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.








Filed under: Original 3 Comments

While You Were Away…

Filed under: Original No 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.

Filed under: Original Continue reading

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

Filed under: Original Continue reading

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

Filed under: Original 2 Comments

The Training Game


I was on the train from the apartment to Midway (Chicago Airport). It's not a long ride – 20 minutes or so, and it usually flies by. When I arrived at the platform the large monitors said that the train was due, but I still waited 10 minutes for it to arrive.

When the eight silver cars finally pulled in, I stood the customary six feet away to allow passengers queued in the doorwell to exit. But moments before the door opened, several people filled that gap. When the doors opened, they rushed past the people trying to get off. Rude behavior, but not unusual in the big city.

I chose a seat way at one end of the car. My bluetooth headphones were in and I was listening to a book, so not paying much attention to my surroundings. It was more crowded than usual.

After about 30 seconds, I heard very a loud voice. It actually sounded like a carnival barker calling people up to his stand to see the bearded lady or a goat with two heads.

And in fact, that's what it turned out to be.

A large black man – leather coat, fancy shoes – was talking loudly about how we could make easy money. He pulled out a felt-covered board and produced a red pea-sized ball and three Pepsi bottle lids. Yes, he was pitching the shell game.

"First person who guesses where the ball is gets the money. All you have to do is be first, and show me that you can match the money I have. When you're right, the money's yours."

Predictably, a man jumped forward and said "That one right there!" The man flashed a $100 at the pea dealer and was instantly handed a matching and suspiciously crisp bill. Wow, it's that easy to win!

Another man started hooting and clapping at how much fun this was. The pea dealer shuffled the caps slowly but gracefully.

"Who's going to be first?" A lady from a few seats over jumped up. "It's that one right there!" A crisp $50 appeared from her pocket. The pea dealer lifted the corresponding cap and said, "Yes ma'am, it's your lucky day! And I just happen to have a fifty right here."

The woman sat down but watched on eagerly. Standing up,  the dealer asked who was next.

At that moment, we were pulling into a station. I saw the dealer crane his neck nervously. Not seeing any threats, he slid down the car a little and continued while displaying his board.

Two young men who were standing by the door saw the action, and glancing at one another,  pulled out their wallets and began counting their money.

"Hmm," I thought. "I should warn them."

But I didn't. By this time it was obvious that the pea dealer was working with friends, and I didn't know who they all were or what they were willing to do to protect their venture. Somewhat ashamed, I decided to look on and keep to myself.

In less than 30 seconds, the two men were fleeced of $80.

They seem confused and embarassed. How could they have missed it? They saw right where the pea went! But of course in the 400 years or so that this scam has been practiced, the donor ALWAYS knows just where the pea went.

The dealer tried to get them to pony up more cash - to overcome the bad luck they'd just experienced – but he had cleaned them out. In search of fresh pickings, he moved down the car towards me. My discomfort grew.

He ignored the older folks closest to him and focussed on a woman in her mid 20's. He began his shuffle. She seemed to be looking on skeptically, but to my surprise she jumped up an shouted "It's right there!" I shook my head at her, but she didn't seem to notice.

"That's right young lady! Now how much money are you showin' so I can match it?"

"Oh, I don't have any money. I just wanted to play for fun."

I chuckled internally and watched the dealer frown and gaze in my direction.

He was shouting his pitch towards my group of seats, hoping to catch my eyes. But I had my headphones in, and stared dumbly about four feet to his right, which allowed me to observe him without making contact.

Another station was upon us, and he gazed at the platform once more. Just as we came to a stop, he pocketed his board and caps and exited the train - closely followed by the "winners" from his first round and another large gentleman who didn't participate. This was the man I was concerned might be there.

I watched them get out of the train and quickly board another train heading in the opposite directly. All four of them crowded the door, pushed past the exitting passengers, and assumed their carefully distributed positions, ready for the next round. My train continued on towards Midway, and I was at ease again.

After a minute or two of silence, the woman across from me started talking.

"Oh, that's such a scam. It's amazing that anyone still does that."

I nodded in agreement and mentioned that I was aware of the game and was careful to not partake. The freshly cashless young men overheard us and look embarrassed.

One of the older gentleman by the door tapped one of the losers on the shoulder and started a conversation.

"Son, you got off easy. Those guys have been pulling that scam for years."

"Well, I lost $40 and so did my friend here. We would have lost more if we had more money. I guess we're pretty stupid."

The older man continued, "You noticed they didn't try it with me? They've seen me here before. They're on the train every day at this time, as am I. You learned a good lesson today, son."

Then the entire car started offering sage advice to the young men, and all were careful to confirm how they'd known it was a scam all along.

"That's a cheap way to learn that lesson!" and "It's a good thing you didn't try to get your money back. They had a friend over here who was waiting for that." and "The money they were showing wasn't even real."

I did not join this fray. Moments before, I'd been ashamed for not standing up to protect someone naive from being taken. And while I still am to some degree, it appears that no one else was willing to take the risk either.

Emotionally, it feels wrong to me that I didn't stand up and do something, but when I do the calculus and consider the risks, I have to conclude that I, as well as everyone else on the train did the right thing. Saving those two guys from losing their money was not worth the risk of physical violence. The bad guys win, and they know this.

But imagine if we used that unison of voice that we had after the gaming party left. Imagine if we had all told the dealer to shut the hell up and find a more honest way to make a living. I'm afraid such behavior is reserved for day dreaming (such as this) and fiction. This same script has played out for generations, and I suspect it will continue for generations to come. And I find it most unsatisfying.


Filed under: Original 2 Comments

Thoughts on Costa Concordia

From Wikipedia, Creative Commons

I've waited a few days to post my thoughts about this incident so that more of the facts could precipiate out of the solution of media speculation and conflicting stories.

Costa Concordia was built in 2006 in Italy. She was the largest ship every built in Italy, had an Italian captain, and sailed a regular route of Italian ports. Capsizing near Giglio in Italy makes this a uniquely Italian disaster. She cost nearly $600,000,000 to construct – very near the cost of Walt Disney World if one doesn't adjust for inflation.

It is easily the worst cruise ship disaster since the Andrea Doria.

Many people have been asking me questions about the disaster, and while I'm not an expert on much, I do know the cruising world a bit. I've compiled some of the questions here in the form of a mock interview.

1) How can this happen with all the modern equipment we have?

In the end, someone is controlling the wheel (actually a joystick) and if the ship hits something, bad things happen. Ships like this have a course set and someone on the bridge at all times makes sure the ship is following that course. If the ship veers of the course, alarms sound. At the time of this incident, the ship was being manually controlled to come very close to the shore, in a maneuver known as a "salute."  Reports vary as to weather this was being done to honor the head waiter's birthday, or another captain who lived ashore. It hardly matters – it was done.

The odd thing is, this wasn't the first time the ship had done this. Reports are saying the ship had done this five times in the past, with the same captain. Lloyds List proves this with a track of the ship's course in August.

I doubt the captain consulted a chart before making this departure from the official course. He probably did the first time, saw that it was deep water (the seafloor drops off rapidly just off the shore of this island) and sailed the same route again. In the end, just 10 more feet of water  or 10 more feet of distance would have let the ship pass by unharmed.

The ship has depth sensors and the like, but there's nothing that's going to protect a ship from a pinnacle of rock while she's underway. The captain simply took his vessel into hazardous waters, and many people have paid the price.

2) Have we learned nothing since Titanic?

Oh, we've learned quite a bit since Titanic, and a lot of it FROM Titanic. The Titanic disaster was caused by one simple problem: they didn't think it was possible for this ship to sink. Hitting the iceberg was a gross error in navigation, but the large loss of life was due to poor planning. Originally, the ship was to have many more lifeboats, but they were removed because they made the ship less attractive. This was the pride of the White Star Line and it had to look impressive, so much so that one of the smoke stacks is actually just a decoration. (Great trivia question.) Since the ship stayed mostly upright for hours, an orderly evacuation into ample lifeboats could have resulted in no lives lost. Instead, the inadequate number of boats and rafts, the lack of training and the lack of preparation lead to a huge loss of life (1,514).

Costa Concordia is a different situation. The ship has more than enough lifeboats and rafts (twice as many, by international law). Everyone is required to undergo a lifeboat drill. Though there were reports that there was no drill, I'm confident there was. It's required within 24 hours of sailing by SOLAS - Safety Of Live At Sea, and International set of guidelines that all cruise lines follow. It was put into place directly because of Titianic.

Some passengers did not get on at the original point of embarkation, meaning they would have missed the lifeboat drill. In such a case, they're supposed to get a briefing from a crew member, but the ship doesn't re-run the lifeboat drill just because a couple of people got on in a port.

Two big problems though: there were at least nine languages spoken on the ship, making emergency communications extremely difficult. And there was the small issue that the ship rolled on its side, effectively removing any ability to deploy lifeboats and rafts.

Lifeboats and rafts depend on gravity to lower them, and on a capsized ship, that doesn't work too well. You can see pictures of life rafts caught on the side of the ship. However, they were close enough to shore that the launched lifeboats could offer taxi service to people if they could only get off the ship. Considering that half of the muster stations were underwater, and the other half useless, it's not surprising there was chaos.

3) Who's really at fault here?

The captain, without any doubt, is responsible for the disaster. It is his job description. There is much conjecture about how he got off the ship, etc, but this is what we do know:

a) He was in control of the vessel when it hit the rocks.

b) The course chosen was not part of the "official" course, however, it was probably sanctioned by Costa, given that it had been used up to five times before.

c) He did not inform the Coast Guard of the enormity of the disaster either because he didn't know how bad it was (unlikely), or because he was hoping to salvage the situation somehow. Hopefully, this will come out in court.

d) He left the ship before the evacuation was complete. He says this was due to him "tripping," but that seems so fanciful that I actually wonder if it's true. And while he could have possibly coordinated the evacuation from a lifeboat, it seems that he did not.

e) "The rock wasn't on the map" isn't much of an excuse. If you take your vessel off the approved course, you are responsible for any obstacle, whether its on a chart or not.

3) What would you have done if you were on the ship?

Who can say? My guess is that I would have followed instructions insofar as was possible, and if I was still on the ship when it flipped, I would have gotten off any way I could have. I'd like to think that I would have helped other people, but there is really no preparation you can make for something like this.

I think the crew were in a similar situation. Since there isn't a lot you can do if the ship capsizes, I don't think they had much training on it. Training's focussed on getting people into the lifeboats and rafts. If that's not possible, they'd be expected to use their wits and get people off as safely as possible. I suspect that's exactly what happened.

I'm a bit miffed with the press for repeating claims that the crew did nothing. I would be very surprised if that were true, and indeed there are stories about the injured purser getting people to safety only to get trapped himself.

4) Do you think this will have a major impact on cruising?

Well, no, not really. I've been reading some of the trade press and they're saying that while this happened at the height of "wave season," when most bookings occur, it actually might increase revenue for travel agents. How? Two factors: 1) a very large ship has been taken out of service, meaning there are fewer cabins to sell and that tends to drive prices up... and 2) more people know about cruising now, so they may be interested.

That may seem counterintuitive, but things do work that way sometimes.

One change I do expect to see is more control over lifeboat drills. Recently, we've noticed a pattern where passengers weren't required to put on their life jackets for the drills. While this makes the drill much easier (and I'd argue, reduces injuries), it creates less of a sense of "hey this is important" and now, people are going to expect that. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if there was some thought given to how to get people off a capsized vessel.

There is some talk of moving ships away from sensitive areas, but that talk is always happening, and usually the money wins. Having 4,000 people descend on your village with tourist money is hard to turn down.

Other than that though, I expect cruising to continue as normal.

5) After this, are you at all concerned about the safety of cruising?

Nope, not really. While I do take note of the fact that one person's poor decision can cause a major disaster, that's how we are in most of our daily activities.

Here are some stats that put things into perspective:

Number of cruise ships: 456

Number of passengers at sea at any given time: about 400,000

Number of passengers sailing in 2011: 19,000,000

Your odds of having an evacuation at sea? Infinitesimal.

6) But I hear about ships sinking and capsizing all the time!

Not from cruise ships you don't. You might hear about overcrowded ferries sinking, but they are not cruise ships. The media often has a hard time telling the difference. The last major incident with a cruise ship was Carnival Splendour (Concordia's sister ship) in 2010. Major fire at sea, ship lost power... number of fatalities: zero. Other than that, there have been a few small incidents here and there, but there really haven't been any major disasters since the Prinsendaam in 1980 (no major injuries or loss of life)  or the Andrea Doria in 1953. My parents are sailing on the NEW Prinsendaam as I type this. Yes - it's been nearly 60 years since the last cruise ship disaster with significant loss of life. You are probably safer on a ship than at home or at work and you're certainly safer than in your car, but when has that ever stopped you from running out for an ice cream?

I'll continue to follow the stories. I'm very curious as to whether they'll be able to salvage her and if she'll ever sail again as a Costa ship. She was their top-of-the-line, so there's going to be a major shake up. My personal opinion: Costa is not the best line out there. I found their product to be gaudy with too little attention paid to the food, though the pricing was excellent.

It's heart-wrenching for me to watch passengers scrambling over her beached hull when only hours before they were enjoying their vacation. It could happen to any of us at any time, which is all the more reason NOT to stay home, but to actually get out there and experience things. As my father is fond of saying, "life runs out of 'next years'" and I, for one, take that advice to heart.

I'm happy to talk about this more as I find it very interesting. You can reach me at

Filed under: Original 3 Comments

Writing Club on Hold.. Unless?

Ok, I admit it: I've overcommitted myself. I do this often and seem unable to learn how not to do this, but I HAVE to learned to realize it when I have. And I have. Something has to go.

And, I've decided to let something go that hasn't even started yet: The Curious1729 Writers Club. This project, which would have been a simple and supportive writers group. is something that I desperately want to do. But I can't do it justice at the moment, so I have to let it go. Or... I have to shelve it until I can resurrect it... OR.. someone else could start a similar project.

There's enough demand out there amongst my Facebook friends (that most likely includes YOUR Facebook friends) that I'm positive this would be successful. Someone just needs to start it, and I can't right now.

So I apologize to those of you who were interested in joining. If anyone wants to start a group but is afraid of not knowing how or needs some guidance, contact me and I'll share what I know. My basic advice is: do it, and figure out how afterwards. 🙂

Filed under: Original 2 Comments