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Posted by on Sep 24, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

New Podcast Episode — An Intelligent Conversation: Two Atheists Talking

 

 

Two Atheists Talking

Few belief systems are as incendiary and misunderstood as atheism. Even as the number of people who self-identify as “Nones” (non-affiliated with any religion) has become the fastest-growing group in recent years, outpacing all other organized faiths, atheism remains controversial, and for some, alienating.

In this 90-minute discussion, we explore the essence of non-belief in the supernatural and venture off onto several related tangents about how religion remains an unavoidable social influence, even for those who call themselves atheists.

Matt Lessinger and Nolan Dalla are the participants in this unscripted episode of “An Intelligent Conversation.”

0:02 – How have our religious views evolved over the course of our lives?

9:47 – Just because we avoid organized religion doesn’t mean we had a bad experience with it.

16:34 – Most atheists understand they don’t have all the answers.

24:06 – Have people become more accepting of atheism over time?

28:26 – How many “Nones” are there really?

37:17 – Do the “Unaffiliateds” have a voice?

44:30 – Could “Unaffiliateds” be intimidated into self-identifying as Christian?

48:49 – Nolan identifies Putin as the head of the modern global Christian state.

55:29 – Atheists don’t have to be one-size-fits-all.

1:03:44 – Nolan discusses the Skeptic Movement.

1:06:58 – Is science incompatible with religion?

1:13:45 – Maintaining civility around believers.

1:17:41 – Matt is fascinated by the Jerry Falwell Jr. situation.

1:24:45 – Do we have free will?

Recorded: 19 September 2020

 

LINK TO YOUTUBE BROADCAST — CLICK HERE

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Posted by on Sep 20, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 2 comments

Remembering Darvin

 

 

Darvin Moon was as real as it gets.

No illusions. No pretense. The real deal.

The mirror may have two faces, but Darvin had just one, and it was freckled, usually decorated with an innocent smile and the confident look of being fully content, comfortable in his own skin with who he was and the proud man he came to be, particularly those who were lucky enough to know him.

I was lucky to know him. And the more time I spent with Darvin, the more humble I became merely by his presence and the more impressed I became with the sincerity and honesty of his character when such redeeming attributes have become increasingly scarce in a bravado world.

Darvin didn’t speak much but when he did, we listened. Less was more.

The first time I met Darvin I was sticking a microphone into his exhausted face at 2 am on a sizzling Las Vegas night at the World Series of Poker inside the Rio when no one in a tournament room filled with thousands was hotter than the unknown “lumberjack” from the Maryland panhandle who annihilated everyone in his path en route to the most unlikely Main Event chip leader in a decade.

Darvin, who I’d never met before and never heard of prior to that year’s world poker championship, seemed like he’d just fallen off a turnip truck into a pumpkin patch. The man could have been an extra in “Lil Abner.” It was hard to believe he was real.

“Is this your first time in Las Vegas, Darvin?” I asked.

“Yes Sir (he called everyone “Sir” or “Ma’am”). I flew here on a great big plane and got to the airport and all these people treated me really nice. It’s was the first time I’ve ever been on a plane.”

Wait. This guy can’t be serious, I thought. He’s got the chip lead in the WSOP and he’s never flown before this trip?

“I’ve never played out here before. This is my first tournament, other than the ones at Wheeling (West Virginia).”

Turns out, Darvin won his seat via some small buy-in satellite tourney at a casino near his home, that’s if memory serves (i’m writing this at past midnight from memory). Now, he was sitting at the center of the poker universe competing for nearly $10 million first prize and would be the star on national television.

“What are you going to do if you win it?” I asked Darvin, wondering where this past midnight conversation was headed and if my subject would ever be heard from again once this tournament ended.

“Oh, I’ll stay the same. I might buy myself a new pickup and get something nice for Wendy (his wife), but that’s it.”

Darvin went on to finish second to Joe Cada, the winner.

Someone else might correct me here, but I believe that’s Darvin’s only major cash in a tournament. Unlike most players who made the final table that year, Darvin didn’t bring a cheering section. He didn’t enjoy the roars of the gallery. His cheerleader was Wendy and she was right there, just as she always accompanied Darvin to every poker event. A delightful lady. A partner of life. An anchor of support. They seemed made for each other.

Darvin won millions of dollars, I don’t recall the amount exactly, but he went back to the rolling green hills of western Maryland and he bought that new pickup truck and he got something nice for Wendy and by the time I saw him again a few years later, he was back on his “farm” chopping wood. His farm consisted of something like 600 acres, which was his land before the big poker paycheck. 600 acres, hell that’s practically the size of a county.

That’s where Darvin was at home, most at ease. He was a real lumberjack — precisely what you expected when you heard that word LUMBERJACK — who chopped wood and had the Popeye-muscled forearms to prove it. He later told me he spent days at a time in the wilderness, connected to the earth, his spirit guided by the stars and the wind.

We saw each other on several occasions around that time, as Darvin was a popular fixture on the set of the TV show “Poker Night in America.” Darvin liked to come around the production and talk to the crew even when he wasn’t playing. Todd Anderson, the show’s creator came to be good friends with Darvin. His genuine kindness and perpetual good cheer were infectious. I think that’s why everyone loved being around Darvin, and Wendy, too.

One time, Darvin gave me a lecture on the most common body injuries of being a lumberjack. He broke his arm multiple times, cut through his flesh, and had scars up and down both arms.

“Those trees don’t mess around,” he said. “If I tree is falling, get out of the way — it’s gonna’ fall where it wants.”

You had to love it. Just listening to Darvin was a treat. It was like being given the wisdom of Yoggi Berra dressed up like a woodsman. Simple. But real. Always real.

With Darvin, the more you got to know him, the more you wanted to know. He spoke a simple language but with profound depth. I don’t think Darvin was capable of telling a lie, which makes me wonder if he ever successfully bluffed anyone in poker.

As for poker, Darvin never pretended to be anything other than Darvin, and that was fine. He could easily afford to play in big cash games with his millions and could have played in far more tournaments. But Darvin never wanted that lifestyle. It would have kept him out of the hills, away from his trees, and required too much flying on great big planes.

That wasn’t for Darvin. What was for Darvin was living with nature. Making his own moonshine, which he did and I sampled (more than once). Being loyal to Wendy. Being Darvin Moon.

Tonight, I learned Darvin passed away. I’m really sad. I could not sleep, especially after all we’ve been through. A shitty year just got shittier.

But hey the good news is at least I got to meet Darvin, and interview him, and eventually be his friend. How cool that is.

Next time I am in a forest, and I hope that day is soon, I will look around and observe the tall trees, and try to absorb the connection to the sacred land that Darvin must as felt and experienced hundreds of times in his joyously fulfilling life. I shall close my eyes and take it all in and listen for the sound of the wind. I am sure I will hear Darvin’s voice.

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Posted by on Sep 19, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

2020 NFL: Week #2 Picks

 

 

Note:  In a previous report, I listed a betting angle that was not properly been fact-checked.  I have since removed this inaccurate text.  I regret not checking the numbers before publishing them here and will strive to verify the accuracy of all numbers in the future.  

 

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2019 NFL WAGERING RECORD

Wins — Losses — Pushes          5 — 9 — 1

Starting Bankroll:   10,000

Current Bankroll:   8,950.

Best Bets:  1 — 0 — 0 (+$400)

Last Week’s Results:          – $1,050.

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Jacksonville @ Tennessee
Tennessee by 7.5
Total — 42

Comments:   JAX got a false win last week where they were badly outgained and mostly outplayed, but won outright as 8-point underdogs.  Now, they go on the road and play a better opponent, which likely won’t take them lightly.  TEN played poorly in the MNF opener at DEN last week, and was lucky to win the game with a late FG.  But had TEN’s kicker done his job (he missed three FGs and an XP), let’s remember TEN would have won that game by double-digits.  The mark of a good team is when it plays below its capability and still wins.  That applies to TEN here, which will now face a much softer defense.  TEN should roll here also based on history — last two years Jaguars are just 4-8-1 ATS as a road underdog.  JAX also lost their last six visits to Nashville, with three of their last four losses here by 19+ points.  TEN should play a better game this week, while outclassed JAX folds mid-game and is content to go to 1-1.  Also lean OVER in this game, as TEN might roll up the score after a poor offensive showing in Week 1.  No official play for me in this game, but my lean is to TEN and OVER.

 

Detroit @ Green Bay
Green Bay by 6
Total — 50

Comments:  GB looks easy here, laying less than a touchdown.  But DET has played GB tough in recent years.  Packers won both games in the series last season by a total of 4 points, and the Lions were really banged up then.  In fact, DET has beat GB 3 of the last 5 at Lambeau Field, so that’s going to keep me off the favorite.  DET is tempting.  They’ve crumbled late in games under Patricia, but do seem to come into games well prepared, evidence by a 23-6 fourth-quarter lead last week (which they squandered).  DET comes in with more urgency here, and I suspect they’ll keep this close for a while.  DET getting+3.5 will be my official pick here, although I’m fearful of GB’s potent offensive attack which decimated MIN last week.  DET does have enough weapons to stay in the game, and it’s hard to argue with their impressive results against the Packers the last 2-3 seasons.  So, let’s play the dog in the first half.

 

LA Rams @ Philadelphia
Phila by 1.5
Total — 45.5

Comments:   Here’s the first of the five games where the betting angle applies.  I like LAR anyway, especially given PHI injury concerns.  Something is wrong with a team that blows a 17-0 to Washington and if the Eagles couldn’t handle that challenge, they may be in for an even longer afternoon at home against a much better team.  LAR were a surprise in the opener, beating DAL as a home dog.  LAR defense rose to the occasion in the red zone and the offense did just enough to get the win.  I’m also starting to suspect there’s less pressure now on LAR, especially after two seasons when they’ve been under the spotlight.  Now, factored at the third-best team in the division based on season win projections, LAR might be on a bit of a mission.  To return to contender status they need to beat banged-up teams like PHI, and I suspect they will do exactly that.  Last two seasons, PHI is just 5-11 ATS at home.  Last three seasons, LAR are 15-9 ATS on the road.  LAR +1 is the play.  Note:  I’ll also tease LAR up to +7.5 on the 6-point tease.

 

Carolina @ Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay by 8.5
Total — 47.5

Comments:  CAR offense looked pretty good last week, but the defense was dismal.  That sets up a possible breakout game for Brady, who had a poor game in his TB debut in NOR last week.  That’s the storyline here, and all eyes will be on Brady and the TB offense.  Indeed, this is a perfect setup for a confidence builder.  But it seems foolish to lay this many points with an unproven commodity.  We have no idea how Brady will perform with his new team, and if last week is any indication, there are reasons for concern.  I expect CAR with veteran Bridgewater at QB will keep this close, and within the margin.  Brady could light it up, but TB defense might also allow some yards and points.  Since 2014, TB is just 4-15-2 ATS as a home favorite.  This is the second game where the betting angle applies, and since I like CAR plus the points anyway, this is an easy wager for me.  Taking CAR +8.5

 

Buffalo at Miami
Buffalo by 3
Total — 41

Comments:  I got a good number here on the total at 41.  I like the OVER.  But it’s now 42.  Tough to know where to score it, so I’ll post this officially at 41.5.  OVER is 14-3 in MIA last 17 home openers.  The heat and humidity wears down defenses, and here’s a good spot to take advantage.  BUF look pretty good last week versus miserable NYJ, and will gain confidence on offense with another sub-par opponent.  MIA has to be disappointed as hell with the weak effort at NWE last week.  MIA should have covered, but an interception in the end zone late killed that prospect.  MIA had been on of the surprising hot teams ATS since last mid-season, going 9-4 versus the number, and winning 5 of those games outright.  I think MIA will play a better game here, especially on offense.  Ancient journeyman Fitzpatrick played a horrible game last week but should perform better.  He tends to play his best when least expected.  Low total here, let’s look for the number to fly OVER.

 

NY Giants @ Chicago
Chicago by 5.5
Total — 42

Comments:  Both these teams looked dismal much of their openers, although CHI staged an unexpected comeback win.  NYG looked weak on both sides of the ball, especially along the OL and defensive secondary.  OL missed several assignments and was badly outmatched versus PIT.  They now draw another tough chore, facing CHI defensive front.  I expect a long day for NYG.  Also not much impressed with RB Barkley, who admittedly gets little help but so far shows nothing of the star qualities that were expected of him.  Not a fan.  Defensive backs were horrific last week, especially Love who apparently doesn’t know what the word “tackle” means.  This is a bad team, in for a long season.  I can’t trust CHI after being stuck by 17 on the road at DET at one point.  Who knows what to expect from the Bears offense.  UNDER 42 looks to be the play here, for a small bet.

 

Minnesota @ Indianapolis
Indianapolis by 3
Total — 47.5

Comments:  Another angle play, betting against the winless favorite.  That means taking MIN which was ambushed versus GB last week.  That’s not nearly as humiliating as losing to JAX, however.  Not sure how or why IND is laying a FG.  Favored by 1 or 2…maybe.  But a FG seems like a gift.  I expect both teams to make major adjustments here and the outcome to be close.  Give me the +3 in a game with lots of uncertainty.

 

Atlanta @ Dallas:
Dallas by 4
Total — 53.5

Comments:  Fourth of the 5 angle plays, betting ATL +4.  DAL was expected to win division and still might simply by default.  Hell, 8-8 might win the NFC East this season.  DAL should bounce back after failing to make big plays when needed in loss at LAR last week.  Much easier foe with weak ATL defense that was destroyed versus SEA last week.  But I still don’t trust DAL, especially laying points.  Most indicators like DAL as the favorite, but I’ll still with the system and play ATL.  They did roll up 500+ yards of offense in Week 1, but lots of those chunks were in garbage time.   Line has dropped to DAL -3.5 in some places.  Not sure why.

 

San Francisco @ NY Jets
San Francisco by 7
Total — 43.5

Comments:  I must be insane.  Give me the NYJ +7.  It would take a madman to make a case for the Jets, so instead let me explain why the 49ers shouldn’t be laying this number.  SFO scored only 10 points in four trips to red zone, converting just 2/11 on 3rd down, and that was at home versus ARZ.  Also some injury issues at WR and DB could be a concern for the road favorites.  NYJ last three years are 10-6-1 ATS as a home underdog, so they tend to play well when not expected.  This might be another good spot.  Few people will touch the Jets, and the reason is understandable.  But I’ll go with the home dog getting the TD versus offense that may struggle and hasn’t dominated an opponent in quite a while.

 

Washington @ Arizona
Arizona by 7
Total — 46.5

Comments:  WAS gained only 239 yards, but were +3 in turnovers in upset win vs. PHI.  Similar to JAX situation where a bad team pulled off an unexpected victory at home and might be in for a letdown, especially with little proven talent.  ARZ is the real deal on offense as evidenced by their strong showing at SFO, one of league’s best defenses.  They get a much softer opponent here.  ARZ is tempting to lay points, but better wager might be the teaser down to -1.  If for some reason ARZ has an off day and last week’s win was a fluke, I’m more comfortable with the prospect of them just winning, so the teaser here has appeal.  In fact, I’m pounding ARZ on three teasers this week — with TEN, LAR, and KC.

 

Baltimore @ Houston
Baltimore by 7.5
Total — 51 1/2

Comments:  BAL virtually got a bye last week with cakewalk win versus CLE, but should be in for a tougher time here.  I suspect HOU will play a better game than they showed at KC and with extra time to prepare off Thurs. loss, HOU finds itself in a game where they have no excuses for at least an improved effort.  Linesmakers might be overreacting just a bit here to BAL looking so impressive and HOU showing little flash in Week 1.  Looks like a classic case of oddsmaker and public overreaction.  Serious concerns about HOU offense with bad playing calling and their best WR traded in offseason.  However, all teams have off weeks and BAL could be in for a trap here.  A full TD is enough to make be bite the forbidden fruit of betting against the Ravens.

 

Kansas City @ LA Chargers
Kansas City by 8.5
Total — 47

Comments:  For years, I avoided betting on popular favorites like KC in this spot.  A road favorite, playing division foe, yada yada, yada.  I did the contrarian thing all the way to the poorhouse and now I’ve learned my lesson.  At least on this game.  Tyrod Taylor at QB for LAC is reason I’m fading them this week.  He struggled in his start at woeful CIN last week, posting just 16 measly points.  Now, he’s got to compete against Patrick Mahomes who now also has a running game.  Looks scary for Chargers in their home opener.  I won’t lay -8.5 but I do feel confident teasing the champions under a FG and look for them to take care of business.  Extra rest also helps KC and coach Andy Ried is the all-time best with extra prep time, going 17-2 in games off the bye or on Thurs.  Last four years, KC is 15-8-1 ATS as a road favorite.

 

SNF:  New England @ Seattle
Seattle by 4
Total — 45

Comments:  Sorry to disappoint, but I have no opinion on this game.  NWE getting +4 is tempting but SEA just looks so strong right now.  I’d nip at NWE if I can find +4.5, but this isn’t enough points.  Moreover, NWE offense ran the ball well last week but might not be quite ready versus a SEA team that steamrolled over its opponent and looked unstoppable, at times.  Pass.

 

MNF:  New Orleans @ Las Vegas
New Orleans by 5.5
Total — 49

Comments:  I’ve already decided I’m not betting this game, so spent no time on it.  Last four years, the Saints are 12-3 ATS as a road favorite.  New stadium and a new city for Raiders, which will be an unusual spot in the sense this isn’t a home field or game yet, with no fans nor any experience in this venue.  NOR has some advantages playing in domes, and the road record ATS being impressive but I’m not laying this number.  Slight lean to the OVER.  Pass.

 

OFFICIAL PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD (12 picks):

First Half:  Detroit +3.5 (-115) vs. Green Bay — $230 to win $200

LA Rams +1.5 vs. Philadelphia — $330 to win $300

Carolina +8.5 vs. Tampa Bay — $330 to win $300

Buffalo / Miami OVER 41.5 — $220 to win $200

NY Giants / Chicago UNDER 42 — $110 to win $100

Minnesota +3 vs. Indianapolis — $220 to win $200

Atlanta +4 vs. Dallas — $220 to win $200

NY Jets +7.5 vs. San Francisco — $220 to win $200

Houston + 7 vs. Baltimore — $220 to win $200

Teaser:  ARZ -1 and LAR +7.5 — $360 to win $300

Teaser:  ARZ -1 and TEN -2.5 — $360 to win $300

Teaser:  ARZ -1 and KC -2.5 — $360 to win $300

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Posted by on Sep 17, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

Review: The Social Dilemma (Netflix Documentary)

 

 

The Social Dilemma attempts to expose the ways in which technology giants have manipulated human psychology to influence how we behave.  And if you think that sounds absolutely terrifying, you’d be right.

 

I watched Netflix’s new award-winning documentary, THE SOCIAL DILEMMA last night. The topic is certainly timely, and arguably the most important issue of our time. That’s not an overstatement. Yet the pervasive, and some say corrupting influence of social media on most of our daily lives is largely ignored and even widely accepted.

THE SOCIAL DILEMMA stands apart from similar dire dystopian future forecasts because the messengers who warn us are many of the purveyors of destruction themselves. Several current and former executives of the high tech platforms we all use daily were interviewed. Virtually all admit it’s too late to contain the dragon. When asked, “what should we do?” more than a few stared blankly into the camera.

In a time when most of us freely spend 90 minutes watching mindless movies or ball games, taking an hour and a half to learn more about the technology that’s come to dominate our lives, both individually and collectively, seems like a wise investment. Understanding the world’s most powerful tool, channels of communication, and platforms of interaction is essential.

Finally, this topic was the first one addressed by Matt Lessinger and myself on our new weekly podcast, “An Intelligent Conversation.” That’s merely a coincidence. I wish I’d seen this documentary prior to being interviewed on the show. However, many of the same things are discussed. So, THE SOCIAL DILEMMA hit particularly close to home for me, since I’ve spent more time recently thinking about it.

This documentary has my highest recommendation and should be required viewing.

 

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Posted by on Sep 16, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 0 comments

Dealing With the Hazards of Social Media (New Podcast)

 

Note:  Matt Lessinger, a longtime friend and philosophical compatriot approached me recently with the idea to host a new podcast.  The concept was simple:  A conversation.  An intelligent conversation. 

One week later, here we are.  Our first podcast, which runs nearly two hours, is finished and posted.  We tackle the question with no simple answers, namely — what is social media doing to us?

Here’s Matt’s introduction of the new show on (where else?)….his Facebook page: 

 

Hello friends …

I hope you’ll indulge this experiment. Nolan Dalla and I agree that social media is a very difficult place to try to engage someone in intelligent conversation. So, we decided to have an intelligent conversation of our own. I enjoyed it tremendously, and I hope it will be the first of many.

I conceived this idea because the prevailing wisdom is that you can’t change people’s minds on social media. That may be true, but I knew that talking with Nolan about any topic would open my mind (and hopefully yours) to different possibilities. With each conversation that I post, I will describe an opinion of mine that evolved as a result of the conversation. Here’s the one for this week:

*I believe that social media is continually making our society worse. As we’ve become more and more polarized, I have held a very pessimistic view of what our society will become after another decade or two of social media usage. But in having that view, I was always very narrowly focused on Facebook and Twitter. Nolan pointed out that TikTok and some other social media platforms are catering to teenagers, who are really just trying to have fun. Meanwhile, adults are the ones who are typically more confrontational on social media, and often come off of it feeling angry or miserable. I hadn’t given the generational difference too much thought. Ten years ago, we adults were so worried that teenagers would misuse or abuse social media. We wanted to make sure that they were taught how to use social media responsibly. The problem is, we forgot to give that lesson to ourselves.

If I was 95% pessimistic about the future of our social media society, I would say after talking with Nolan that I’m now only 85% pessimistic. It will come down to whether the next generation will learn from all of the mistakes that we 21+ year olds have been making on Facebook and Twitter, or will they repeat the same dumb mistakes that we continue to make.*

Please enjoy this conversation, and feel free to share any topics that you feel are worthy of discussion.

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