Monday, July 25, 2011

Astrology: An Immoral and Harmful Pseudoscience with the Potential to Devastate Lives

Well, time to get back on my soapbox.

Astrology is something that has troubled me for years for reasons similar to what troubles me about religion and "psychics".  The practice is based on nothing substantial and yet has many, many people taken in to the point that it can influence, or even outright make, life-changing decisions.  Those thoughts alone contain mountains of problems but before I get to that, I should review what astrology is.

Astrology is the proposed concept that the position of the stars, with particular emphasis on constellations, relevant to the position of the sun and the moon at the time of your birth affect or determine what kind of personality you will have.  Some teachings in astrology even say that these factors can decide your destiny.
I can only hope that you are already scoffing at the concept.  If not, please keep reading because this is important.

Astrology is, always has been and always will be a load of complete rubbish.  Basic, rational thinking can arrive at this conclusion.  First off, the concept is obviously ludicrous for a plethora of reasons.  Just in case you are not figuring out those reasons on your own, the following is a very condensed list:

1.  The stars are not where we perceive them to be.  The closest star to us other than our sun is Proxima Centauri, approximately 4.24 light-years away.  The constellations are, in the smallest cases, thousands of light-years apart and thus would have no gravitational effect on each other.  The important bit to remember here is that the stars are moving and the light we are seeing from them is at least several years old.  Where we perceive the stars as being when we view them in the night sky is not where they actually, currently are.
In case you are wondering, the nearest star in any of the Zodiac constellations is almost 8 light-years away.

2.  A basic one:  No valid, scientific evidence has ever been found to show that starlight or gravitational effects have any influence on a human's personality.

3.  Astrology relies on there being a sign for every month, hence why there are 12 astrological signs derived from the Zodiac.  The problem with this is that there are 13 constellations in the Zodiac.

4.  Some astrological teachings, and astrologers themselves, say that the time of birth, down to the minute, can make all the difference.  This would heavily depend on every clock ever used to determine a time of birth to have been perfectly set.

5.  The stars' distance from us renders their physical effects totally inert.  This would have to mean that distance does not matter in astrology.  Why then do far more influential, astronomical phenomena, such as black holes and quasars, have no astrology built around them?

6.  How come the moment of birth is the decisive point in our personalities?  We began developing before that.  Should not the time of conception be the deciding point?  Or even the moment the sperm cell that would go on to become us is initially produced?

7.  The stars of the constellations do have a gravitational effect but, again, they are too far for that to have any physical effect on us.  To paraphrase Carl Sagan: 'The obstetrician present at your birth had a greater gravitational effect on you than the stars.'

That list could go on for a long, long while, but I am a Virgo and we like 7's.  You might notice that some of these points were counteracted recently when we had that whole "adjusted astrological sign" thing going on.  Well, you might be interested in knowing that the people who brought that about are scientists who consider astrology just as stupid as I do.  In fact, they probably consider it even more stupid as they are, after all, scientists.

Of course, every rant has a motive, and this is no exception.  Just like with religion, I have an adamant nature against astrology; with good reason.  As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, many people are so taken in with astrology that they trust it to make life-changing decisions.  If you can not figure out why there is a horrendous problem with this, please check if your heart is still beating.
An individual who decides to change their entire persona and career based on pseudo-scientific nonsense rather than on rational thought and logical planning could potentially ruin their life in doing so.  It is not the gullibility of these individuals that angers me; these are the kind of good, trusting people I desperately want to help with spiels like this.
What brings my blood to a boil is the astrologers who take advantage of the gullibility.  They are performing very basic tricks, known as 'cold reading' and 'hot reading', for some cash with the possibility of absolutely destroying a human being's life.
The following is a clip from Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, from an episode on astrology that took place during the series' seventh season.  The entire video is great but if you want to save time, skip to 5:37 when an astrologer is doing a reading on a grief-stricken mother of a very ill child.  You are going to hear Penn flip out in the voice over in what is probably a tame version of how I would have reacted had I witnessed the reading first hand.

Anger and depression fill me every time I see that.  There is no way I can justifiably trivialize that with a segue but I have a lot more ground to cover so let us move on.

Simpler, less morally grotesque issues come with the procedure that goes into writing horoscopes.  They always have general and vague statements that could apply to really any human being on the right day.  In fact, they are so general that you could easily mix them up and reprint them under different signs and people would still take them as accurate readings...which is exactly what several publications that run horoscopes do.

Even the most specific of horoscopes apply to approximately 50% of the people who would read them.  The people who receive accurate horoscopes are not necessarily in greater numbers but they certainly have bigger voices.  This comes from one of the most basic concepts of trickery; a magician performing the classic trick of guessing your card.  When the magician does the trick right, you get excited and want to tell people.  If the magician botches the trick, you would likely move on and hardly ever mention it.

All evidence in favour of astrology is anecdotal.  To the rational, logical and/or scientific mind, anecdotal evidence is worthless.

Just for fun, because we really need it now, let us take a look at my own astrological profile and see what it has right...and what it has wrong.  This is anecdotal as well but, again, it is for some much needed fun.

"Your most likeable traits:  Consciencious, Organized & Energetic"
Well, I am conscientious (which you might notice is spelled incorrectly in the quote) and that is the very reason I'm even writing this spiel.  As for 'organized' and 'energetic'...that could not be more wrong.

"Your symbol represents purity, modesty, industriousness, service to fellow workers"
Anybody who has an affinity for purity would likely be driven mad by some of the things in my head.  As for modesty, I go by 'Erik The Awesome' on this blog.  How's that for modesty?  And industriousness?  Well...I guess I used to really like playing with Lego.
The final bit about 'fellow workers'?  Sure, it got me there.  I like to help people around me.

If you happen to be keeping score, that's 2 out of 7 points that this profile has been correct about.  That's still an F.

"Your special flower is the Morning Glory and the Pansy"
...What does "special flower" even mean?

"Lucky Day: Wednesday"
Neat.  I hate Wednesdays.

"Part of the body ruled by Virgo:  The Nervous System and the Intestine"
Would now be a good time to mention that I used to have constipation problems?

Well, that was my profile.  What about day-to-day horoscopes?  Surely they must have had some tremendous ability to predict how my day would go.

Friday, July 1, 2011: You are eager to discuss your thoughts and plans with others at this time and you may have a very fruitful brainstorming session, a spirited debate, or a very active meeting with others in which things really get accomplished. You are verbally assertive and can present your own plan or idea quite convincingly."
 Wow, that's rather impressive.  It predicted that I would be passionate enough about something to express it in a debatable way.  Now, if only that horoscope had not been over three weeks too soon.
Actual Analysis:  Every single person on Earth has days like this.  Some of the Virgos who read it probably found it mind-blowing how accurate it was.  For me, it happened to be dead wrong.

Let's try again with a more recent one.
"Wednesday, July 13, 2011: You are in a dreamy, romantic mood. Yearnings for love, feelings of compassion, or even religious devotion accompany this time period. You are definitely more idealistic, tolerant, and selfless in your relationships, which may cause you to act against your own interests. Decisions involving money or important commitments to others, therefore, should probably be made some other time. A desire for loveliness and beauty in your surroundings is also strong."
On Wednesday, July 13, 2011, I spent my free time sitting in a group of guys sketching, telling penis jokes and carrying on extensive conversations about Power Rangers.  Yeah...what a romantic night that was.

Now, I know what you are all thinking:  "Shut up already!", but your secondary thought is "What about today?"

Here is my horoscope, as posted by, for July 25, 2011:

You feel expansive, enthusiastic, and optimistic now. You want to reach out, do more and experience more. You benefit greatly from the opportunities that present themselves at this time, and a person who will be very influential and helpful to you may come into your life."
Oh yes, I am so enthusiastic and optimistic as I sit here, typing out a lengthy rant about an evil, cultural poison.  I especially like the "may come into your life" bit at the end there; unfalsifiable hypotheses to the extreme.

Hopefully that last section cheered you up a little bit.  I, in fact, have good news to include now.  There is hope.  As long as the rational skeptics are around, willing to speak out when they see these immoral atrocities performed, there is hope.  A wonderful man by the name of James Randi is just such a skeptic.  If you have not heard of this man, you have not been paying attention to my recent blog posts.
I am going to do my best to explain the whole deal with James Randi but you really should look him up regardless.  James Randi is a world-famous skeptic and magician who founded the James Randi Educational Foundation.  He's made a name for himself the world over by debunking myths about psychic powers and other trickery.  Some time ago, he began offering a cash prize of $10,000 to anyone who could prove to have any sort of supernatural abilities.  It has been decades now, the prize has grown to over $1,000,000, and nobody has even come close.

What makes Randi wonderful for the topic at hand is that he has dealt with astrology...many times.  You may have even heard of one of his famous tests even if you have not heard of the man himself.
One test went something like this:  Randi had a class of college students of whom he asked for their astrological signs.  He returned later with an astrological profile for every student, handed them out and insisted they not share them among each other.  He asked the students to rate their profiles' accuracy on a 1 to 10 scale, 10 being perfect.  He asked for a show of hands as he called out each number.  Almost no hands were raised before he called out the number 8.  A rating of 9 had an even larger reception.  Finally, 10 received the largest show of hands.
He then asked the students to pass their profiles to the person sitting behind them; of course the students at the back would have to bring theirs to the front.  Randi then asked them to read the profiles they had just been handed.  The classroom briefly went silent before the students began to chuckle.  Every last profile said the exact same thing.

The majority of the students, regardless of their sign, rated their profile to be at least 80% accurate.  In addition to all the profiles having the same text, every sentence of the text came from a horoscope.
In case you think this is an isolated incident, it is not.  The exact same experiment was done by a different person on a different class of college students in the astrology episode of Bullshit! that we looked at earlier.  Even aside from that, Randi has performed similar tests to discredit astrology time and time again.
In one case, James Randi read off a horoscope for Virgos, or so he said, during a lecture.  He asked the Virgos in the audience to stand and raise their hand if the horoscope was accurate.  Of course most of them raised their hands.  He then said something along the lines of "oh sorry, that's not Virgo, it's Cancer!"  He then repeated the process with Cancer and, once again, revealed he was lying about what the real sign for the horoscope was.  That went on for a little while and yet never significantly affected the number of people who would claim the horoscope was accurate.

If you have been following me so far, you know these people attesting to their horoscopes' accuracy are not dishonest but are being taken in by the vague wording and generalizations that astrology loves so much.  However, a few of the horoscopes James Randi used in the previously described experiment were predictive.  The people were attesting that the horoscopes were accurate about things that had not even happened yet.

Now back to that million dollars James Randi has up for proof of this kind of thing:  In one of his lectures, which you can find on YouTube, James Randi recalls his experience with an astrologer who attempted to win the money.  The astrologer confidently made the bold claim that he could tell the astrological sign of anybody through simple inquiry about the subject's personality.
Randi took him up on his proposition and gathered several young adults to be the test subjects.  The astrologer met with each one, made his predictions and left them with Randi.  Later on, Randi had set up an area with different locations marked by the different astrological signs.  He handed the subjects the predictions that the astrology made and asked them all to move under the sign the astrologer determined was theirs.
Moments later, Randi asked the test subjects to move under their proper signs had they been misplaced.  All of them moved.

We have now come as far as I care to go on this subject.  The world, the real world, is an amazing and beautiful place; we do not need to pretend that there are fairies behind every garden or magic behind every burning ball of gas in the sky in order to see that.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Spotlight on James Randi

So, it's no secret that I'm an atheist and a rather adamant skeptic.  With that in mind, I'd thought I'd bring to light someone you may or may not have heard of:  James Randi.
World-famous skeptic but the name still manages to go right over the heads of most people I know.  Head of the James Randi Foundation (obviously), he currently offers a one million dollar prize to anybody who can prove any sort of supernatural ability or occurrence.  It's been up for a long time now and no one's come even close.
Getting to the point of this post though, I recently discovered that the James Randi Foundation has a YouTube channel with many great videos.  Definitely worth checking out.

Monday, July 18, 2011


I've started up a donation page on RocketHub (a website similar to Kickstarter, but it supports Canadians like myself) in order to help me create a webseries I've entitled 'ReqDraw'.  The basic idea is that I would make weekly episodes of recording of my drawing process as I fulfill viewer requests along with comical and insightful commentary.  To learn more and to make a donation, please visit the following link:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Venting Irritation Time

So...cover letters are a stupid concept.  A really, really, stupid concept.  A concept so unbelievably stupid that I can't fathom why it still exists in the modern day standard process of seeking employment.  They accomplish nothing beyond wasting everyone's time.  They waste the time of the candidate by having to reiterate what's already on their resume (but in an "oh so nice" letter-form) and they waste the employer's time by giving them more to read.  And let's face it, no employers read them the whole way through, if at all.  They usually have dozens-to-hundreds of applications to go through meaning reading anymore than a paragraph worth of text per person is so impractical that it just never happens.
And then there's jobs that require demo reels, like, say, anything in animation (or voice acting for that matter).  The demo reel is the most important piece without a doubt, with resume coming in 2nd (maybe 3rd depending on unique cases) and, of course, the cover letter is dead last.  Yet it's still expected.  Why?  It doesn't serve any useful purpose!
Perhaps worst of all is that the cover letter, as indicated by the name, is supposed to go on top of your resume.  The more I think about this, the closer I get to an aneurysm.  Isn't it already wasting enough time just expecting to be read?  Now it has to obscure the stuff that's actually important?
Everything the employer could possibly want or need to know about any given candidate is on their resume and, possibly, their demo reel.

Of course, there are "justifications" of the concept.  Stuff like saying it shows you went through the trouble of writing it out, it shows you care about getting the job, shows off you're willing to commit yourself to doing that extra bit of work, etc. etc.
A cover letter doesn't confirm any of that.  The very fact that the candidate is already taking time out of their day to go around, apply, make themselves look as presentable and professional as possible while, potentially, lugging around a portfolio, already shows those qualities more than well enough.
Even if a cover letter did exude any of those qualities, it would still be useless when it came to examining the individual.  Cover letters have this horrible, oxymoronic* redundancy of being both self-promoting and modest.  Because of that, they end up being pretty much the exact same thing for every individual, no matter how you dress it up.  And, of course, the individuals themselves might be outright lying on their cover letters.
If anything, a lack of a cover letter should show that you're conscious enough of others' responsibilities to a point that you don't intentionally waste their time.

And why am I moaning about this now?  After all, I have a job I enjoy already.  I am looking for an additional part time job as well for the sake of some extra cash...but that doesn't matter.  Whether or not I'm employed, whether or not you're employed, doesn't change the fact that cover letters are stupid.
Maybe it's the extremely mundane life I've been living for the last 4 weeks, maybe it's the fact that I watched a bunch of George Carlin's routines yesterday, or maybe it's just my low tolerance for stupidity that made me go off on this rant.  In any case, I think it needed to be said.
In fact, it's already been said, time and time again.  Google "cover letters are stupid" and take note of how many results there are, many with very well thought-out, rational reasons.  I'm now just one more guy in that myriad of irritated individuals.

Long story short:  Cover letters are an irredeemably stupid, colossal waste of everyone's time.

*According to Firefox's spellcheck, 'oxymoronic' is not a word.  The American Heritage Dictionary begs to differ, so I'm going with it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ocarina Updates

Alright, just going to quickly follow up on my review for Ocarina of Time 3D now that I've completed Master Quest and checked out some things.
Master Quest is an interesting endeavour; definitely harder on the whole but the Water Temple is, ironically, much easier than it is in the standard game.  Many of the dungeons don't make use of their entire architecture and save certain, difficult rooms for hiding Gold Skultullas, which is understandable as those tokens are very useful.
I've also tried out the Boss Challenge mode now which is exactly as I thought it would be.  Just like I said in the review, it's nothing revolutionary but still nice to have.  Oddly, it automatically equips you with everything you need to beat the boss but it also gives you an empty bottle.  I haven't been able to figure a reason for this beyond the little easter egg that bottles work to deflect Phantom Ganon's and Ganondorf's magic.
And I've also taken a look at a few of the movies the hint stones have to offer.  They're simple gameplay clips that have a brief but effective approach and they cover many things in the game, including how to find non-mandatory items such as Nayru's Love.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D Review

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D Review

Alrighty, here we are.  The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is, of course, the classic N64 title ported to the 3DS with a handful of little tweaks.  To review the bare game itself would be redundant since the title's been around for over a decade, has had hundreds of reviews, and is widely recognized as a great game.  So, I'll instead be focusing on how well the game has been accomplished as a port and how well the game has stood the test of time.
Starting with the simplest part to talk about, the game's soundtrack is entirely unchanged.  All of the classic tunes are there with absolutely nothing changed about them for better or worse.  The game had a nice soundtrack in the N64 days and it still sounds great today.  It's hard to say if an altered soundtrack would have been preferable since so much of the game is based on sound that, had they altered the tracks, the classic feel may have been lost.  As is, it's nothing to bring down nor up the game's score.
The biggest change with the game is on the visual front.  The graphics have been redone in many ways; all the textures have been improved, all of the character models and animations have been redone and, of course, you can play the game in THREE DEE.  This is, without a doubt, the best the game has ever looked, easily topping out the unofficial hi-resolution texture hack for the N64 rom.  However, it seems like Grezzo, the company in charge of the port, could have done a bit more.  Most of the geometry on the terrain is unchanged; there are some noticeable changes (some fences are no longer flat planes with textures but actually modeled, and the outside of Ganon's Castle has received a pretty impressive update) but for the most part, the world is just as jagged as ever.
And the gameplay.  Obviously, the gameplay is mostly unchanged and it most certainly has stood the test of time.  It's still ever bit as fun as it was way back when.  Some minor updates and changes have been included.  Link no longer makes a short, stopping pause after he rolls, allowing you to constantly roll in a continuous, fluid motion.  I could be wrong about this but I'm nearly certain that Link also climbs ladders and vines faster than he did on the N64 version.
Certain small improvements in the control scheme are present as well, with much emphasis on a refined menu system.  The menu is now entirely on the touch screen which allows for quicker access to equipment and tools.  Additionally, the special boots are no longer in the equipment subscreen and are now considered tools, much like how they were treated in Wind Waker and Twilight Princess.  This especially makes the Water Temple less tedious as it's no longer required to pause the game to put on or take off the Iron Boots.
The big changes in the 3DS version for the gameplay come from two new-ish game modes.  To start, we have the 'Master Quest', a second run through the game with altered dungeon layouts and paths as well as stronger enemies.  I've nearly completed Master Quest and it most certainly is more difficult than the standard game.  Unfortunately, you must play through the standard game before Master Quest even becomes an option which seasoned players might find very tedious.  Of course, Master Quest isn't entirely new; it's been released on the Gamecube in the past.  The only difference in the 3DS Master Quest is that Hyrule is a mirror image of itself when compared with the standard game or the previous Master Quest release.
The second new game mode, which is actually entirely new for the 3DS version, is the Boss Challenge mode.  Quite simply, you can return to Link's home in Kokiri forest and go through a marathon of the game's boss battles.  Nothing revolutionary but a nice feature to have.
There some very sparse and subtle dialogue changes as well.  The considerable ones include two new statements Navi may make at certain times.  She will occasionally recommend taking a break if you've been playing for an extended period of time.  As well, if you seem to be moving around in a dungeon but not making progress, she will suggest finding a 'Hint Stone', another new feature in the 3DS version; you enter these stones to view 'Hint Movies' meant to help you along.  I never used any of these myself so I can't vouch for how helpful they actually are.  They are also totally absent in the Master Quest mode.
The only other change in dialogue I've noticed is something extremely inconsequential.  In Kakariko Village, when you return all of Anju's cuccos to her and talk to her, in the N64 game she mentions she's giving you something "made of fine glass".  The first reward you get is a bottle and from then on, she gives you rupees.  In the 3DS version, her statement is changed to define the reward as "sparkly and pretty", likely because rupees are gemstones and not made of glass.
Ultimately, this is probably the best gaming experience on the 3DS as of yet and, even after all these years, it's still a fantastic game.  Some graphics have been improved more than others and, while we should have been able to get a larger improvement, it still looks very pretty.  If you're among those who have played through both the N64 original and Master Quest multiple times, then this probably isn't worth a purchase to you, especially if you already actually own those other versions of the game.  Myself, I never owned Ocarina of Time up until the 3DS version, my brother and I just rented it countless times when it first came out.  I've also never beaten Master Quest (though that's soon to change).  If you're anything like me, the game is more than worth owning.

Monday, July 4, 2011


So, the always generous Valve has released volumes 1 and 2 of the Portal 2 OST for free download over at

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Skull Kids Productions Artist of the Month

I'm happy to announce that as of Friday, I'm the current featured artist on
You can check them out here:
This also means I'll be making a small handful of comics for them; my first is already up and is the second newest comic as of this post.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Rolled Up and Smoked Like A Panatella

Well, it's that time of year again and it came really fast.  A new season (well, the second half of the production run that started with the 13 episodes last year) of Futurama is now airing on Comedy Central.  Last week was the premier with a double feature; Neutopia and Benderama; and this passed Thursday marked the original air date for the episode Ghost in the Machines.
Overall, they've been pretty good.  Ghost in the Machines had a pretty weak ending but that's about all I can complain about.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Canada Day

A bit of filler for today.
Now we all know I'm not one for location-based pride but a holiday's a holiday and fireworks are fun to play with, so enjoy your Canada Day...if you live in Canada.  If you don't and you feel like celebrating anyway, go nuts.