Category Archives: wishlist

The Teaching Company — The Great Courses…

I wrote a post a while ago, I think it may have been one of my first posts, that mentioned The Teaching Company. They basically do lecture series on any number of topics. I’ve gotten a few including a general philosophy course, and a philosophy of science course. The one on philosophy of science was sort of tough to get very into as it had such a materialist bent. Maybe it was less so later, but I had a tough time listening to much that I stopped after the first few lectures. The point, however, is that people in the paranormal would do well to go through some of these courses so that they have a better handle on the arguments used by ‘debunkers’

Anyway, I noticed they have a new lecture called Skepticism 101: How to Think like a Scientist. The series of 18 lectures feature none other than Michael Shermer, PhD. There are five lectures with paranormal themes including, The Paranormal and the Supernatural, Science Vs. Pseudoscience, Comparing SETI and UFOlogy, Comparing Evolution and Creationism, and Life, Death & the Afterlife. I haven’t listened to the lectures, but I reckon its consistent with Dr. Shermer’s previous skeptical endeavors.

But this post isn’t really about the Teaching Company’s products, or even Michael Shermer, PhD’s skeptical bona fides. I wondered if the paranormal community could produce something along the same lines. Is there any one person or group who could pull it together to put out say 20 quality lectures on the ufo topic and do it in a way that wasn’t open to immediate ridicule?  For me, Richard Dolan is the only one that comes to mind. It would take the form of a history course using his UFOs and the National Security State series (1941-1973, and 1973-1991, and whatever the last one turns out to be).  I think everyone in the field has heard Mr. Dolan talk before, but normally its and hour, or maybe two in a podcast interview or conference presentation.  This format would allow him to go into much greater detail than he normally does in presentations and would probably reach a much different audience than that which normally listens to the Binnall of America podcast or goes to the X conferences.

Dolan may not be the only person who could put something like this together. I’m sure Stan Friedman, Jacques Vallee, and Grant Cameron could also put together some quality information and do it in a way that would be reasonable. Maybe there could be a series of 24 lectures, with 4 people producing six each, or some combination like that.

Anyway, I don’t know Richard Dolan or the people at The Teaching Company, so I’m not really in any position to effectively suggest this, but if any of my two or three regular readers stumbles on this post and has relevant network contacts, maybe forward it along.:)

Thanks for reading and I wish good fortune to everyone.

Advertisements

Wishlist #5 — Philosophy 101

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a little while. After seeing this interview with Chris Carter a while ago, linked through Anomalist.com, I thought it was finally time to hit the keyboard again.

If there’s one thing that we need is education. As a community (paranormal community) we don’t even seem to ask the right questions. For the most part, it doesn’t seem like there’s a decent foundation to work from. Normally someone has an experience, or hears about someone else’s experience,  and tries to combine it into their own view of the world. And from what I read on the Internet,  their view of the world is probably pretty uninformed and unexamined. What might be really helpful is a better foundation in philosophy.

I’ll admit, I’m no philosopher, but I’ve found the subject a lot more interesting since I left college, especially since becoming interested in anomalous topics. But it seems to me that people have been dealing with these subjects for thousands of years.  A lot of good minds have come to bear on the subject, not that you would know it from the discussion in the current ufological/paranormal community.

So what I would like to see, item #5 on my wishlist, is a an educational outlet devoted to the philosophy of the paranormal. I would love to hear philosophers talk about dualism as it relates to what we call the paranormal. What do Hindu philosophers have to formally say about UFOs? There’s a ton of material that can be tapped, and related directly to this crazy world in the ether that we all seem to be fascinated about, but so few have any idea about what’s already been said.

And the other thing is that this would be an area where skeptics (or whatever pejorative you’d like to use) could actually find some common ground with the believers (or whatever pejorative you’d like to use) because it doesn’t necessarily have to have anything to do with the current landscape, just some talking about what some dead guys said a long time ago.

I wrote an email to Paul H. Smith a few months ago asking him to think about doing a subscription podcast on the philosophy of the paranormal.  I’m happy to pay for a little education, and I hope you are too, because honestly, whatever you’re paying for cable tv is too much. The format of the Philosopher’s Zone podcast is pretty good, maybe Alan Saunders could take a stab at it. How about the folks at the Teaching Company? They do some nice educational audio work, maybe they could put something together?

Well, that’s my wishlist item #5. I hope you think the idea has some merit. And lets be honest, we’ve all heard the same people on the podcast circuit over and over and over, so a new approach might be useful.

Wishlist #3 — Funding Mechanism — Kickstarter.com

A while ago I did a post on a new item for my wishlist.

The post described an idea for a funding mechanism that would enable people working on paranormal projects to seek funding from outside sources. Ideally it would provide a way for people to make contributions that are tax deductible and provide a mechanism for funds to be returned if enough money for the project isn’t raised or if a portion of the money remains unspent at the end of the project.

Well, I was reading my most recent issue of Make Magazine and found a mention of a website that accomplishes some of these goals and its called Kickstarter

Basically it allows people or groups seeking funding to post a project proposal online and then collect funds from interested parties. In this case, if the desired amount is not raised, all the funds get returned to the donors.

According to the FAQ, non-profits can use their tax-deductible status.

The program uses Amazon.com’s payment system. They also mention in their faq that Paypal is working on a system that Kickstarter might consider using as well, to process contingent payments. I thought a company like Paypal would be ideal because they already have much of financial infrastructure to deal with relatively small payments. I guess Amazon is close enough.

I recently came across another instance where this sort of program would be very useful. Billy Cox did a posting on an event that is being organized by Robert Salas and Robert Hastings. The post talked about how they need money to get the people to D.C., to put them up in hotels, and to rent the space. Sounds good to me, as they seem to be more reasonable than some other presenters (your opinion may vary) so I sent in some money via paypal.  I couldn’t help wondering though, that having a more community oriented portal for solicitation would be helpful. Something where they could make a presentation, contributors could get updates, and then potentially have refunds if excess (haha) funds were raised. Kickstarter accomplishes most of these things.

I hope people looking for funding for projects will at least give Kickstarter a look.

Wishlist items #2 and #3, Passive Radar and Funding Mechanism

You often hear people say that there’s no money in ufology. The only way to make money is by writing a book and selling it. Maybe Having a subscription based podcast is the new version of a book, or at least some sort of syndicated radio program. There’s certainly next to no funding coming from established research programs at universities. There may be something at the private level, but if there is, the output of that research seems to be staying with those funding it, or maybe its coming out in books.

Obviously,  If someone asking for money directly, I suspect you will view them with a very critical eye.

So I’m using this post to propose a process to allow for the raising of private funds for the purpose of UFO research, or really any kind of independent research, paranormal or otherwise. Some mechanisms of the process may not actually exist yet, but probably won’t be terribly difficult for someone with the right skills to create.

I will describe the process with a hypothetical example and describe how it would proceed and could involve the whole paranormal community. I will use the names of actual people, forums, companies, podcasts, and even projects, but only for illustrative purposes. Please don’t think that the use of their names implies that they are presently involved in anything like what I’m describing. Maybe they are, but not too my knowledge. I use them to illustrate because their current roles are easily understood by the community and would be useful.

So here goes…

WISHLISTS

It all starts with the wishlist. I talked about my concept of a wishlist here (http://yaufob.wordpress.com/2009/8/21/wishlist), but the idea is to let the world know what you want, because you don’t know who can make a contribution to make it happen.

So in this example, we’ll start with the wishlist of an organization like the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS). To reiterate, I don’t know what’s on CUFOS’s wishlist, or if they even have one, but there are a few specific reasons to use CUFOS for our example. First they have been around for a while, so they are familiar with the subject matter and are headed by people with reasonable academic credentials. Second, CUFOS is a nonprofit (enter “ufo studies” in the search box) , so donations made to CUFOS are tax deductible, which would help maximize the level of funds that would be raised.

So in this example, CUFOS creates a wishlist and includes on it a passive radar system to be implemented on a statewide level. Again, I don’t know if CUFOS would want this, but lets say they want to develop something like this. Peter Davenport described passive radar at a mufon conference a few years ago, and put together a .pdf document which you can find at his website. Although CUFOS may not have any particular expertise in developing a passive radar system, they decide that a passive radar system might be useful to implement on a statewide level in a state with little military air-traffic, so they put it on their wishlist. By doing so, they are looking to act as a sponsor to someone who has the skills necessary to put together such a system.

The Technologist, The Proposal, and the Sponsor

Although CUFOS may not have any expertise with passive radar, they know there are people out there who have the technical chops to put something like that together. One person who has worked on such technology is Eric Blossom. So maybe Mr. Blossom hears about the CUFOS wishlist and decides to submit a proposal for a statewide passive radar system. The proposal details how much a system would cost to build, who would administer it, what the fixed and ongoing costs would be, how it works, and what its strengths and weaknesses are.

Once CUFOS receives the proposal they debate it internally, and decide if they would like to sponsor it. Sponsorship would involve appointing someone within CUFOS to administer the project. This would include arranging for media interviews and debate, making necessary changes to the proposal, setting benchmarks for funding process, checking benchmarks against progress, ensuring adequate record keeping, and distributing final results.

Media Debate

Because ufology doesn’t have a peer review process and because funding will be coming from outside sources, alternative media (podcasts and blogs) will play a central role in the hashing out of the merits of a particular research project.

In this case, either the CUFOS representative and/or Mr. Blossom would get together with members of the media along with other reasonable authorities to debate the pros and cons of a particular project. For example, Mr. Blossom might be a guest on Paratopia where he could describe the project and proposal to the Paratopia audience. To get a balanced idea of the project, hosts Jeremy Vaeni and Jeff Ritzmann would need to arrange for opposing viewpoints on the show as well. Maybe they would try to get someone else on the show who has dealt with passive radar and knows the pitfalls that must be dealt with. And/or someone who has experience with UFO/radar cases. The idea is to get a 360-degree view of the projects.(Actually Alex Tsakiris, host of the Skeptiko podcast does a really good job at working through some of the details of experiments dealing with Psi phenomenon, and readers would be well served to check out his podcast)

Of course it wouldn’t need to be just one podcast. There are probably many more blogs with an interest in the ufo subject than there are podcasts, and some non-ufo/paranormal outlets that would also have an interest, could also participate. So bloggers could and should get in on the action too. Taking a position on either side, and advocating to their hearts content.

Funding Mechanism

After the listening and reading audiences get a chance to hear discussion from various sources, both for and against they would be able to make up their own mind about whether or not they would like to contribute financially to the project. Those who are interested in helping financially, or just keeping up with the projects results, would go to a project website.  The website would be a central hub that would host the proposal so that interested parties can look at the details for themselves. It would also provide a way for people to make donations.

The proposal would provide the outline of the project, with benchmarks marking the functional sections and noting the successful completion of a section, as verified by the sponsor representative. Donations would be set up to be prorated, with a certain percentage of each donation being allocated for each section of the project. As an example, if someone donates $100 to the project, that $100 would be broken up into smaller amounts to be released as portions of the project are completed. If a project stalls half way through, after a defined inactivity period, donors would receive the portion of their donation back for the uncompleted project, assuming the sponsor was unable to find someone else to complete the project. Upon completion of the project, donors would receive a package detailing the project’s outcome.

I’m not sure exactly who the best organization would be to put together such a website. My first instinct is to think of Paypal as an organization that can handle making payments of varying sizes securely, and keep track of it all. They already have a micro-finance division called Microplace.com that connects those with money to micro-business owners that need loans. (Maybe contact Scott Thompson at President of PayPal, and let him know they should think about this.) Then there are sites like elance.com that deal with the matching of people who need services with people who can provide those services, even implementing some benchmarking payment programs. Maybe its someone else altogether.

So that is basically the idea. To summarize:

1. Figure out what you want to get done to advance ufology.

2. Find someone who can do it.

3. Get the idea out there and have people debate it from all angles.

4. Provide an efficient mechanism for making proratable payments.

5. Check the progress of the project and pre-determined intervals.

6. Upon completion, get the results out to the world, or at least the sponsors.

It would provide a structure to match up people who want to do alternative research with people who are interested in funding it, and it would do so in a way that everyone involved is informed about what is going on at the beginning, and if they aren’t, it is up to them to get better answers or opt out of participation.

Well, thats it for now. If you think its a good idea, please comment. If you think its bunk please comment as well, but try to be nice about it.

Thanks for reading.

Wishlist Item #1 — Media Tracking

I have to admit, I’m a bit perplexed about the reaction in some quarters to ABC’s abduction special last week. The author of this post, for example, was quite livid about the program and Juju Chang’s “piss poor excuse for journalism.” I’ve seen other commentary relating roughly the same thing, although in slightly less explicit terms.

Well, fair enough, it probably wasn’t a balanced program, at least in the eyes of someone who has a sincere interest in UFOs and the possibly related abduction phenomenon. But I really have to wonder what exactly people were expecting. Given the reactions, and the high level of disappointment, frustration, and anger, people must have been expecting to see a reasonable, if not favorable, program. Yer kiddin’ right?

If you want reasonable, go get David Cherniack’s recent documentary UFOs: The Secret History that has a whole extra dvd that covers the abduction phenomenon.  If I was a conspiracy type guy, I might actually think that ABC put out their program to overlap Cherniack’s recent documentary release. Nahh..

But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about my wishlist. So what is the first (but not necessarily most important) item to go on the list? Some sort of media tracking website. Yes, yes, I know Joe Capp does UFO Media Matters, and that’s fine, but I’m talking less about a blog, and more about rating and tracking, something with a database in the background that can keep track of who is doing what in the area of UFO related media. Who is doing it well and who isn’t. Who is being fair, and who is biased.

The idea is to be able to keep track of what networks, producers, and tv-personalities are being fair and who aren’t. Then, if you’re someone who has an opportunity to be on one of these programs, you can view something of a report card for those potentially involved. On the one hand it makes it easier to know who to avoid, and at least as importantly, also who to support, even in non-ufo related projects.

Ok, so that’s my wishlist item #1. Feel free to comment and criticize.