Jeff Wagg


3rd (AND LAST!) Presidential Debate Chat Room


Wednesday, October 19, 2016
9:00PM ET (6:00PM PT)


The chat uses IRC, an 0ld-school chat protocol. Some important commands (don't type the < >):

Change your nickname: /nick <your-name>
Send a private message to another chatter /msg <their-name>
Emote (jeffwagg is emoting) /me <is emoting>

More here.

Chat Client/app
You can use any client you'd like or you can use:

featurebadgepic1Webchat 1 (no downloads)

Mibbit web chat (sometimes hits a capacity wall)

Webchat 2 (no downloads)

Kiwirc web chat


Thank you to Melissa with the milkshake voice for allowing us to use her server!

How to stream the event (from Gizmodo):


There are plenty of options for watching the debate on YouTube:

  • NBC News is livestreaming the debate on its YouTube channel.
  • PBS Newshour also has a livestream of the debate on YouTube.
  • And C-SPAN will have its own stream of the debate on YouTube.


Twitter is livestreaming Bloomberg TV’s coverage of the second debate at


AltspaceVR - Virtual Reality

Much like the first two debates, AltspaceVR has partnered with NBC News for a virtual reality presentation of the debate. If you own a Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive, or Oculus Rift, you can go to AltspaceVR to watch the debate “with people from around the world” if that’s your kind of thing.


Most of the major news outlets will also have livestreams on their homepages. There’s ReutersCNNFox NewsMSNBCCBS News, ABC NewsNBC NewsC-SPAN, and plenty of others.

Filed under: Original 1 Comment

The Experiment


Another day on Facebook. (Photo by Barcroft)

Last month, I announced on Facebook that I was conducting an experiment, and that everyone reading would be a part of it.

And that's all I said about it.

I expected a few likes from close friends, and that would be it. I had never intended to publish the RESULTS of the experiment, unless there was something interesting. But it seems that the word "experiment" is really interesting... more interesting than many of the things I actively TRY to get people interested in.

The experiment was simple: how much could I change what I saw on Facebook by changing what I put on Facebook? Obviously, what you see on Facebook is the result of a complex algorithm. And what I was seeing was... ugly. Anger, lies, mockery, shaming, tribalism - all the things that make me want to withdraw from society. But if I refused to engage in those activities on Facebook, would Facebook change?

In short, the answer is... No. My friends list is over 4,000, and I don't very  many of these people. I've had this account for ten years, and when I started it, I was a public face for a non-profit, and I accepted everyone without consideration. I still do, for the most part. As such, I have not created a little echo chamber for myself like many people have, but a group of strangers, many of whom LOVE poking fun at other people, without any curiosity as to what the rest of the story might be.

To be fair, I wasn't very good at contributing my part of the experiment. I found it very difficult to avoid SIWOTI situations. I did manage to avoid adding new rants, but I found myself correcting things that other people posted. It's a compulsion. Though I truly wish to be corrected (and have been recently), I've learned that for some reason, most people don't want to consider new evidence. They're not interested in learning more about the world; they're only interested in reinforcing their opinion.

My lack of posting anything negative or confrontational had exactly zero impact on what I saw in my feed.

I created a new phase for the experiment: I stopped posting altogether. I made this easier for myself by not releasing new content on College of Curiosity, thus forcing myself to engage on social networks. Yeah, I ignored Twitter too, but I don't have much use for Twitter anyway.

I did look every day to see what was going on, but after a couple of days, that became a chore. I just wasn't interested in what was being said on Facebook, and I quickly realized that anything *I* said was unimportant. The idea that there's something important on Facebook is completely artificial.

I ended up liking not have to pay attention to Facebook, and I think if it wasn't for promoting new content, I'd likely close my account. The signal to noise ratio is sadly low.

And I do mean sad. Facebook is absolutely amazing. I have friends I made when I was 19 talking with friends I made just last year. They will probably never meet, but they're talking with one another and sharing experiences. That's magic. There is a potential here to grow humanity and reach out to people with different experiences, but I see little will to use it that way. Most people are content to simply reinforce their in-group and distance themselves from everyone else. Disagree? You're blocked. Ask a question? You're one of THEM.

There's a distinct difference between having a different point of view and discussing it with someone else, and trying to win an argument. Every conflict presents the opportunity for both sides to learn something, even if one side is factually correct and the other isn't. I wish more folks had the goal of determining the truth of the matter rather than arguing "I'm right" or "My friend is right!"

I wish people were more curious.

I have to also recognize that a lot of the folks I've friended on Facebook ARE curious. They're actually interested in learning something and maintaining as accurate a worldview as possible. You're the folks that make me get out of bed in the morning, and I appreciate you greatly. Unfortunately, you're being drowned up by "look at this idiot" and "if you think this, you're an asshole" type posts.

So that was the experiment, and I'm sorry if it's a disappointingly simple thing. I probably shouldn't have posted it about it at all, but at least I learned that people like the idea of experiments, and I maybe I can do a CofC project like that in the future.








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While You Were Away…

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I Went to TAM. I Hope You Did Too.

Jen, myself an Patricio! photo by Susan Gerbic

Jen, myself an Patricio! photo by Susan Gerbic

It's all over now.

Thanks to the "amazing" generosity of some College of Curiosity supporters, my wife Jen and I manned a table of curiosities at The Amaz!ng Meeting 13.

Some of the table.

Some of the table.

The table seemed to be a success, with as many as 30 people at once clambering to figure out what those "salt and pepper shakers" were or to marvel at the impossible objects, including a ball that rolled downhill very, very slowly.

Austin and Irena stumped over an object. photo by Kitty Mervine

Austin and Irena stumped over an object. photo by Kitty Mervine

But what about TAM? How was it?

I was very nervous about going. It had been five years since I ran a TAM, and at TAM 9 in 2011, I was made to feel very unwelcome by the people running it at the time. Drama seemed to be everywhere, as numerous people pulled me into corners to sort out problems or tell me about new atrocities. I went home disappointed and never considered going to TAM again. Each year when TAM rolled around, I pined for the old days, but knew that I couldn't experience them again.

At the same time, I encouraged people to go to TAM. I even held a meeting for first-time TAMmers in Chicago, giving tips for how to have a fun time there. TAM was still there, I just couldn't be a part of it.

And then management changed, and TAM became a possibility again. Some incredibly generous folks donated funds necessary ($1000!) to have a table at TAM for the College of Curiosity. After much hemming and hawing, I accepted. And then I almost cancelled as drama threatened to rear its cameloid head. But after some, shall we say, "firm encouragement" from my sponsors, I decided to go. As we walked into the hotel, my anxiety reached its peak as I knew I'd soon start seeing familiar faces. This could have been a big mistake.

And about 10 minutes later, I knew it wasn't. TAM is still TAM. And what TAM is and has always been is the community that attends. That community welcomed me back with open arms.

Linda, creator of TAM.

Linda, creator of TAM.

Old friends, some of whom I'd forgotten, came over to our table and welcomed us back as though we were long lost family. In a way we were.

What TAM has always had that other conference haven't quite achieved is this feeling of community. That has changed over the past years—often quite painfully—but the TAM spirit is still there, and I found myself buoyed up by it.

The Randi Retrospective party was excellent. All attendees (didn't have to go to TAM) were given a signed card attached to a bent spoon. The bar was open and there was a lot of food. It was clear to me that the people running TAM this year wanted this to be a special event, and it was. Knowing what open bars and the food costs, I suspect they didn't make money on the event, but rather poured the $75 admission fee into making the event the most it could be. Outtakes from the excellent film An Honest Liar were shown, and they demonstrated the extraordinary impact this man has had on many lives, mine included.

Randi and Linda at his gala.

Randi and Linda at his gala.

Randi, the showman that he is, was ever present. He attended talks and pressed the flesh constantly before, after and during the entire weekend. He was in fine fettle, and seemed to be in excellent health. I've never known the man to die (he has battled several forms of cancer, strokes, tuberculosis, major car accidents, and accidents while performing) and I have no reason to think he ever will.

The hotel wasn't perfect for TAM. Prices were high, and there was no place for us to hang out. The Tropicana simply doesn't have a large bar with seating and no live music. People tried to find an alternate, but that portion of the strip doesn't have anything suitable, and as such, the group fragmented into smaller groups. These groups managed to have a good time, but it must have been very difficult for new people (about 50% of the crowd of 6-700) to find their way into the "family."

As for the conference itself, the company that administered registration and managed the space at the hotel, The Cox-Petersen Group, did an excellent job. I KNOW how hard it is to run TAM, especially the first time and at a new hotel. I saw them handle crises with aplomb, and to my delight, they took the initiative to create a Del Mar Lounge 2.0, complete with big screen representations of the now defunct Del Mar at South Point. Yes, that's right... even if TAM had been at SouthPoint this year, the Del Mar is no more. Cox-Petersen saw there was a problem with finding space for people to get together, and they came up with a solution, and one that likely cost TAM money. I have a lot of respect for that.

Some of the forum folk coming together at Del Mar 2.0 to support a Combat Wombat of note.

Some of the forum folk coming together at Del Mar 2.0 to support a Combat Wombat of note.

Were there women at TAM? There were. I didn't count, but I think a 60/40 split wouldn't be far off. Lots of young people, and speakers were evenly divided too. Of course, diversity is still a problem at all skeptic conferences, and the hall was a sea of white skin. There were some people of color, but they stood out in a way that women did not.

On social justice issues, there was a non-gendered bathroom, and a clear and comprehensive harassment policy. All attendees were given cards with instructions on what to do in case of a problem. I heard a rumor of (but did not see) an incident of one person being  too forward with someone. He was immediately approached and removed.

I couldn't see much of the program because the table was very busy, but there were some excellent talks this year, as always. The highlight for me was the final talk on Saturday, the Gapminder group. Click the link if you'd like a reality-based message of hope. There really is one.

On a personal note, my relationship with Randi has been tenuous over the past few years. I never really knew where I stood. In many ways—some quite literal—we were forced apart by the powers that be. I'm happy to report that this TAM changed all that. Randi stopped by my table, and I was invited to breakfast with Deyvi and Randi along with my kids and Linda Shallenberger, creator of TAM, who was treated to an ovation when she was introduced by Randi from the stage. After TAM, Randi called me to thank me for attending, assuring me that all barriers have been removed between us.

So yes, it was great to be back, and I'm thoroughly glad I attended. I feel recharged and refocused. TAM is still TAM, but for me it's bittersweet.

A few people commented that the College of Curiosity table was filling the void left by Jerry Andrus' departure. This is praise of the highest order, and if CofC is filling that void, it's doing so the way a bandage covers the wound left by the removal of a vital organ. Jerry was a phenomenon of Randi-esque caliber.

And of course it's hard to imagine TAM without Hal Bidlack on stage steering TAM towards the good will the event engenders at its finest moments. For me, Hal embodied the positive, big-tent message of TAM. Disagreements are a natural part of skepticism, but Hal had the ability to make them more academic than personal, and this allowed everyone to be friends at the end of the day. Sadly, some of our community took a different approach and they were not found at TAM this year. Some of the attendees have celebrated the idea that "We won! We drove the bullies out!" but I can't see that as anything other than a failure. They were family once, and I'd like to see them become family again.

Taking nothing away from Hal, I can report that George Hrab remains the consummate professional entertainer I know him to be, and he is now enshrined in TAM lore with Jerry, Hal and Linda.

There were some decisions made this TAM that I wasn't happy about. One speaker in particular shouldn't have been there, in my opinion, and the lack of Q&A seemed odd. Speaker/attendee interaction used to be a big part of attending TAM, and something is missing without it.

The million dollar challenge of "magic cables" had a fatal flaw in blinding that I fear could damage its reputation. In short, any of the test subjects could create a "miss" at will. It was technically possible to hear a difference between cables, and still report "no difference," which was recorded as a miss. Given that all the test subjects were attendees of TAM, it would be very easy to make a claim of bias.

It was heartening to see the audience confront the folks running the challenge, though I don't think their opinions were respected as much as they should have been. It was an error, but it could be easily corrected if the people pushing these cables had the courage to actually prove the outlandish claims they're making.

So there you have it. I have many folks to thank, and I'm going to do so here. Please keep reading though, as you might find this interesting.


Stirling and Frank check out some curiosities. photo by Susan Gerbic

Thanks most of all to my wife, Jennifer Newport, who I would never have met if not for the JREF and the Amaz!ng Adventure program, which owes its (former?) existence to TAM.


To the folks who donated the fee for the table, your generosity continues to astound me. They've not asked to be anonymous, but I do so to illustrate how their donations are NEVER about them, and always about the cause of personal skepticism, wherein you learn more about how you can be fooled and less about how awful those "other" people are.

To Kitty Mervine, I thank you for your constant support, dozens of mystery object submissions, and providing the "salt and pepper sex toys" that were so popular at the table. I'm so glad you could make it this year!

To Ray Hall, thanks for helping to organize this year's TAM, and thanks for revealing your secret identity to be the Instagram account @physicsfun. If you're on Instagram, follow that account right away! It's my favorite. Ray also donated some stellar objects to our table.

To the Maths Gear crew, thank you so much for the donations. I was thrilled to meet you, and your stuff is amazing. Check it out here.

To Joe Wagg, Jay Feldman, Irena Rowe, and Melanie, thanks for driving on our two Death Valley desert tours. It was 350 miles, and I hope you got as much out of it as you put in. I certainly enjoyed having you along.

To Richard Saunders thanks for having me on your podcast and being an all-around excellent person.

To the folks who donated directly at the table, thank you for contributing to curiosity. Every cent of that money will go towards programming.

To Susie Lee, thank you for making all those pins. Yes folks, the Hook Waka Bang pins are HAND MADE by a woman from Denver! They were ubiquitous at TAM.

And to everyone who still maintains a spirit of hope from the TAM experience. I don't know what the future holds, but so long as our memories holds, the spirit of TAM will live on.












Filed under: JREF 7 Comments

I’m Going to TAM. I Hope You Are Too.

TamLogoMy first TAM (The Amaz!ng Meeting) was a life changing experience. I went mostly to spend some time in Vegas and see Penn & Teller. What I found instead was a community of like-minded, energetic, and generous people. I ended up intimately involved with the JREF (James Randi Educational Foundation), and became one of the main organizers of TAM and the JREF itself.

In time, things changed. The community fractured. The JREF changed its focus. The meaning of "skepticism" was no longer something we could all agree on, and the community collapsed. I share responsibility for this.

I left the JREF in 2010, after TAM 8, the last one I was involved with.  In 2011, I went to TAM 9 (I couldn't attend the conference itself, but I was in the hotel), and found myself constantly pulled in to little bits of drama. It was not a good experience, and I haven't been back since.

But this year, I'm going. And it's for one reason: to say thank you to James "The Amazing" Randi.

Despite the fact that the community is either gone or in turmoil, despite the drama and scandals, and whatever, there is a bigger picture. And that is Randi himself. Randi has given us (the world, that is), so much, and he's asked us to come together one last time and see him. I'm going to do just that.

I've seen many of my "heroes" in the Skeptical movement fall. Some have fallen harder than I could have ever imagined. But my respect for Randi remains.

People seem to forget what an impact he's had. Watch his clip on "psychic surgery" on YouTube. Read up on how the JREF was involved with exposing dowsing rods being used to detect explosives (with predictable results.)  Read the introduction to Randi's book The Faith Healers to learn Randi's true motivation for doing what he does. When I consider these things, I have to go.

I am putting aside my differences, my disappointments, and my bias to go to TAM this year. I'm asking you to do the same.

For one time, let's get together and remember that we used to be one big happy family. It may have been a dysfunctional family in the end, but it was still family and we grew and learned a lot. I think we still can, and I think that starts with dropping swords and shields and gathering around the fire for a few more stories.

It's just a weekend. If you can't afford the conference, fine. Come anyway. Spend a day in Vegas. Find me and I'l shake your hand and thank you for being there. My guess is that you'll be glad you took the chance and came.

And if not, Randi will still be glad you came. And that's worth something.

If you need a reminder of how things used to be, here's something I wrote about my first TAM many years ago.



I Live in a Bjork Video

I've been a fan of Björk since the late 1990s. Her Homogenic album is her best, and I'm not asking anyone to like it as much as I do. There was a DVD released of many of her videos called Volumen that I watched endlessly.

One of my favorite songs and videos is for the song Bachelorette. It's the story of a woman who finds a book that writes itself as she lives her life... and then things get very recursive. And I've just discovered that I live in the video.

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My Cruise Ship Collection

Just for fun, I made this grid of ships that I've been on or will be on soon. I've spent at least one night aboard each of these vessels.

Jewel of the SeasMajesty of the Seas and Celebrity Solstice are the only ones I've travelled on twice.

They're all to scale.

Cruise Ship - Ticker

Cruise Ship - Ticker

Cruise Ship - Ticker

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Shifting Gears

Those who know me know might find it hard to believe that I was on the cover of Campus Coalition, the Campus Crusade for Christ magazine. It's true - I took park in a spring break bike trip they offered and managed to get on the cover and featured in the article. I learned some things on that trip, including the idea that I'm not really forcing myself to believe things.

Here is an abbreviated version of that story included in the larger context of bicycles, learning new skills, and learning to change behavior.

Two Different Girls

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In which I re-live a little bit of summer camp. I long for the smell of deep woods off, bacon grease, and the sound of rain on the tent. Two Different Girls.


Confronting Wes Anderson

I was honored to be asked by Brian to guest blog on Skeptoid's blog, and this was my first entry. A couple of people asked me what this had to do with skepticism, and it's simple really: skepticism involves challenging your preconceived notions. Before you say a work of art sucks (be it music, film, or a painting), be sure you understand it. I don't understand Wes Anderson.

Confronting Wes Anderson

Filed under: Movies, Skepticism No Comments