Back in 1984, in Rogers Park, Chicago, there existed (and still exists today) a Jewish preschool on Touhy Avenue, the street where I currently live.

It happened that a woman was picking her four-year-old daughter from school, and as they were walking through the hall, a janitor tried to tickle the little girl, and the girl told him to leave her alone.

So the mom asks the girl about it later, and the girl alleged that the janitor had previously tickled her private parts.   The allegations were reported to the police, who then interviewed something like 80 kids at the school.  Some of the kids apparently reported that there were satanic rituals going on at the school.  Some kids claimed they had seen the teachers there kill a baby, cook it in a kettle, and then eat it.

Ultimately, there was an investigation, the janitor was charged with molestation and the school closed down for a while.  Eventually, the janitor was acquitted, and two-hundred-something charges against the school and various teachers were dropped, because of either lack of evidence or a bumbled investigation, depending on who you ask.

In case you were wondering because of the superficial similarities, A Nightmare on Elm Street was also released in 1984.

I discovered this today because we published an article about a couple in Texas who just had their 20-year-old convictions tossed in a similar satanic ritual abuse situation.

And that led me to an article one of my co-workers wrote back in 1987 about the Rogers Park case.

Here’s the most authoritative version I’ve been able to find in my brief research.  It appears from this that the judge in the case felt like there was a real possibility that sexual abuse had occurred, but because it had become this satanic cult witch hunt, the investigation had been compromised, and thus there was reasonable doubt, requiring the acquittal.

Interesting story, eh?

So, I honestly can’t believe it took me so long to figure this trick out.

If you’re like me, you’ve made hamburgers or cheeseburgers at home plenty of times.  And, if you’re like me, you’ve learned to unplug the battery from the smoke detector before you start cooking the patties because it’s going to undoubtedly smoke up the house a little.  There’s even an episode of Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home in which Julia Child jokes that the best place to cook hamburgers is at your friend’s house, because it’s inevitably going to smoke the place up.

I mean, you want to get a good sear on those things, and since it’s ground meat, you definitely want to get it cooked well.  Beef fat’s got a low smoke point, though, so by the time the patty is cooked, the beef fat has started to burn, and you end up smoking everything up.

But it turns out the secret is simple.  For years and years, I’ve just thrown the patties into a dry pan because I knew they’d render plenty of fat when they cook, and I didn’t see any reason to add more fat.  But the secret is to use a little bit of oil with a high smoke point to get the patties started.  Just pour in maybe two or three teaspoons of something like canola oil into the pan (I prefer cast iron) before you put the burgers in, and that will raise the smoke point of the beef fat which renders as the patty cooks.

Simple and brilliant, and makes it much more convenient to cook hamburgers at home in a small apartment kitchen.

“Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?”

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 I’m about 400 pages deep into a book about rationality and improving your cognitive functionality, so I figured, what the heck, let’s look at what contemporary christians think are their most convincing arguments. Also, I was out of horror movies to watch, and I had a few drinks in me.

So the story is essentially thus: A kid is a freshman in college, and signs up for an introductory undergrad philosophy class. The teacher of said class, as he is passing out his syllabus, says that everyone has to sign a piece of paper saying that “God’s Dead”, or else suffer dire consequences. Everyone signs except for our hero, who is then told he has to convince his class of 40 or so kids that god exists, or else he fails (or, as the movie repeatedly insists upon, “commits academic suicide”). Add in a few insipid side stories, and you can imagine how plot goes from there.

I was extremely disappointed in this movie, I have to say. I mean, it’s just a jumble of weird christian fantasies about what they imagine atheists must be like. The epistemology is not just flawed, it’s more like a melange of lousy justifications for a foregone conclusion — oh, gosh, doesn’t the Big Bang theory sound just like the account of creation in Genesis? No? Well, here’s an appeal to authority. Not buying that? Maybe you’d prefer to believe that atheists are all just secretly angry with God. Etc.  It’s like a 90-minute live-action Chick tract.

Every character a caricature. Every plotline a melodrama. And the whole thing ends with all the newly-saved freshmen attending a christian rock concert en masse, where they all text everyone in their phonebooks with the message “God’s Not Dead”. As the credits roll, the audience of the film is encouraged to do the same. Because, you know, get on the bandwagon.  From beginning to end, it’s a cavalcade of bad logic, fallacious reasoning, wishful thinking and offensive stereotypes of all kinds.

But ultimately, it comes down to this: I’ve been in my fair share of undergrad philosophy courses. I’m fairly confident that nobody involved in the making of this movie can say the same thing. Philosophy professors are really, really lousy villains in real life.

“God’s Not Dead” on IMDB.com

Weighing in at more than 1,800 pages, it is quite possibly the most complete tome available on how to improve your mind, make better decisions, and understand why people, including yourself, do what they do. I cannot recommend it more strongly.

Pay-what-you-want version includes DRM-free epub, mobi, and PDF versions. Also available on Amazon for Kindle, etc.

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Rationality: From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky Tweet What does it actually mean to be rational? Not Hollywood-style “rational,” where one rejects all human feeling to embrace Cold Hard Logic — real rationality, of the sort studied by psychologists, social scientists, and mathematicians. The ki…

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It's pretty, but is it art? Photo via DNAInfo.com

It’s pretty, but is it art? Photo via DNAInfo.com

My neighborhood is weird.

A partially decomposed, severed deer head with antlers was found stuck on a bamboo stake — resembling a sort of morbid scarecrow — at Loyola Park Beach Monday.

“I was up there on the sand and I thought, ‘What in the heck is that? Is that a real deer head?’ ” said Steve Browne, who had been out on a morning walk Monday when he made the discovery. “I went out to it, and it sure was.”

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“Homan Square is definitely an unusual place,” Church told the Guardian on Friday. “It brings to mind the interrogation facilities they use in the Middle East. The CIA calls them black sites. It’s a domestic black site. When you go in, no one knows what’s happened to you.”

Exclusive: Secret interrogation facility reveals creeping aspects of war on terror in US city as accounts describe shackling and brutality without basic rights

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Good stuff.

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On a warm day in April 2013, I was sitting in a friend’s kitchen in Paris, trying to engineer serendipity. I was trying to get my…

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New Cannibal Ox track from their upcoming “Blade of the Ronin” album. Featuring MF DOOM, too. Pretty good, I have to say!

Purchase “Blade of the Ronin” on iTunes Now: http://bit.ly/1Cez3MB As Vast Aire and Vordul Mega, collectively known as Cannibal Ox, prepare for the release of their highly-anticipated sophomore alb

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