Sunday, September 28, 2014

Operation Bumblebee

This will be a long blog about Project Bumblebee. There will be some detail and a TLDR at the end for those who are not interested in the reading the whole thing.

Those of you reading this that know me, already know the disdain I have for grief vampires. Those that prey on the grieving and the desperate. Saying they solve crimes for the police (but of course the police won't share credit with the psychic) saying that they can locate abducted children, find missing bodies and tell you that your grandmother “loves you” and your uncle “forgives you”. I'm not talking about the thousands of Mom & Pop psychics that use Tarot and palm reading to tell you that you probably should change careers. We have to pick our battles, and educating the public and making it more difficult for them to find shut-eyes as marks is what I'm all about.

The second purpose of this article is to show skeptics that they can help even if they are living across the other side of the world. I want to inspire other groups and individuals to become involved. I'm going to give some detail of what our team, Operation Bumblebee did right and what we did wrong this week when we went head to head with psychic Chip Coffey. I'm going to leave out some details for obvious reasons, we may be doing this again. I can oversee another sting from the luxury of my laptop, we just need money, dedicated people and time. I will be mentioning first names and location of a few of the main people that helped with this project, only Emery Emery and Sheldon Helms will be mentioned by full name as they have already identified themselves with their own blogs about their involvement. And also a few others that I received permission to do so.

My inspiration for this was the story I read about Psychic Sally that appeared in Middlesbrough, England in April 2014. I thought, why can't we make something like this happen using plants and social media? Mark Edward and I had just come back from the awesome must attend QED skeptic's conference held in Manchester, England, in fact Mark had given a magician lecture in Middlesbrough a few weeks before Sally appeared and many people wrote to him asking if he had arranged Sally's blunder. Alas he hadn't but they are right to ask, it is exactly what he has been preaching to our community for years. At that QED conference Mark had encouraged the audience to get out there and take on the woo, to just try to DO SOMETHING. The feedback on that lecture was split between comments that he was “too forceful”, “too confrontational”, “not nice” and the “we can't do that here in England we might get sued” and the opposite comments “about time someone tells us to get off their butts and start doing something”, “I'm in Mark, lets do this”. The responses might have been divided over his lecture, but it got people talking about what's next in skeptical activism.

The final straw (or should I say straws as there were several) were the constant posts on Facebook announcing that Chip Coffey would be in Los Angeles and San Jose and maybe “someone” should do “something”. The really really final straw for me to sit down and organize this sting were the forever drama blogs that seem to only want to divide our community further and distract us from my goal of educating the public and training more skeptical activists to actually follow Mark's advice and get out there and DO SOMETHING. That was it for me. (details available to known skeptics that want to become involved)

The Money
Lets start off talking about the money. There is no way this project could have happened without money, lots more money than I have to spend on psychic readings. I put up a post on my social media sites that I was looking for $800 for a psychic sting I had planned, I wanted donations to my Paypal account and I wasn't able to publicly tell what to do with that money. I didn't want anyone to feel pressured to give or be “shunned” by publicly showing everyone watching who gave what amount, like with many of those “services” that take your money for a fee. Paypal allowed for me to take in and disperse the money needed with no fees. I did not want one person to donate all the money, I felt it needed to come from all of us. I also didn't want an organization to fund the money, I wanted to be free to do this on my own without having to get permission from a group. This was entirely my idea, my instructions and my responsibility. If it failed, there was no one to blame but me. And if it succeeded then it was because of the team I created.

Within 12 hours of my request we were completely funded with promises from others that they would help if more money was needed. Later we needed another $160 which when asked came in within a few hours. Dan from Team LA and Jim from Team San Jose attended and paid for their own tickets. I ended up funding $70 at the last minute so my son Stirling could attend. All the rest came from the generous donors from inside this community. Over one thousand dollars we gave Chip Coffey. Yep we did that. Psychics count on us not wanting to give them money. I know of one failed sting that happened a few years ago, the person in charge of getting the tickets only purchased one cheap ticket and then forged several others to allow people in the show. This caused them to know right away that something was wrong, and it was down-hill after that. In this case we didn't purchase the cheap seats, we got the VIP ones, $160 each. We were in the front rows and the VIP ticket allowed us to also get a photo with Chip and see a extra ghost show. We purchased Visa gift cards which would not show our names when we went online to get our tickets.

While Chip only managed to get about 100 people to each show, don't be fooled by that low attendance number. Tickets (without the service fees) are $75-150 each. The only thing that separates the tickets are where you get to sit, and if you can have your photo taken with Chip. Only the VIP people can stay for a extra hour of the show where Chip tries to get in touch with the ghosts that haunt at the venue location. If those 100 people on average spent $110 each then he made about $11,000. The hotel was beautiful, right in downtown San Jose. I'm sure that cost a few thousand dollars. Chip was traveling with two other people and drove from the San Diego to Los Angeles then on to the San Jose shows. So there are costs involved to run this kind of operation. We can only speculate that he might have only made a profit to himself of 3-5 thousand for this one show. Obviously it is in his best interests to sell his book and swag and schedule private readings.

Chip did have a dollar a ticket raffle to win the scarf that Chip was wearing that night. All proceeds went to a animal charity. From what I could tell when looking in the bag, he might have raised $100. While I love animals, I didn't contribute, was worried that I might actually win the scarf and that would be just too much to handle.

The How

We spend months testing the hypothesis that Chip Coffey uses hot-reads to get his information. This was months of work, we used many methods to make us the perfect bait to hook Chip. I'm not going to go into detail how we did that because we can still use all those methods on future stings. In my opinion Chip did not hot-read us, he didn't need to. We know that there are psychics currently on TV and stage right now that have, and we want to keep that information close. I do want to thank many people who spent months with me perfecting this part of the sting. Amy in New York, Mike Jarsulic in Chicago, Emery Emery, Heather Henderson, John Friedman and Linda all from the LA area , Amanda and Ross in Australia, Ann in Florida, Rick from Virginia, Scott, Greg, Jay Diamond and Sheldon Helms all near the San Jose area. I hope I'm not missing somebody, you all were very important to this project, and possibly all the months of work that you did will pay off with further stings.

Team LA

The first group went to the Los Angeles show on a Tuesday night. Dan Geduld, Linda, Heather Henderson and Emery Emery were all VIP, with properly paid for tickets. They each had a photo of someone they wanted to reach in spirit with them, and their stories were ready. Every story was to a fictitious person or someone that really existed but was still alive. They endured several hours of Chip answering questions about his past TV shows, favorite moments in his career and then it came to the readings. Not a single one of these four were selected for a reading. Though Heather did get to ask a question during the Q&A segment. Dan did get Chip's book autographed for Mark Edward which reads “Mark, Love, Chip”. Apparently Chip's spirits were not telling him that we were all fakes. And each one of them were able to have their photo taken with Chip, again the spirits were quiet about him posing with skeptics who were there to expose him.

While we were not able to hook Chip at this event, we were able to gather a lot of information. How many attended, how many in each section? Of the people Chip gave readings too what % were in the VIP area and so on. We learned that Team San Jose needed to show up even earlier to get seats within the first 3 rows, wear bright colors, sit on the aisle. Chip told the LA people that he has bad vision, so maybe the smaller photos weren't a good hook, we needed bigger photos. We also thought that sitting together and talking about who we wanted to reach would be helpful.

I'm going to link to Emery Emery's account of the LA show here (link will be active by Oct. 1st).

Team San Jose

I'm going to tell you that I was pretty anxious when it came to our Thursday night show. I had just spent over a thousand dollars on a psychic, all money from the skeptic community whom trusted me enough to send the money without knowing what it was for. Not only that, but we had spend months on this project and hundreds of hours. About 50 people have been advising us over the last few weeks, including Mark Edward who of course has done many of these events, including one that resulted in getting thrown out by Chip's security a few years ago, which is why he could not attend. So I knew I needed to turn on the personality and make this happen.

We arrived really early: Jan, Stirling and I. We pretended we didn't know Stirling who sat in the back of the room with a cheap seat of $70. Jan wore bright colors with cats all over her outfit, complete with a cat purse and earrings. I wore bright red with a very shaggy long sweater that Stirling hates but really makes me look eccentric. We greeted Sheldon Helms who had saved us seats in the third row aisle (the first two rows were full with Chip's fans). Sheldon had on a lime green dress shirt and is most attractive and tall which makes him stand out even more.

We “friended"anyone that looked at us, lots of smiles and we exchanged stories with anyone that would listen. On my frequent visits to the bathroom I tried to engage anyone that wanted to talk to me. I didn't know who was on staff and who wasn't, so I was always “in character”.

On one of my wanderings I approached the man at the door who turned out to be Chip's right hand person. I was very friendly and a bit scattered (which is just me normal as you all well know) I explained that I was really excited to be here, that I knew I was in the right place because my son Matthew has been appearing to me in dreams the last week or so and so I know he wants to get in touch with me. I asked about private readings and how far out Chip is scheduled (till Christmas was the response) and said that I was worried that Chip would not be able to get a hold of my son Matthew as he was just barely speaking and I don't know if Chip can reach someone that young. (I was assured that Chip has reached stillborn babies). I clearly explained that IF Chip can reach my son Matthew then I will book a private reading so I can get more detail, then again explained that I was really nervous and excited and then sat down with Sheldon and Jan to see that they were having conversations with the people around them.

The first part of Chip's show is a Q&A I guess this is where the event gets the name “Coffey Talk”. There are about 60 people in the first 5 rows with a long aisle running in between them. These people are mostly women, and judging from the questions they asked and the laughter, they have been following Chip on social media, and were very familiar with the shows Chip has been on, Paranormal State and Psychic Kids. They also were familiar with reality TV celebrities in general and I totally lost who he was talking about just smiled and laughed when everyone else laughed.

One time during the Q&A Chip mentioned 9/11. I gave out a loud Ahhh and hugged Jan on my left side. One woman in front of us we had been sharing with looked around at us and told everyone in our rows “She lost her sister in the World Trade Center”. Jan looked like she would cry and about 10 people looked at us and gave Jan a very sympathetic look. Chip could easily have heard all that.

There was a short break where I walked around again smiling at people and trying to engage them in conversation. We sat back down and it was time to see if we were going to catch Chip or not, we were pretty nervous, but I was positive that there was nothing left undone. I pulled out 5x7 photos of “Matthew” and held them in my left hand to my chest facing Chip who was sitting on a small stage very near. He instructed us to keep quiet, not stand up, not wave your hand around and only quietly raise your hand if you wanted to ask a question. He explained that he only wants three things out of us in order to get a hold of the specific spirit you are trying to reach. The name of the person you want to reach, how are they related to you and how long it has been since they passed. I think he said that without this information its too confusing with all the spirits that are trying to speak to him at once. He said that sometimes the spirits come up with some obscure "random shit," why, he does not know as he is just the messenger, we would just have to wait to see what happens.

He first went to a woman wearing a turban who clearly was into doing her own readings. She said she wanted to get in touch with her father. Chip gave her a reading and said “He can be a tough son-of-a-bitch” and that he “loves her”. Her father was easy to “love” but not easy to “like”. She needs to believe more in herself and that her father is proud of her. Then he tells her that the spirits are telling her to start bathing in sea salt. And then he shows her how to wave her arms to get extra energy away from her. He finished up by telling her that her father was a tough guy and he has mellowed on the other side, he doesn't have anything major to tell her except to be herself.

Next up is Judy. Chip wants to know “who is the person who has a drug addition?” Judy volunteers that her son who is still living does. Chip asks if it is alcohol or drugs or both. She answers both and he goes on to ask who is the other person on the other side that medicated themselves with alcohol? Then he asks her if she (Judy) medicates herself with alcohol. She replies “no” Chip says that her son is trying to cover up some shit. The spirits are telling her to “trust herself, believe in yourself”

Next he says that he is going to do a “hop, skip and a jump” and waves his hand over the area we three are sitting in, he says that there is a “older woman that is trying to bring through a child” My heart lept as he called on Sheldon and asked, “Is there someone with a child?” Well duh, I'm only holding up a 5x7 photo of a child. Chip asks, “Whats this about a child, an older woman that is trying to bring through a child that is reluctant to come through?” Sheldon volunteers that he wants to ask about his mother, and Jan says she has a older sister. Then Chip asks a woman behind us if she is looking for an older woman? She responds “I'm looking for a 30 year old man” Chip asks if it had something to do with a murder, accident or suicide (which almost covers everything but illness) Jan jumps in again mentioning that she has a sister that died in 9-11. Chip says he has something for all of us.

I'm going to let you read Sheldon's account of what happened to him at this link. We are all thrilled and hugging onto each other, eagerly nodding our heads and dabbing at our eyes.

Chip moves on to me, he asks me my name and I tell him Susanna, my son is named Matthew and he has been gone 20 years. Chip connects with Matthew right away and tells me that it was really quick and apparently it didn't hurt. Chip wants to know about “feet always moving, what does that mean?” I responded almost in tears that was because Matthew ran in front of a car. The audience ahhhhhh's appropriately at this news. He tells me that "your kid is fine" and that I have a little shrine to which I reply “I have photos”. Then he asks me if I have restless leg syndrome and I laugh and say “yes”. He used an offhand comment throughout the whole show that always guaranteed him a laugh: “I'm psychic and shit." He ends with telling me that Matthew is okay and that he has a plan to see me again someday, even though he was a little boy he has an old soul.

Here is one more unusual statement he makes before he is done with me. He says “you are scared that he won't be there when you get there... you said that right? That you won't be able to connect with him in spirit?” The only person I said anything like this to was Chip's right-hand-man at the door about 30 minutes prior. I had been asking about getting a private reading, that I was worried that Matthew was too young to come through to Chip. Very interesting.

Now we are on to Jan and her sister Linda. Chip tells her “quick, I'm gone. Fuck this. Did it hurt? A little bit, but you know what? I'm okay!” He asked if it was a man she was looking for, Jan tells him that its her older sister. Chip explains that the sister came through with a man, he thinks about it a bit and says that he connected with a man named Aaron years ago and that is the man that “came through with Linda”. That's an interesting coincidence. The two dead people he has connected with that died in the towers just so happen to have “come through together”. Hummm.

Please read Sheldon's blog about what else happened with “Linda” as well as how Chip deals with the young woman whose boyfriend died in a car accident 5 days ago. Sheldon is spot on with his analysis IMO. “Live Fast, Die Young and leave a beautiful corpse” Disgusting. The only thing I want to add that is missing from Sheldon's narrative was that Chip told her that any time she gets any kind of wonky electrical interference that is from her boyfriend that “loved her very much”. Gee I'm sure she isn't going to have any problem moving on with her life thinking that her dead BF is hanging around watching her and making her cell phone act funny.

Next Chip moves on to read for a man. The man wants to get a hold of his father who passed over 4 years ago. Chip said that its a woman that says “Jesus Christ” all the time who wants to come through, “who is that?” The man says it is his mom's mother. He points to his mom who is sitting a couple seats away, so Chip makes her stand up. He asks her her mother's name (Lola) and asks why she is holding up a bottle of Vicks Vapor Rub? He asked who has arthritis? The woman said she herself has some arthritis in part of her hand, and maybe she used Vicks Vapor Rub when they were children? Then she busts out crying. (I know I would be crying also if I just paid $160 to talk to my mom and all she wants to do is tell me to rub some vapor rub on my arthritis) Now that I think about it, my mother (who was born in the 1920s) used Vicks Vapor Rub all the time, maybe Chip was getting a hold of my mom? Or maybe he was contacting most of the mothers and grandmothers of everyone in the room as I'm sure Vicks Vapor Rub was commonly used by a certain era of people? Anyway he goes on about how Lola keeps saying “my baby” it turns out that the woman is the oldest of 3 sisters and does not know why the mother is referring to her as a baby. Chip explains that by saying that the other younger sisters are not at the event right then so they don't count.

Now Chip moved back to the original person who wanted to know about his father (Larry). Chip asks the man “why do you have regrets? There is no reason to have regrets”. The man said that he feels horrible that he was the one that made the final decision, I'm assuming that this means that he had to tell the doctors to pull the plug on his father. I would not be surprised if Chip does not get this all the time, I'm sure lots of people are guilt-ridden to be responsible for that decision. Chip informs him that his father is not mad at him, that there was nothing else to do. And that he is happy and loves him, this man is red-faced and openly crying, I'm embarrassed to even look at the man. (For entertainment only is what is written on Chip's website and I'm cringing thinking about that, I'm sure the entire room was “entertained” maybe it means for Chip's entertainment only?) Chip tells him “when they pulled the plug or turned off the machine or whatever they did... “ Doesn't Chip know?

He finishes off with this man asking “is he the one with change in his pocket?” We all know someone that puts their hand in their pocket and jiggles change right? Well this man gets really excited and says that was my father's twin brother! I felt sure that this man would go home remembering that Chip got his uncle as well as his father and grandmother. But he didn't, he just threw some common statement out there and HE made the connection to a family member. Something that will surely be garbled as if in a game of telephone once this story gets repeated.

And that was about it with the readings from dead people. The rest were questions about having more children, am I in the right occupation and questions like that. Sheldon has already told you about the woman whose husband needed a liver transplant. She asked if she should take him out of California or not. Chip asked her where she wanted to take him? She replied “Texas” Chip got really excited and said, “That's exactly what I was going to say”. Really? Then why didn't you say it? She said she would make the arrangements right away because Chip said so. This is the same woman who was going to see Chip a couple days from this event in Sacramento. She said she is a major fan and will probably again sit in the front rows with her VIP pass. No idea if Chip will read her again or not? Maybe he will remember her story? I don't know, I'm not psychic.

So here we come to the end of a VERY long recounting of our project and our adventure at Coffey Talk. Trust me, it was very difficult to sit through all this taking copious notes. We had others in the audience doing the same, it was grueling and we were so excited when he called on us, the tears I sprouted were real. It also meant that would be able to leave after taking our photo with Chip and did not have to stay for the ghost hunting part. Wonderful.

The Q&A session the first hour was excruciating, he says he believes in shadow-people, reincarnation, aliens, ghosts, demons, angels, alternative universes and anything else people would come up with. Do I think he actually believes any of this. In my opinion I don't think so. But his audience does, they were falling over themselves dripping in woo, it was frankly not entertainment for me, it was beyond difficult to sit there nodding my head.

So here is my report, enjoy it if you can, write to me if you want to continue what we have already done, I'll gladly offer my methods for SERIOUS inquirers, and only to KNOWN skeptics. I'm just a bit paranoid, but then again “I'm not psychic and shit”.

TLDR: We did a sting on Chip Coffey last week in two locations, Los Angeles and San Jose, CA. The story above is more detail of why we did it, how we did it and what happened. 

For the curious where Chip will be next, here is his tour schedule.

For those who can't get enough of this story I will be adding links to where you can learn more here...

Skeptic Zone podcast - Sept 28, 2014 (listen at 33:00)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What you can do to fight the Woo - Slides and Ideas

THIS is a Work in PRogress - Check back for updates

These are the slides I used for my TAM 2014 presentation "What you can do to Fight the Woo"

I'm embellishing the slides with my comments as well as the contact info for each idea.

The video of the conference lecture is here as well, but because of limited time (and my brain being fuzzy after so many days of TAM) it might be clearer to just read what I wrote.  

I had to leave a lot out of the lecture, but because this is my blog and space isn't an problem I have added a lot of other ideas and links below.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of things.  Some are projects others have already started, some are abandoned and others are just ideas I would love to see become yours.  Some are crowd-sourced like GSoW and Skeptic Action.  Others are single person (or just a few people) projects

One more thing, these ideas are just that, ideas.  I'm hoping that maybe throwing out a long list like this will get the gears turning in your brain and maybe one of these will make you think of something else and who knows, you might just come up with an amazing plan and we can (dare I say it) Change the World (insert Bill Nye's evil laugh here)

As usual if you have any questions, or would like feedback on your idea(s) please write to me at or comment here for all to see. 

 I would strongly suggest that anyone interested in skeptical activism they should subscribe to Tim Farley's blog.  He has all the tools that you need to make your project a success.

Obviously I'm going to tell you that the single best investment of your time to educate the world is to join GSoW.  We are rewriting the 6th (some say 5th biggest resource) in the World and we badly need editors.  But this isn't a project for everyone, you would be joining a strong team of like-minded people all focused on this task, you would also be joining a private forum, be given training and projects to complete. For some people learning how to edit may be a high learning curve.  This is not the project for people who have trouble finishing projects, or taking direction.  At the bottom of this blog I will have other ways to help out GSoW without becoming a member.
This project based on feedback from TAM will be going through a re-vamp.  I am always looking for persons to help me with this project.  Already I have two people (thanks Amanda & Steve) that look for daily targets for me.  But we are going to expand it even further once I get a little more help.

I am also looking for someone to run this project in other languages.  That person might be you. Please get in touch. 

From what I understand this is a UK invention that is rarely used. The owner grew frustrated with us not using it and I think it is still usable but not publicized. It took me about 30 minutes to set up all the templates for myself, but once those are set up it is easy to use.  In a nutshell what Fishbarrel does is for when you find a website that is making medical claims, you copy paste bits of the website into a form document and hit send.  This will go to the FDA (if you are in the US) and other places if you are not. They have to act on the information from what I understand. 

I wanted to run this along with the Skeptic Action project but have not given it the attention it deserves. I would love to have someone take this on so we can use it to its full potential.

Kitty Mervine is one of my favorite people.  She started this website a few years ago and I believe the site has become dormant.  I would love to see this started up again (hopefully with the over site of Kitty) It is badly needed.  Kitty is very kind and reminds us that we skeptics should not make fun of people who believe they are abducted by space aliens (as opposed to being abducted by Canadians or something I guess) To most of these people, it is a very frightening experience, and very real.  Kitty engages them and tries to get them to seek out medical attention (real medical attention).  In several cases people have told Kitty what medications they are using and Kitty was able to kindly suggest that some of these medications might be the source of the "visitations" and to please discuss this with their doctors.  She has had several people write to her, thanking her for her kindness and in fact it was conflicts between meds that were the problem.  

Anyway, I would love to see this site going again.  But only with kindness and caution.  

Another creative project by Kitty Mervine. She found this very talented artist Noah Whippie who has helped her put a spin on some old fables.  

One more thing.  If you have read this book and enjoyed it, please review it on Amazon and other book review places. We need to support our people and our projects. Today would be terrific. 

This is a fun new direction for skepticism.  Jeff Wagg wants to focus on getting people curious about science and I think he might be on to something, I'm very curious what he will do with this project. It might be a backdoor approach to getting people away from the negativity associated with skepticism and onto the joys of scientific discovery.  I'm sure Jeff can use some support and volunteers as he continues to grow this project.  Write to him care of the website. One more thing, Jeff Wagg is an expert tour guide, if you can manage to find the time and money to go on one of his cruises, you will have a blast.  Trust me on this. 

I love love love this project.  Started by the Merseyside Skeptics it was a terrific fun event that had wonderful potential to appeal beyond the choir.  I know many skeptics who had almost no knowledge of homeopathy before hearing about the 10:23 campaign.  

I have talked to the Merseyside Skeptics about continuing this campaign and they have decided that it has run its course and they are moving on to other things.  I politely disagree and think that there is more potential if the right person(s) got behind it and gave it a fresh start. Are you possibly the one who can take this on and get it on the nightly news?  CNN maybe?  

The photo above was one I took at SkeptiCal in 2011, the largest mass overdose every done.  Remember that not all homeopathic products are all water, use caution when overdosing. In the above case, the organizers Jerry Schwarz, Leonard Tramiel & Jay Diamond worked up their own batch of homeopathy. 

This was an idea Bob Blaskiewicz mentioned. Kinda of like Robert Lancaster's Stop Kaz or Stop Sylvia sites.  Something with well researched articles, maybe written by a medical student? 

Then a couple days ago I ran across this article.  Looks like someone is taking a new approach and maybe just needs some focus on how to implement this.

Love Lanryd!  Tim Farley is the one that turned me on to this, GSoW uses this site all the time.  You don't have to own the content to add it to this site.  This makes it so much easier to follow conferences.  Also nice if you know people are taking photos at events and you don't know where to find the photos later, just check this one stop site.

You know how at the end of podcasts they ask you to review them on iTunes?  Well it turns out they mean it.  We can really get beyond the choir when we build up the reviews and shares of a podcast.  GSoW has a podcast project where we are using podcast interviews for citations on Wikipedia.  In this way we are improving WP and also giving publicity to the podcast.  

I would love to see a project that somehow gets our community to mass rate podcasts.  Maybe twice a year (when the clocks change) someone could come up with a social media campaign to encourage rating favorite podcasts.  I'd really get behind this. 

Pamela Gay's project.  This isn't about skepticism, but about getting people excited about doing science.  But I'm all for that as well. Nathan Miller from GSoW has done his magic by creating a WP page for Gay, he also got it featured on the front page of WP for 8 hours, increasing her traffic.  

What a terrific idea, lets double NASA's budget.  Neil deGrasse Tyson thinks so, and I agree with whatever Tyson thinks.  This project has a take action area and I'm sure they will keep you plenty busy if you are interested.  GSoW has also done with it can to help publicize this project, GSoW team leader Nathan Miller added a mention onto Tyson's WP page, and then just in time for the release of Cosmos, Nathan launched a brand new WP page for Penny4NASA.  That page was receiving over 1,000 views a month when Cosmos was on the air. 

From my friend Shane Trimmer I bring you Franklin's List.  Something I really wish I had the money to back.  But it isn't only about the money, I'm sure they can use volunteers and of course people willing to run for office.   I've heard that one of the most important election you should pay attention to is your local school board. 

This is a most amazing project hurled from the loins of Wendy Hughes and Jarrett Kaufman as a Independent Investigation Group project.  They created it as a back door to talk about science, statistics and skepticism in a fun general way.  I love the stories and their podlet on Skepticality.  Jarrett has since left the project and has been replaced by John Rael from Skeptically Pwnd

This is a great site to share with your friends, family and co-workers.  Especially those people you really want to have that difficult conversation with but you don't know how to go about challenging their odd beliefs.  Start with this site and the conversations will evolve around solid scientific claims for evidence, and move to the topic you really wanted to discuss.  

Anyway, this project needs to move out of our choir and into the bigger world.  If you have a way to make that happen, please get in touch with TOMBC people.  They are also always looking for more stories, so please submit via their website or twitter.

I recently met Brad Levin at the QED conference this last April.  He impressed me with his knowledge and passion for these Woodstock like events.  He has run several in the past and thinks its time to organize one for Freethinkers.  He is looking to have this one in England, summer 2015.  He is in need of volunteers to help out.  If this is your thing, please get in contact with him via their website

What a great idea, and a great way to get beyond the choir.  Possibly Sharon Hill needs your help, maybe not.  But I'm mentioning this project here on this blog because I think that her site can be inspirational for ideas of things that need to be done.  Subscribe for a daily dose of rationality and maybe the next great activism project will come to you. Doubtful News 

In fact just this morning Sharon Hill released this bit of news, real life has hit and she is going to be cutting back on the site unless volunteers step up, is that you?

Here is an idea by the Edinburgh Skeptic's Ash Pryce. A lot of historic towns have ghost tours.  Maybe your skeptic group can run a ghost busted tour which gives the REAL history of the town?  Wouldn't that be nice for a change.  BTW the Edinburgh Skeptic Wikipedia page was written by Julie from GSoW last year. 

So this might not be the thing for everyone, but obviously it is the thing for some people.  Stirling got me to do one of these protests on his birthday a few years ago.  It was a lot of fun and I got some great photos (I didn't take this one though)  For news on Scientology you need to subscribe to Tony Ortega's daily blog.  I look forward to it every morning.  Occasionally there are activism ideas as well as the history and stories about Scientology.   I believe Ortega's readers and Anonymous were able to shut down a eager Scientologist that was leaving ads all over Craig's list.  Plus there is some terrific HoneyBadger undercover work going on behind the scenes that can be used in other areas.  Psychics and medical quacks beware. 

Everyone loves this project every time I link to it.  My friend Truckee Lynch has been working on this card deck for a couple years and every time I talk to him he seems to be almost done.  I'm super excited for this to come out, the art is fun and useful.  I don't think Truckee needs volunteers for this project, but I mention it here as it is a great way to bring art and skepticism together and possibly reach outside our community.  This might just inspire you to think of another avenue of activism. Logical Fallacy Tarot website 

Monterey County Skeptics Glenn and Kathy are working on a program for school children to visit Glenn's family Christmas Tree Farm.  They will focus on ecology and of course, evolution.  You might not have access to a Christmas tree farm, but maybe you have other skills and/or access to places that children might visit where you can introduce science topics?  Farms, gardens, fishing businesses... do you work for the mosquito abatement department in your town?  Mosquitos would be an excellent way to talk about evolution and resistance to pesticides, you get the idea I hope.  

Science Festivals happen in lots of cities or universities.  Why not add on the Skeptic lectures?  Edinburgh Skeptics added on several skeptic lectures to the city-wide science festival held every April, I know because I attended one when I was there a few months ago.  They also have a skeptic "track" for the month long Edinburgh Arts festival.  They set up a skeptic lecture every night for the whole month.  That is fantastic and a great way to piggy-back on the excitement the city is already pushing.  Here is the website for the Arts festival.

Reserve your local library and show a science movie.  Maybe not Cosmos as it is copyrighted, but how about this one?  Here be Dragons - by Brian Dunning or any of his other awesome In Fact videos.  Maybe a whole series of homeopathy (or other topic) videos shown at your public library.  Why not, you might get some interest, you might get some homeopaths, you might even find like-minded skeptics that you can hang out with.  

Call or visit your local schools and see if there is any need for volunteers for science clubs, they may need mentors, or someone who will come in once a month and set up experiments.  Or maybe they want judges for the local science fair.  Possibly they would want someone to help with a class that is trying to get things ready for science camp.  I've met a ton of you people that are reading this blog right now.  You all are a very talented bunch of people.  Some of you are very hands-on and would be terrific working with children, inspiring them to achieve and love science.  Sometimes all a child needs is a mentor, I sure as heck didn't have one growing up and it would have made a world of difference to me.  

Call the local vaccine clinic in your area.  Same with the American Red Cross.  They may have handouts or flyers that you can give out at your workplace, or to your local skeptic's group.  Maybe your skeptic's group could sponsor a blood drive in your area? Ask them what their needs are and see if your group can help them out.  

Do you have a telescope and know how to use it?  You don't have to have anything fancy but if you can volunteer to set it up after some parent/student function that happens at night and just let the kids take a good look at the moon, that would be another avenue to bringing a love of science to people.  And it will make you feel great. 

Do you have extra money?  Even a few dollars a month can really help out.  That is when you and you and you and you all donate.  Face it, we skeptics don't really like to donate money, it reminds us of church tithing. But it is really important to keep organizations, podcasts, videos and all kinds of projects functioning. (not GSoW or Skeptic Action, we might be the only group out there that does not need money)

Micro payments really help out, I am now giving to 4 of my favorite skeptic projects.  It is just a little but it sure adds up when combined with others.  

Frequent Flyer Miles - some of you out there have a ton of them.  Why not sponsor a speaker you would like to see at your local conference?  Or use them as a scholarship for people trying to get to a conference? I would love to see someone figure out a way to get frequent flyer miles all gathered together for one use.  I have some that are with an airline that I will probably never fly again, my friend Nix told me he has bits all over the place and they are always expiring. Can someone figure out how to make sure these don't get lost?  Call the project Skeptic Miles. 

As I mentioned above, there are a lot of talented people in this community.  Lots of audio, web, graphic arts, music and everything in between skills just waiting for people to ask for their help.  Maybe someone can come up with a kind of repository of emails of people with skills that are willing to help out on a project?  I know that Kyle Saunders from Carbon Dating drew me a awesome piece of art for the GSoW project. (See above) Sarah Mayhew has often used her artistic skills to help fund-raise for conference scholarships.  She has given artwork to one of my favorite podcasts, Virtual Skeptics.  (BTW GSoW wrote the WP page for Sarah Mayhew)

Music talent in this community is also awesome.  Brian Keith Dalton has helped out several podcasts with original music, The Odds Must be Crazy and Oh No Ross and Carrie come to mind. Greg Perrine from the Skeptic Wire podcast has some charming songs here.  Make sure you ask him when he is going to record my favorite song he does about bigfoot.  We can't make the above do all the work, maybe someone can gather up names for music and art and put it together in a usable way for all of us non-artists to use.

Note: Here is another suggestion for free music (if you ask permission that is)

This is an action that one of my friends Gary Goldberg took when he saw his newspaper include a Red Plum advertisement for a homeopathic flu vaccine called oscillococcinum.  Gary wrote to the advertisers who actually wrote back. They thanked him and said they would talk to someone else and it has been 6 months and Gary said they haven't advertised again.  Sometimes it is just that simple folks. 

Gary also saw this advert in his newspaper and contacted Washington Post and made them aware of this ad.  The Post has since run a "correction" stating that the doctors mentioned in the lower part of the ad will not actually be present.  

Not all of us have the skill or the nerve to be Mark Edward.  Here he is with Theresa Caputo who didn't know that Mark is a upper case SKEPTIC nor that the picture he is wearing on his shirt is not of his dead son, but of his very living son.  She told Mark, that his son was a special soul. Just this photo of her with Mark is very telling... 

But if you hate the grief vampires as much as Mark and I do and want to get involved, here are a few ideas from Mark's brain. 

Your going to love this story that Mark wrote up for his blog. ABC has a medium on staff. And the follow-up piece you are just going to love.  Thank you Ramon Volz for stepping up and "getting it".  I could re-read Ramon's letter every day for a year and still smile. 

Mark has some advise for all over us.  Psychics on stage are PERFORMERS.  Shake then up a bit and it will completely change their performance. How can you do this without getting thrown out?  Laugh.  Laugh long and loud every time there is a mistake or something obvious is said by the performer. Go with a group of skeptics and sit mixed up in the audience so that the laughter is coming from all over the place.  They can't throw you out for laughing. But it might keep the grief vampire from visiting your city again.

Are you local?  If you are, please help out those that will be visiting your local skeptic conference. Where to eat, what the weather is really like, places to see outside of the conference hours.  You don't have to act as a tour guide (unless you want to) but getting more information out there is very welcome to new conference attendees.  TAM might be the exception but CFI has recently held conferences in New Orleans, Nashville and Tacoma.  I just got back from QED in Manchester, England and welcomed all the advice that was given to me about bus schedules, money exchanging and all sorts of things.  A couple of you even stepped up and acted as a tour guide around Scotland, thank you so much for making the conference all that much more.  Now we need others to do the same. 

Here is a little fun project that I would love to see happen.  I'm sure there are travelers out there reading this.  I know there are books about finding odd places, road side attractions I think they are called.  But I'm thinking more of someone taking Tim Farley's "this day in skeptic history" posts and mapping them out.  And I mean just that.  Adding skeptic history and odd bits of places skeptics should visit to a interactive Google (or like) map.  This would probably need to be a project started by one person with some great web skills and then crowd-sourced to many people who can help add content.  I would love to see this, and know lots others that would love it as well. 

Where I live in Monterey County, I didn't know that in the next county over, Santa Cruz there is a Mystery Spot and down the street from that a Bigfoot Museum.  Both places a skeptic should be checking out.  Can you say Road Trip!

This next suggestion is a bit more select.  In the above case, Tom Flynn (another GSoW page rewrite) just so happens to live near the Ingersoll Birthplace, and Ingersoll just so happens to be a hero to Flynn.  But if you are in the right place with the right history, you might be the perfect person to fight to save that history.  Tom is doing just that and what an effort it has been to keep that building in shape. That area of New York isn't known for having mild weather.  Here is the birthplace museum Wikipedia page (yep another GSoW rewrite)

The lower home photo is preserved because of the care of the Oregonians for Science and Reason group. This is the Castle of Chaos home of Jerry Andrus. (and yet another WP page rewrite by GSoW)

Here is another great project idea by GSoW team leader Nathan Miller.  You know how various skeptic groups have that "donate" button on their website?  Some link to Amazon.  All you have to do when you are purchasing something (anything) from Amazon is to first click on that donate button and it will take you directly to Amazon where you can sign in and make your purchase.  Everything you buy will give a percent to the website you entered through.  It isn't a lot of money, but it is money.  What Nathan is trying to do is to make it possible for you to download a plugin so that whenever you go to Amazon it will go through one of these sites (of your choosing) even when you forget to click on the donate link.  

He was trying to set it up so that you could pick a few different groups, even rotate the groups, or randomize them.  There were a lot of technical problems he came up against, but I think they were all workable, he just got busy with other projects.  I love this idea, I think we are leaving a lot of money to waste by not remembering to first go to the donate page.  It is only a couple clicks more and you could be helping out a group or podcast or organization by completing your purchase on Amazon.  If you would like to know more or help Nathan out, please contact us at

I've been involved in this awesome CFI sponsored group for about 5 years now.  I could talk for hours about all the things they have done and are doing to fight the woo.  But this blog is long enough as it is.  Visit their website for more information.  And remember that this group does what projects its members want to focus on.  So if you have a pet project or are maybe inspired by something here on this blog but don't want to do it alone, you might try your local IIG for assistance. 

For the crafty ones among us.  There are many fundraising avenues just waiting to be organized.  The JREF forum all through the year auctions items off for scholarships to TAM.  I'm sure other organizations can start their own fundraisers. We seem to have a very talented group of knitters in our community.  Maybe we can take that talent and use it for donations or fundraising?  Here is yet another idea from my friend Kitty Mervine, it isn't fighting the woo, but it does fight the cold.  Here is a article about her alien hats. Kitty knitted me a Flying Spaghetti Monster hat many years ago that I just love.  These might be a blast for fundraising.  

Don't forget that your local skeptic's group might want to bring awareness to your group by sponsoring a team in your cities Run or Walk-a-Thons.

Being sued by Woo - Here is a website just for you.  What to do, who to contact and how to get money to help you out.  Where is the link to this amazing idea?  Sorry, it has not been started yet, just waiting for the right person to get the ball rolling.

As the JREF and CFI roll out the teaching guides, we need someone to coordinate to make sure to reach out to all the schools. 

To bring up conference attendance I think it would be a great idea if one person would coordinate an outreach effort to all schools and science clubs within a hours drive of the conference.  Educate them about the conference, try to run scholarships for attendees.  Possibly encourage one or more of the speakers to arrive a day early (or stay a day longer) and speak at the school or club.  Talk to the professors and teachers in the science areas and make sure they know about the conference.  Get that person a ticket (if only a day pass) and hopefully we can get them as partners the following year.  Offer extra credit to the students if they attend.  Some of our conferences are held in the summer months, but not all of them are.  This is a win win for our community and for those that should be attending, it is just waiting for someone to coordinate and make it happen.  Is that you?    

Don't recycle those old skeptic/science magazines.  Take them to work and leave them in the break room.  Leave them at your automotive waiting room.  Your doctors office as well.  Just get them into the hands of other people who might never run across them.  Monterey County Skeptics has a book trading party every few months.  Nothing formal, just people bring their old magazines and books and others borrow them. 

Let me take a few minutes and talk about Skeptic Love.  This is a small project that I think we should keep in mind as we navigate in our community.  We need to remember that we are all about the people.  People want to be thanked, they want to be appreciated and they want to meet like-minded others.  Skeptic's in the Pub events are an amazing place to network and socialize with other skeptics.  Monterey County skeptics is purely a social group with the main goal to bond with and provide support to others in our community, and I mean everyone, no exclusions.  

If there aren't skeptic's in the pub events in your area, then consider starting one. You might be the only person to attend, but then maybe not.  Meet-up, Facebook, Twitter, local newspapers, Yahoo Groups all exist for the sole purpose to help you find people that will attend your SitP event. (trust me, I know this)

If there is a event in your area. Attend it.  RSVP's are wonderful and courteous.  Please thank your organizer, buy them a drink or help pay for his/her meal once in awhile.  These people aren't doing this for the fame or the money, if you enjoyed yourself make sure they know this.  

We have a few great places that already review our books.  Skeptic Magazine and Skeptical Inquirer (the JREF forum as well) offer scholarly reviews.  But what about getting to the general public, you know move beyond the choir.  If you have read a book by one of our spokespeople and have something to say about it, please review it on Amazon (or whatever review site you use).  This means a lot to our authors, and it really does help spread our books out into the world.  By all means share that review in your social circle, a couple clicks on Amazon should allow you to do that.  Our authors aren't getting rich from these books, and helping out with sales keeps them researching and writing more. 

I would love for someone to find a way to make this kind of thing more commonly done.  Some kind of reminder to always take the time to write a review.  A media campaign that focuses on our community?  Maybe like the "rate a podcast on iTunes" project I mentioned earlier?  Lots of our podcasts interview authors all the time, can we add these interviews to places where other people will see them?  Like maybe on a reviewing site like Amazon?  I don't think they allow URL's but there are ways to get around that, we are clever people.  GSoW already has several podcast spreadsheets with every episode listed.  We use this for backwards edit training.  Every podcast that has an interview segment will get gleaned for quotes to use on that interviewee's Wikipedia page.  We have already done hundreds of these backwards edits.  Thousands remain to be done.

At the CFI Summit I attended Oct 2013 this kept coming up.  Make sure you pay attention to who is running for your school board.  Your vote will have a much bigger impact than your vote on a presidential election. School boards can create a lot of craziness when the wrong people get elected.  So pay attention, vote and possibly maybe run for office yourself.  

Here's a great idea.  Become an expert on something.  Robert Lancaster started out with he didn't know who this woman was, just someone that came to his mom's church and made some really odd claims.  He became an expert on her.  Next up Sylvia Browne, he was kind and detailed. No ad hominen attacks, just straight up articles.  

Ron Tebo