Archive for category Christmas

The Skeptic Santa Problem

This Saturday is the Merseyside Skeptics Christmas Party (at the View Two Gallery on Mathew Street from 7pm, everyone is welcome).  And as part of that event, we’re planning our own version of the Secret Santa game that some of you may be familiar with.

This is how it works: each person who wants to play the game brings a gift, to no more than £5 value.  Each gift is exchanged for a raffle ticket.  At the end of the night, raffle tickets are drawn and people are awarded their gifts.  You must have a ticket to get a gift, so you only get a gift if you gave a gift.

Lovely. Though there are a couple of problems.

First, we don’t want people getting their own gift back.  It’s not particularly nice, and for less than a £5 value, it’s probably some piece of gift-wrapped tat anyway. You brought it to the party because you wanted to get shot of it, you don’t want it back.  So that’s problem number one.  Problem number two: we don’t want people to be able to game the system.  By that we mean, we don’t want people to be able to engineer things so they can guarantee  their gift goes to a particular person, or a particular person’s gift goes to them.  It has to be fair.

We have come up with a few solutions to this problem. Some mathematical, some empirical, some just plain daft.  Most of them are flawed in some way, but we think we have one which works.

What solutions can you come up with?  We’ll publish ours after the party.


Caption Competition #19

Last week we showed you two stills from our recent live edition of Skeptics With a K and invited you to be witty, as we do. The chosen winner this time round is Nate, who simply stated:

This is why podcasts are audio only.

Who can argue with that?

You may have noticed that it’s Christmas! So, in keeping with the spirit of the season we have a typically Christmassy picture for you. Whilst we have your attention we’d also like to wish you all the best for the new year from all of us here at the MSS. But more importantly…

What should be the caption for the picture below?



Question of the Week/Fortnight/Miscellaneous Holiday Period: New Year’s Resolutions

Well, it’s the New Year! Almost. At time of writing, it’s still New Year’s Eve, we’re all partying like it’s two-thou-sand-and-nine and the decade still has time to surprise us with something. A bunch of flowers from the 24-hour garage would do – it’s the thought that counts. Round about this time of the year, everyone asks everyone else if they’ve made any New Year’s Resolutions, and everyone tells everyone ‘Oh, well, I don’t tend to do much because I know I’m not going to stick to any of it beyond the middle of January, but I am going to try to <insert wildly ambitious life-changing decision>’

I for one won’t be making any resolutions, except that I resolve to make a maths-based continuous/discrete gag every time someone tells me to be discreet, and also I resolve not to make wild resolutions that I’m never going to stick to in a month of Sundays. Or even one Sunday, for that matter. But what are we to do in the hideous gaps in conversations that will arise from having no resolutions to natter about at the water-cooler/generic-cliched-meeting-place when we all trudge back to work? Do we stand in silence? Do we mime speaking and hope our colleagues all assume they’ve been struck deaf? Here’s a better idea:

Make up some New Year’s Resolutions – the barmier the better, the more ludicrous the lovelier, the more x the y-er.

And have a great 2010, especially since we only have two years left until the Mayan zombie apocalypse draws an Asteroid made of CO2 into one of our volcanoes and triggers the end of the world. Or something. I never bothered watching that film, to be honest. I hear it’s good though.

(Regular readers may have spotted we’ve put nothing out in well over a week. Apologies, we’ve been lazily picking at what’s left of the Christmas Turkey, not because we’re hungry, just because it’s been there in the fridge when we’ve got the milk out for our cups of tea, and it’s rude not to, after all… Regular service will resume in 2010)


There’s Probably No Santa, So Stop Worrying and Forget About The Beard

Next week we have the lovely Ariane Sherine coming up to Liverpool Skeptics In The Pub, when she will be talking about how she created the Atheist Bus Campaign, and about her new book The Atheist’s Guide To Christmas. The book is a great read, featuring essays by 42 famous atheists from different walks of life. Contributors include Richard Dawkins, Charlie Brooker, Simon Singh, Josie Long and many, many more. I thoroughly recommend it.

Anyway, in tribute to the book and Ariane’s upcoming talk (which will be fab, so please come along!), I thought I’d stick my oar in and have a bit of a blog about atheism myself. As far back as I can remember, I’ve never believed in a God. Lately, I’ve heard and read a lot of stories by people of their conversions to athiesm, or from atheism to theism, or of their struggle to ‘come out’ as an atheist, particularly in religious households; but I have no such story to tell. No-one in my family is religious or cares much either way about whether a God exists or not, and the friends I grew up with seem to have been in the same boat, so far as I know. It’s simply never been an issue for me, to the extent that I’ve never even really thought of myself as an atheist. It would be like giving myself a label based around the fact I have arms, or have never owned a chicken. Read the rest of this entry »

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