments (as opposed to a mere “no treatment” pseudocontrols); all too often, a therapeutic technique “works!!!” when compared to doing nothing at all… I have even seen reference to a study in which (I wish I could find it, to have a proper quote) they found that “both acupuncture and sham acupuncture were effective, though not different from one another”. Yup, that’s called a placebo effect, and that (with different examples, and with considerable style) is what Andrew takes down in this post.

There are times, I am told, when it pays to reflect,
To look at the data you’ve chanced to collect;
Methodology’s something to treat with respect
If you wish to avoid a placebo effect.

The treatment condition—the one you select—
When compared with “no treatment” (through plan or neglect)
May return the results you have come to expect
But they may be no more than placebo effect

No need to be angry; no need to object;
Some planning ahead keeps your study unwrecked,
A proper control, and you’ll surely detect
If your changes are just a placebo effect.

So be sure your procedure you’ll closely inspect
And include each condition—make sure that they’re checked.
If you take this advice, I sincerely suspect
You’ll no longer be plagued by placebo effect.

Next, Cubik’s Rube writes “I want to be poetic and lyrically brilliant…”, throws some excuse about being sleepy and sick, and then directs me to a piece he has written where the prose puts anything I have written to shame. In disarmingly simple language, in a conversationally smooth bit of writing, James ponders the night sky. The first two paragraphs hooked me, and reminded me of the childlike wonder with which I used to look at the sky… and then he subtly gives a lesson on UFOs, teaching us that the “U” does not stand for “undeniably from some other planet”. Despite the way the term gets thrown around.

I gazed up at the nighttime sky, with wonder and with awe
The diamond constellations spread before me
if I claim that aliens are part of what I saw
You might be better off if you ignore me.
An object, unidentified, was shining in the night—
A spacecraft, and I know that they have seen us!
I’ll sound as if I’m certain, when the truth is I’m not quite,
But it’s so much more romantic than “that’s Venus”.
If something’s unidentified, you don’t know what it is,
And there’s so, so much it possibly could be
The jump to “it’s a spaceship!”, when you could just say “gee whiz!”
Is a little much, I hope you will agree.

Next in the ol’ inbox, The Uncredible Hallq (Chris Hallquist’s wonderful moniker) discusses the teleological argument of Christian apologist Wiliam Lane Craig. This is a really nice and detailed post, which it needs to be, given the delicate dance Craig does in an approach-avoidance conflict with intelligent design. Hallquist has done yeoman’s work here, so that you don’t have to; this is a nice resource to point to if anyone decides to pull out WL Craig in a creationism throwdown.

Carefully, warefully,
Hallq (The Uncredible)
Puts an apologist
Under the knife

Vivisects arguments
Not on your life!

Next in the mailbag… Martin Rundkvist, at Aardvarchaeology, one of my guilty favorite blogs. Guilty because I have no training at all in archaeology, but I just can’t get enough of it. Intellectual porn, this stuff is. And this one is no exception–a conspiracy theory involving, of all things… tree rings! Dendrochronology (damn, and I just did a double dactyl!) has its very own Watergate-Tapes-style 18.5-minute gap, of some 200 years. And wherever data are known only to a relative few experts, the non-experts are free to improvise.

Archaeologists up to no good
Hid some data–because, hey, they could
If we now ask a den-
drochronologist “When?”
We must really be asking “Got wood?”

Next up (and as of the current writing, lastly) in the mailbox is a post from One Brow, of Life, the Universe, and One Brow. (Actually, in fairness, One Brow had also submitted this post to the previous Skeptics Circle, so I link it now without comment for your perusal.) Now… I don’t know if you know me (odds are against), but I loves me some snark. And this post is full of snark, in response to a science denialist (var: global warming denialist) who thought he had done a good enough job of stepping on the rocks (old joke–ask if you don’t know it). Turns out One Brow was able to see that the denier was not walking on water at all, but just cherry-picking data (to mix metaphors). A nice, concise response, taking a denier down a notch. And some fun snark.

A chance remark once struck a spark
And lit a flame to fight the dark
And thus One Brow (please, go read how!)
In contrast stark, can take a bow.
It’s getting warm–one simple storm
Won’t do much now, we must inform.

I will close with one last entry–Joan tells me that she has no blog on which to post this, and throws herself at the mercy of the cuttlecourt. It comes with its own verse! So… I could not say no. Without further ado:

I have pretty much given up trying to convince believers who glom on to each urban legend, or scare tactic to read Snopes. The last e-mail I got back was condemning Snopes as a left wing political blog designed to promote Obama’s agenda. People will believe what they want to if they are not given the facts they want to hear. However, it looks as if deliberate obfuscation of the truth and the elimination of facts might soon be spreading from Texas to all of America’s school children. These publishers make most of their money on Texas and California. If their bottom line is profit and not truth they might well be jumping when the school board from Texas says ‘frog’

The Texas school board has redlined curricula that teachers themselves proposed and made more than 100 changes to ‘correct’ what they perceive as left-wing bias. Apparently they feel they are more educated than the Texas teachers . Following is my grim poetic take.

Good Old Golden Rule Days
Joan Ryan

They have demonized poor Darwin
With invectives mean and rotten
And if they cannot ignore him
They’ll make sure he is forgotten.
They have upped their right wing ante
And their method is no mystery
They’re altering their schoolbooks
To exclude our nation’s history.

Tom Jefferson, third president,
And creative founding father
Is excised from all the text books.
Do you wonder why they’d bother?
He’s been branded as a Deist,
Not the ‘Christian’ guy they’d thought.
And he’d early advocated that
The state should not be bought
By demanding separation
Of the church and nation state.
He chose not to leave this issue
To a less than stable fate.

Now that Texas lost their president
And Christian lobby guys,
They must eradicate these facts.
That’s not a big surprise.
But John Calvin, Tom’s replacement?
This I really do not get.
Now are scientists predestined
For the hopeless fiery pit?
Cal’s views do not fill well with
Current friendly Jesus menche
Plus he’s not an American
And we’re not fond of the French.

Next our less than stellar past
With Robber Barons in the game
Has been whitewashed. “Capitalism”
Gets “Free Enterpriser” name.
A rose by any other name
I’m told would smell as sweet.
Still I doubt that any name change
Quells the smell of tainted meat.

It’s the Texas brain saw massacre.
They’ve finally gone and done it.
They cannot distort all the past
So now they aim to shun it.

And that is it. See you next time, at Divisible by Pi, for the April 8th edition of the Skeptics Circle!


A late entry (ok, technically it was on time, but my laptop broke several weeks ago, so I did not read this one until hours after it had been sent), from The Skeptical Teacher: ( actually, there are four) <–each word is a different link, so don't miss one! So, in order not to waste any time getting these entries posted, my briefest verse yet:

Skeptical Teachers
Are wonderful creatures.

March 25th Skeptics Circle Will Be Here

Each couple weeks, some random jerk’ll
Host the latest Skeptics Circle
Thursday next, *I* (by some quirk)’ll
Take the task in hand

Write your best! Submit your entries!
High-end stuff or elementaries;
Don’t be scared–the dogs and sentries
Wait on my command.

You do not have to write in rhyme,
But those submissions made in time
May be annunced in verse sublime
(Or fair, or bad, or rotten).

The Circle–cast in verse immortal,
Worth a thought, a tear, a chortle
(Though the poems that I contort’ll
Quickly be forgotten)!


That’s right, the March 25th edition of the Skeptics Circle will be hosted here at The Digital Cuttlefish. You can email me (addy over there at the right) or use the comments to this post to submit something. Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell your friends’ neighbors and your neighbors’ friends. If you read something you think should be entered, please let that writer know.

The earlier you submit, the easier my job is, but don’t let that stop you from suggesting something even at the last minute, or later. (Yeah, I know, but they let you edit, after all…)


“Pastor Renee Brewster and her husband Bishop Winston Brewster are a very spiritual couple. But the site of their savior in a potato has reinvigorated their faith and their desire to help others.” (MyFox Orlando)

I did not make up that quote.

I mean, you have to be spiritual to see Jesus in a potato. Or tortilla. Or frying pan. Or oyster. (Or another oyster.) Or pirogi. Or grease stain. Or water stain. Or dog’s butt.

I mean, what other reason could there be, but spirituality?

(With deep and sincere apologies to Ira and George Gershwin…)

You say “potato”, and I say “Jesus”
You say “hey, wait—Oh, just look at the pieces!”
Right there in the bowl, he’s so wonderfully holy
Let’s call the guys at Fox!
You say “sandwich”, and I say “Mary”
You think it’s grand, which I think is just scary
But you need no urgin’ to see you a virgin
Let’s call the guys at Fox!

And Oh!—if we call the guys at Fox
We’ll make the news.
And Oh!—If we’re on the news,
There’s no way we can lose

So if you say “tortilla”, and I say “Jesus”
I promise I’ll see a real face in the cheeses
How lucky would we be, to be on the TV
Let’s call the guys at Fox–
Let’s call the guys at Fox!

Keep an open mind!

I wonder sometimes, why it is that the people who tell me to “keep an open mind” have theirs utterly closed to the possibility that they might be wrong. An open mind, of course, is willing to follow the available evidence, even if it disagrees with one’s assumptions. An open mind is not one that keeps an issue open after every bit of information says “case closed.” But of course, as I have heard it most frequently, “keep an open mind” is used as a synonym for “agree with me!”

An open window can be a good thing, but a window which cannot be closed is just a hole in your wall. There are times when it is ok to shut the window. You can always open it up again if the evidence says you should.

Anyway, today’s verse:

They told me “keep an open mind,
And you will see—the world’s designed,
And everything that’s in it.
The folks who say mutation’s random?
Open-minded folks can’t stand ‘em
Even for a minute!
You see the touch of God each day
In every strand of DNA
Unless your mind is closed;
When looking at genetic blueprints
Clearly, there are You-Know-Who-prints
For those so predisposed.”

I told them “really, no offense…
I’ll need to see some evidence.”

They told me “keep an open mind,
And never heed the double blind
Experiments of science;
The open-minded person knows
You cannot trust what science shows—
The truth is in defiance!
It’s science that is always changing;
Scientists keep rearranging—
How could it be true?
So put your trust in common thought,
Which needs no facts at all—well, not
In my considered view.”

I told them “that’s a lame pretense…
I’m waiting for your evidence.”

They told me “keep an open mind
While we stick pins in your behind
To fix your aching head;
We’ve got to re-align your back—
Don’t be alarmed to hear a crack
Or have some herbs instead!
Now take a draught of this solution,
Infinite in its dilution,
(That’s what makes it strong!)
So many cures that fit your Karma,
Hard to see just how Big Pharma
Always gets it wrong.”

I told them “you may not commence
Until you show me evidence!”

They told me “keep an open mind—
Our brainwaves, if they’re all combined,
Can lead to lasting peace;
And simply wishing hard enough
Brings health and love and other stuff,
They’ve known since Ancient Greece!
The figure of the Oracle
Was not just allegorical—
It works! Just take a look!
The truth is, if you wish and pray,
It might just happen, come some day—
And Oprah likes the book!”

I told them “here are my two cents—
Please wish and pray for evidence.”

They told me “keep an open mind;
Though in this lifetime you’re confined
Within your mortal part,
In death you find a pure release
And living on in love and peace,
The you inside your heart,
You’ll leave behind this thin façade
To gaze upon the face of God
If, meekly, you submit;
Each death, each illness is God’s will
You can’t reach Heaven’s gate until
The mortal world you quit.”

I told them “such a moral sense!
If only you had evidence!”

She told me “keep an open mind,
And while our bodies are entwined
Our energies commingle.
Don’t roll your eyes, I do implore;
I speak, of course, in metaphor–
And by the way, I’m single.”
From one to ten? She’s my eleven;
Better than some made-up heaven,
Wondrously mundane!
And best of all, I think you’ll find,
Much better than an “open mind”
She keeps a working brain.

A long-running bet…

A pair of hucksters had a bet, a long, long time ago
Each swore that he could prove himself the lowest of the low;
Each knew who was the world’s top swindler: “Naturally, I am!”
And so the competition: who could pull the greatest scam?

The first said “I shall tell each father, mother, son and daughter,
That I can cure most anything with nothing more than water!”
Oh, sure, he had to shake it up, succuse each next dilution,
But in the end it’s water, and there’s nothing in solution.

The second watched, and chuckled, “I admit, that’s very good!
You kept it simple—not at all the scam I thought you would!
But frankly, in simplicity, you’ve left an open door,
Lemme show you how to do it, when you do a little more.”

So the second had another plan, and here’s how it begins:
“I will have the people pay me when I puncture them with pins!
Not a hypodermic needle with a drug or some vaccine,
But a pin—that’s all, a pin—that we can only hope is clean.”

The first, in turn, was quite impressed, and told the second so;
And by this time both hucksters knew how far the two might go.
Colloidal silver, orgone rays, and therapeutic touch,
TM, reflexology, and enemas and such.

But time and time again, their efforts only met success—
They knew they had to try once more to make a bigger mess;
They had to pull out all the stops, and really take a chance…
The time had come for sorcery with eggs and underpants.

“You’ve got a curse, you’re going to die, it’s too late now to beg;
There’s just one chance—you’ll need to bring me urine, and an egg,
A plate, a pair of underpants, and yes—five thousand pounds.”
(The fact they were not laughing by this point is what astounds)

The victim paid five hundred pounds, but not the whole five grand,
And so the hucksters argue still, who’s best in all the land.
As long as there are victims there, and money to be had,
This contest will continue—who’s the baddest of the bad?

So keep your eyes wide open, and be sure your brain’s engaged,
For I’m certain there are scams out there this verse has not presaged;
If you hear your spine needs cracking, or your underwear are hexed,
You can call yourself a skeptic, or have hucksters call you “next”.

A tip o’ the cuttle to Podblack Blog for this one…