If you wrote me off, I’d understand it, ’cause I’ve been on some other planet.

Sure is quiet around here.

Okay, so real life has intervened. Big time, actually. When I’m not working (which is becoming a smaller and smaller slice of the pie chart of my time), I’m filling out applications or driving to work or interviews for more work. When I’m not doing all that, I’m reading through Miller & Levine’s Biology textbook, studying for a standardized test I’m taking in a few weeks (and I’ve only barely cracked the Chemistry textbook I also want to read for the same day of testing). My time for blogging has been almost nonexistent…I’ve got half-written posts in the wings that have sat dormant for a month or more, and I’ve got topical posts that won’t be topical anymore by the time I decide to actually write them. That, and I’m trying to finish a review or three for the other blogs before I get to any other posts.

Oh, and this blog got flagged as spam by Blogger’s robots, which kept me from editing or posting anything for the last couple of days. Fun fun. I was going to do an “eat my ass out with a spork” post to whoever flagged me, but apparently it was automatic, so I guess I can just aim my ire at whoever designed the automated system so that it doesn’t send an e-mail out to tell you when you can start posting again.

All of which has led to me not only failing to keep up with this blog, but also failing to keep up with the rest of the skeptical blogohedron. I read most of Pharyngula’s output, but after that, it’s kind of a crap shoot. I haven’t done anything for the skeptics’ panel, even though I’ve got ideas and I’ve gotten Akusai’s recent request for assistance. My schedule will be opening up considerably (I think) after July 11th (a day which I have quadruple-booked), so I hope to be on like Khan around that time.

One thing I’d like to mention briefly before I go dormant for a week or so again–the recent spate of celebrity deaths have brought up the “these things happen in threes” canard into the public discourse again. It’s a trivial bit of irrationality, and it probably doesn’t do any harm, but it bugs me because it’s a symptom of a lot of other forms of fallacious thinking. First, the idea is ill-defined: what constitutes a “celebrity death” or “tragedy” (depending on which statement is used) is completely arbitrary, and there’s no time limit on the grouping. This is predictions 101: if you don’t attach a time limit, it’s much more likely to come true.

You know, I thought this string of deaths would be enough to dispel that myth altogether–as far as newsworthy celebrity deaths, Michael Jackson was the fourth in a relatively short time, following David Carradine, Ed McMahon, and Farrah Fawcett. Billy Mays followed a day or three later. I was reminded of Monty Python’s King Arthur–“These things come in fives–” “Three, sir!” “–threes!”

But I must remember never to underestimate the power of people to select and justify the patterns they find in random noise. Which is all this is, when you get right down to it. I mean, take a look at Wikipedia’s list of recent deaths, and tell me exactly what pattern of threes you can find there. It’s just a sort of pareidolia, tracing out familiar patterns where none really exist. It imposes a sort of control over the world, a sense that the believer understands the secret rules that govern traumatic events. It’s compelling–I know I bought into it at one point–because it’s ultimately comforting. As bad as it is to lose three beloved celebrities, if you know how many to expect, then you know when to stop worrying, stop mourning (inasmuch as anyone mourns celebrities). After the third one dies, you can breathe that little sigh of relief, knowing that no other famous people are going to die for awhile–and being utterly wrong.

So, that’s it for now. Hopefully it won’t be too long before the next post.

Oh, and while I’m thinking about it, I want to give a hearty welcome back to Rockstar Ryan. You should do the same. It’ll remind you that my occasional absences are, by comparison, quite brief.

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3 Responses to If you wrote me off, I’d understand it, ’cause I’ve been on some other planet.

  1. GDad says:

    And then, soon after you wrote that, Karl Malden died unexpectedly at age 97. Your post must've jinxed him, because you pointed out that there were five, and we needed one more to make two groups of three.

  2. Yossarian says:

    Good luck on the MCAT.

  3. Doubting Tom says:

    GDad: First, Karl Malden died before I posted that, by at least a few hours. Since then, we've also lost Robert McNamara. So we must be on a third set of three, then…maybe these things happen in threes of threes! Or in perfect squares! Also, once you hit 97, I don't think you can reasonably claim an unexpected death. By that point, you should be expecting it.Yossarian: I certainly would need good luck if I were taking the MCAT–and I suspect that I wouldn't be studying with introductory-level Biology and Chemistry textbooks. No, I'm just adding some endorsements to my teaching certificate, nothing quite so Earth-shattering. Especially since it looks like the tests are actually going to be less advanced than I feared.

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