Review: Ankylosaur Attack

August 15, 2011

It’s hopeless for me to write an unbiased review about the book Ankylosaur Attack. Primarily, because it’s written by one of my favorite skeptics, Daniel Loxton, but also because it features my favorite dinosaur, the durable battle-armored ankylosaurus.

For those who are unfamiliar with Daniel Loxton, he’s the author/editor of the Junior Skeptic column in the back of Skeptic magazine. Junior Skeptic really stands out as a brilliant, gorgeously illustrated introduction to the scientific analysis of fringe ideas such as psychics, fairies, and mythical monsters. I can’t imagine anyone else that I would trust to be as accurate about relaying scientific information to children as Daniel Loxton, and I certainly can’t imagine anyone else who could translate that accuracy into such clever illustrations.

Daniel Loxton is also the author of the truly awesome book Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came To Be, a primer for kids on the subject of natural selection. There was a bit of a pseudo-controversy surrounding Daniel’s advice to young readers that questions about religion be directed toward pastors and parents, but I firmly agree with Daniel that the topic deserved to be addressed in a respectful way. Often, non-believers shoot themselves in the foot by insinuating that atheism be the key to opening the door to science; that kind of hard-lined attitude makes people of faith feel unwelcome in the wonderful world of natural discovery and scientific knowledge. Kudos to Loxton for making science accessible to EVERYONE, as it should be.

Ankylosaur Attack is a deviation from Daniel Loxton’s previous books because it is prehistoric fiction. It offers the story of a young ankylosaur being attacked by a hungry t-rex looking for a snack. The rendered graphics are phenomenal and really help stimulate the imagination with attention to detail and lighting. The plot is simple enough for younger readers, but also helps stimulate discussion for older readers about defensive and offensive genetic traits that have evolved in dinosaurs. What do ankylosaurs and turtles have in common? If you were a predator how would you try to eat them? Isn’t awesome that this extinct animal had an armored back to defend against attacks and also a cannonball whip for a tail?

Ankylosaur Attack is the first of a series of prehistoric fiction. I look forward to the rest in the Tales of Prehistoric Life series.

As an added aside, in honor of our local museum’s life-sized model ankylosaur, I decided to donate a copy of Ankylosaur Attack to the dinosaur library at Cincinnati Museum Center. It was tempting to keep the book for my daughters (pictured above), but I thought that it would be better served as a resource for other kids visiting the museum. So, here’s a photo of the book at Cincinnati Museum Center’s dinosaur library. Hope the museum visitors enjoy it as much as my kids!


ANNOUNCING: Parenting Within Reason

October 5, 2010

The co-hosts of Podcast Beyond Belief would like to invite you to the next phase of our efforts… “Parenting Within Reason

We’ve decided to rebrand our podcast as “Parenting Within Reason” to better identify ourselves as a resource for freethinking parents. We are still the official podcast of Foundation Beyond Belief, but we’re hoping that the new name will be more accurate and descriptive of our content, and more welcoming to a wider spectrum of parents.

Hopefully, you’ll like the improvements we’ve made to the show. We have a new surf rock inspired theme song, musical bumpers in between segments, and finally, voice overs from our “Voice of Reason”, Mr. George Hrab.

We’re also spicing things up with weekly guest co-hosts – eventually, we’ll discuss whether we’d like to invite someone new to the show. Please let us know if you would like to participate, or if you have a favorite.

Our new podcast name does not require you to resubscribe. We’ll be using the same feed and starting with episode 30. Our first guest will be Kate Miller of Charlie’s Playhouse and our first guest co-host will be Mike Meraz of the Actually Speaking podcast.

You can visit our feed page at… http://parentingwithinreason.com

Episode 30 was just published!

Part of this rebrand is an effort to maintain a higher standard of ethical integrity. We’ve received complaints in the past that we include too many anecdotes and not enough facts. Admittedly, we use the science reporting merely as a spring board for discussion, and none of us are actually scientists (nor ever claimed to be), but we do our best as busy parents to contact original sources and explore all angles of the research.

We welcome corrections, and we encourage dialogue and communication about anything we may have misinterpreted. Please let us know. We read every letter.

You can write us at pwrpodcast@gmail.com

Please subscribe to the new “Parenting Within Reason” facebook page. This allows us to send you updates to our latest episodes, news about our previous guests, videos, links, etc. Plus, we’ll start using the discussion page for anyone who wants to talk about the latest episode or ask questions. The original PBB page will be deleted toward the end of the week.

Thanks again for listening. We work really hard on this podcast with very little time in our busy schedules as parents. It means a lot to know that people subscribe and enjoy the show.


By the power of Dragoncon! I HAVE THE POWER!!!

August 30, 2010

In two days, I’ll be driving down to Atlanta with Rob and Laurie Tarr. I’m sure we’ll be geeking about the nerd buffet that will be waiting for us in Dixie. This year, I’ll be wearing a costume…

I used to be a big GIJOE fan in my younger years, so I thought I’d put my nostalgia on display for all to see. Wish me luck that I don’t get tackled by law enforcement toting my submachine gun around the city.

I’m also going to be proudly displaying a new shirt that I designed (available for sale on Zazzle).

I support Phil Plait’s message that better science communication comes from less sarcasm, less name calling, and less insults. Basically, don’t be a d***! I’ve personally seen people turn away from my message when I’ve gotten snarky in articles I’ve written in the past. I’m not saying I’m a perfect example of a nice skeptic, but I strive to be a better communicator than I’ve been in the past. So, sign me up for Phil’s team… oh, and go check out his new Discovery Channel show, BAD UNIVERSE. The first episode aired last night, and in this clip, he makes a dirty comet just like we learned on Podcast Beyond Belief from Nicole Gugliucci on a recent episode…

Podcast Beyond Belief will be recording our live episode on Saturday night at the Hilton. We’ll have three special guests to talk about our most common areas of interest on the podcast. On the subject of atheism/secular-humanism, we’ll be bringing back our blogfather, Mr. Dale McGowan. On the subject of health/medicine, we’ll be talking to Shorty Award Winning Australian, Dr. Rachie Dunlop. And on the subject of skepticism and education, we’ll be talking to the amiable Australian, Ms. Kylie Sturgess.

For those who can’t attend, the skeptic track will be live-streaming some of the panels. Unfortunately, Podcast Beyond Belief will not be streamed because we are guests on the podcast track, so you’ll have to wait to listen to the actual episode when it’s published. However, we’ve been given permission to record two panels that are relevant to our listeners… “Raising Skeptical Geeks” (featuring Adam Savage from Mythbusters) and “Skepticism in the Classroom”. So, when those episodes are published, just listen to them with your eyes closed, picturing yourself surrounded by steampunkers, superheroes, and fairies.

See you at the con! And if you see a grey camouflaged saboteur – say hello.


GENCON & DRACONCON

August 4, 2010

Anyone reading this in the Indianapolis area can see me give my two presentations tomorrow at Gencon, a gaming convention with a grassroots skeptic presence. I’ll be speaking about the origin of modern monsters ancient creature myths and how they might have entered our collective consciousness. I’ll also be giving my inside perspective on acupuncture – I will bring real props and everything!

You can also see me, along with the other co-hosts of Podcast Beyond Belief, at this year’s Dragoncon! In fact, we are going to be recording a live episode for the podcast track, featuring special guests, such as our mentor, Mr. Dale McGowan. We’re very honored and excited to have the podcast be included in this year’s schedule. It was only a year ago at Dragoncon that we dared to mention the idea of creating a podcast for skeptics and parents. A year later, and we are fast approaching 25 episodes, so we’ve come a long way since then!

Some of us will also be in attendance at the Star Party, supporting their fundraiser for cancer research in honor of Jeff Medkeff. Be sure to watch for us there!

And to top it off, we plan to have a skeptical parent meet-up at a bar again this year. Dale McGowan should be with us for that, and we’ll provide details later.


Merger: Science-Based Parenting and Rational Moms

July 31, 2010

This blog started several years ago under it’s previous title “Skeptic Dad”. Somewhere along the way, I decided that the word “skeptic” was too limiting and had too many negative connotations, so I purposefully borrowed the naming scheme of our professional allies at Science-Based Medicine. Once the blog became a bit more neutral in nomenclature, I began inviting other fathers to contribute, and I worked on building a community with our fellow mom bloggers on facebook.

Now, the blog will continue it’s evolution and expansion as the writers for Rational Moms wind down their blog and migrate to this one. Speaking on behalf of all the contributing writers, the guys are happy to have some gender balance on SBP. We welcome our new female contributors, and we hope that you will too.

Speaking as someone who has found himself in the border state of several skeptic civil wars recently, I’m happy to be part of something unifying within our freethought community.

Hopefully, as we multiply, we will become a bit more prolific. Many of the dads on this site are exhausted from working, parenting, and podcasting. There has been little time for writing. We know that a few of the new rational moms that have joined the site have also been drained of energy in recent months. I’d like to think that this merger will breathe new life into our collective of bloggers.

Watch for articles from our new contributors in the weeks to come! Be sure to leave a message and welcome them.


Book Review: HOAXED!

June 7, 2010

The editors of Yes Mag produced a neat little book that caught my eye at the library. It’s called “Hoaxed! Fakes & Mistakes in the World of Science“.

I would have loved this book when I was a kid. It’s filled with all sorts of bizarre mysteries that turned out to be hoaxes. Yes, there are the usual suspects: Roswell aliens, big foot, and crop circles. But, there are also lesser known hoaxes: “The Birdman” Richard Meinertzhagen, the lost Tasaday tribe, and Pons and Fleischmann’s bogus cold fusion experiments.

Interspersed among the tales of frauds and hoaxes are little skeptic learning lessons, even a section called “The skeptic’s Toolbox”.  William of Ockham makes a visit, and he’s called “the skeptic’s patron saint”. There is also a lesson on the “law of conservation of energy” using a youtube  video as an example.

I liked that the book presented hoaxes in different ways – some were caused by hucksters, some were genuinely complicated, and some, like the legend of the platypus, weren’t hoaxes at all. The subtitle says it all “Fakes and Mistakes in the World of Science”.

The “Piltdown Man” hoax may be a blemish on the scientific record, but it’s a learning lesson that science isn’t infallible, not a reason to distrust evolution, as the creationists often claim. Some might worry that a book like this will only lead to distrust of science, but it’s not really that kind of book. It’s a book that reminds us how easy the world can be fooled, and how we should stay skeptical of urban legends and outlandish claims.

My kids were too young for the book, but that didn’t stop me from reading and enjoying it. In fact, I learned quite a few new things. Mystery books are always so interesting, but the mysteries were always unsolved when I was a kid. It’s nice to see a book like this that answers the mysteries without losing any of the fun.

If you like Daniel Loxton’s Junior Skeptic columns, you’ll love this book too. Buy it and share it with your kids!


Podcast TWIPS: Episode 3 (Daniel Loxton)

March 18, 2010

This Week in Parenting Science for Episode Three of Podcast Beyond Belief:

The amiable Daniel Loxton was our guest this week on Podcast Beyond Belief. We spoke to him about his recent articles on Skeptic Blog, his new book on Evolution, and Junior Skeptic Magazine. You may also want to check out his essays “Where do we go from here?”, “What do I do Next?” and his “Skeptic Mixtape“.


Evolution Book For Kids

January 19, 2010

By Odin – he’s done it!

Everyone’s favorite goat herding Junior Skeptic editor, Daniel Loxton, has finally finished his illustrated compendium of knowledge on the subject of evolution. A commenter was recently asking whether there were any decent books on natural selection to share with kids. Well, ask no more. If this new evolution book is anything like the quality that is produced for Junior Skeptic magazine, then I will wager to say that it’s worth purchasing.

Buy it at Skeptic.com

Also, buy it at Amazon!



A Skeptic’s Christmas

December 25, 2009

For anyone who was interested in my Winter Solstice party, I just wanted to update and let you know that it went really well. No druid cloaks were involved – ha ha. It was a family-style dinner party where everyone volunteered to participate in the prep, the cooking, and the cleaning. Here in suburban America, that sense of community and festive warmth is often sadly lacking at parties, so Winter Solstice will certainly be a tradition we will revisit in years to come.

We haven’t abandoned Christmas, either. I have too many fond memories of the holiday from when I was a child, and I want my own children to have similar experiences. It’s been pointed out by many, including myself, that most of the Christian traditions associated with Christmas were once secular (or pagan). By now, Christmas has evolved into it’s own entity to become a cultural force that stretches far beyond religious boundaries, so I don’t necessarily feel guilty for drinking a mug of ‘nog while watching David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing Christmas carols.

I must admit that it’s also simply nice to have an excuse to give (and receive) presents. My own children will be enjoying, among other things, the magnification power of the Eyeclops and a membership to the Cincinnati Zoo (thanks Grammee), both gifts that I hope will encourage a love of science.

I also bought my wife an “I [heart} Skeptics" necklace from Skepchick Surly Amy at the Star Party prior to this year's Dragoncon. She always appreciates hand-crafted artwork - the message was just a bonus.

I also received a few skeptic-friendly gifts that I had hinted at wanting. Check out my new tongue-and-cheek t-shirt...

Continuing on the subject of evolution, I'll also look forward to reading "The Greatest Show On Earth", the new book by Richard Dawkins.

I’d love to hear your plugs for your favorite science-based gifts you either gave or received this year. If anything, maybe somebody will be inspired to spend that $50 check sent to them by Uncle Jenkins on a deserving science-based product.


Chicago and the Flying Reindeer Question

December 15, 2009

I just returned home from the Second City 50th anniversary event in Chicago.  I wish I could say that I am one of the many esteemed alumni celebrities, such as Jim Belushi, Fred Willard, and Stephen Colbert, but alas, I am merely a drama teacher who has been inspired by their legacy.

Chicago skeptics – be sure to check out the Second City e.t.c. show “Studs Terkel’s Not Working” because there’s a fantastic Minchin-style skeptic-friendly song performed by Tom Flanigan, in which he rants about meeting a sexy girl at the bar who is obsessed with astrology. Well done!

Another skeptical surprise came at the Neo-Futurist’s best-of-the-year performance. If you’re ever visiting Chicago, do yourself a favor and see the ongoing Neo-Futurist review “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind”. It’s a unique form of personal storytelling, where 6-10 actors perform an ever-evolving list of 30 original “plays” in 60 minutes. It’s too hard to explain succinctly, but I’m always emotionally touched many of their plays.

One scene in particular that impressed me was by Phil Ridarelli. He was on stage flying a kite, held aloft by an actor in the aisle. Next to him was another actor, portraying his son, also flying a kite. The scene was a dialogue between them about death, but the twist was that, as an atheist, he didn’t have an easy answer for his son. I had a chance to speak to Phil after the show, and he admitted that he was also anxious about dealing with the Santa question. Which reminded me…

Sasha recently asked me whether reindeer could fly. The first time she asked me, I was taken off guard and said, “Well, some people believe that Santa’s reindeer can fly.”  I wasn’t really happy with that answer and hoped she would ask again. The next time she asked, I was prepared and quickly shot back with, “Of course not! Reindeer are (large) mammals. Do you also think that there are really small fairy girls that can fly around on tiny wings?!”

Lacking the courage to completely demolish Santa and fairies in one swoop, I continued, “Clearly Santa’s reindeer use some kind of magic pixie dust to fly. Right?” She smiled and walked away happy.

Yikes. Skeptic Fail! But you know what, I don’t even care. My daughter is asking the right questions, and I’m being evasive about the answers to keep the fires of her imagination stoked. She’s clever enough to see through my well-intentioned deception, and she’s also creative enough to play along anyway. Because the Santa myth is no different than a play about a man who comes down our non-existent chimney to deliver presents, and the actors in this play are me and the girls. In my opinion, that play is no longer fun when one of the actors rips off his costume and storms off-stage before the final curtain closes.

It’s a difficult challenge for skeptics. Any of you struggling with your own child’s reindeer questions? I’d love to hear how you’re dealing with it.