What is a “Snopester?”

So many of my readers / followers have been asking me, “what is a snopester?” Though, usually with snopester spelled wrong. This post is to clear that up.

A snopester is someone who is a member of the Urban Legends Message Board (ULMB), located at snopes.com. This message board has about 1050 people who have registered AND posted at least a few times, though I have found that many people are very active posters here. I am infinitely jealous of them, though I’ve given up my dream of trying to post over 10,000 times. Heck, if I make it to 1,000 by the end of the year I’ll be astonished.

The snopes.com website was founded by Barbara and David Mikkelson, a husband and wife team who live and work in the Los Angeles area. What they began in 1995 as an expression of their shared interest in researching urban legends has since grown into what is widely regarded by folklorists, journalists, and laypersons alike as one of the World Wide Web’s essential resources. Snopes.com is routinely included in annual “Best of the Web” lists and has been the recipient of two Webby awards. The Mikkelsons have made multiple appearances as guests on national news programs such as 20/20ABC World NewsCNN Sunday Morning, and NPR’s All Things Considered, and they and their work have been profiled in numerous major news publications, including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and an April 2009 Reader’s Digest feature (“The Rumor Detectives“) published as part of that magazine’s “Your America: Inspiring People and Stories” series.

To read more of this introduction about what Snopes is, please go here. For Twitter users, please check them out here.

I discovered snopes back in 2002 when a co-worker of my mom’s brought in a printout of this Urban Legend. WARNING, some mildly graphic photos (Snopesters reading this – it’s the “Bear Hunt” legend). I have the link here, because this is the page that started my total addiction to this website. I’ve read about 90% of ALL the UL’s on the site, and at one point had this one memorized! (It’s not only my FAVORITE UL, but also my favorite ghost story)

For a more “tame” example of a UL, please go here.

As for the ULMB, it’s where Snopesters interact. Here’s the thread that should get you started. It’s your standard message board, but also in that fashion everyone gets very close. Not only do we talk about Urban Legends, but PLENTY of other things! Please feel free to browse and enjoy!

The most important thing I can say that makes me a Snopester, is requiring EVIDENCE when presented with some claim. This can be any claim from a news article, to an explanation of some event by a person who was there. The point being, there must be some piece of FACT (scientifically proven) to show that the item is not simply made up and being passed around. Photos are not counted as fact, and many times are actually what’s being disputed.

There you have it folks, the basic definition of a Snopester.

August 2014 Edited to add:

The concept of requiring non-biased evidence to support a claim made has evolved through my discovery and subscription to the Skeptoid podcast. Brian Dunning represents the level of critical thinking that I strive to achieve.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

Happy Father’s Day!

I figured this day is big enough to me that it deserves it’s own post.

Father’s day has a ton of different meanings to me. For starters, it’s my ultimate goal in life to become a father. It’s what comes beyond marriage, beyond any other experience that I will ever have. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m strongly looking forward to my own marriage down the road someday!)

But since that event is several years in the future (somewhere between 2023 and 2029), I focus on my own father and what he means.

For those who don’t know, my father is actually no longer with us, he passed away during my sophomore year of high school. It a little bit more effort than normal (Google didn’t quite catch this link!) but here is where my father is online from now on.

Offline, he is buried in the King, WI Veterans Memorial Cemetery. Mom has a spot right behind him for when her time comes, which I hope is long into the future.

Dad and I have an interesting history. Honestly, I never got to know him very well until after he died. He and I never were able to communicate very well, but the most important thing is that I got to tell him that I love him before he died. I have two older half brothers through my dad’s first marriage, one lives in Florida and one in Washington state. Both of them I miss deeply, and am hoping to reconnect with sometime in the next year or two.

I never really knew my dad in his prime. He had a brain aneurysm when I was only 2 years old, and after the surgery he was changed permanently.

He was the president of Pohlman Studios in Milwaukee, which I believe has since gone belly up. There is no website that really explains who they were, but UW Digital Collections has a nice archive for them here.

My dad was also in the military, during WWII.

This is him during those days. The caption for the source of this photo reads,

“This is a shot of my very good friend, T-4 Thomas M J Condie, taking a break after finishing a tough class. Tom was also sent to Ansco about a year after I went and, together, we formalized the School Lesson Plans. Tom went on to be a very successful commercial photographer (he did Harley Davidson ads for years {until they got really big time} as well as Westinghouse Refrigerators, Lillian Vernon catalogs and many others). Sadly, Tom died two years ago.”

The photo is very far down the source page, hence the copy and paste.

While there is some analog footage of my dad on our VHS tapes, I don’t have any snazzy Youtube videos to post, or other internet-type things to share.

I still love and miss my dad. In reference to this post, I can say that I have seen him a few times. The summer after he passed, Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban was in theaters and around the ending Sirus puts his hand on Harry’s heart and reminds him that his parents will always be with him there. I feel the same way.

In honor of today, I would like to encourage everyone to leave a memory about their father here.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

Paranormal Activity, in Reality

So, some of you may be wondering about my facebook status from last night. Here’s the story behind it:

Bjorn and I were out driving last night and I decided to make a quick visit to my old elementary school, Prospect Hill. We pulled up the the entrance towards the back where the gymnasium is, not the hallway behind the old kindergarten room. Bjorn stayed in the car, feeling strongly as though he wasn’t welcome in the place, while I got out and walked up closer to the door.

As I approached the door, I felt a force repelling me from the school. Bjorn as was already uncomfortable enough, and we decided to leave. As we passed, we noted that there was a light on in the school, very stark white in color. Bjorn mentioned the strong feelings of being watched.

We drove back to the house I grew up in New Berlin, and within a block of the house, both Bjorn and I felt a presence in the backseat. We both described to each other the exact same little girl that we both felt was in the backseat. Both of our creeped-out meters began to climb even higher.

When we pulled into the garage, it felt very much like this ghost of a little girl had followed us home and was waiting in the garage. We went inside, and opened up my laptop in the living room. Bjorn felt compelled to stay around the computer desk we have in the living room, not wanting to go anywhere near the garage door again, even though the only staircase to upstairs and the bedroom was across the hall from the door to the garage.

We decided to do a little digging about the history of the school and found the following articles:

http://goo.gl/RTgi9

This is the article about the building possibly being razed.

http://goo.gl/GNoQx

This article was written shortly after, an opinion piece about the abovementioned.

http://goo.gl/TqHjw

From one year previous to the two above articles, the main story about the Military School that was being installed in Prospect Hill.

http://goo.gl/kCPmM

This article is a continuation of the story from the previous, talking about more of the financial ruin of the school.

As we were looking through these, we stumbled upon this, which seemed unrelated:

http://goo.gl/M0Dqq

Bjorn mentioned getting flashes of an old house and a little girl being murdered in it. I recalled from 4th grade (1997) when we had the 150th anniversary of the state of Wisconsin (or some number like that) when there were stories circulating about this old farmhouse, but nothing more specific than that. This morning when we drove back, Bjorn explained that the house in his flash was the house located directly next to the church pictured in the above article.

After we found all of these, we managed to gather up the courage to go upstairs. Bjorn mentioned feeling like this little girl that followed us home followed us up the stairs as well.

We settled down in the bedroom, and that’s when I started feeling faintly like my dad was in the room (for those that don’t know, he passed away in 2003), and Bjorn said he saw my dad shoo away the little girls that had followed us. Bjorn also mentioned a more sinister presence for a short bit, but that one dissipated fairly quickly.

I felt most of these same thing until we got up to the bedroom, then outside of my dad I started losing touch with all the feelings in the air. Bjorn has mentioned that he’s never had this much reaction or feelings about strange presences in his life, which is why this is so shocking to him.

We went back to the school today in the sunlight (with our friend Nicole D. in tow) and both of them mentioned feeling like they were being watched, but more like schoolchildren were watching. I felt nothing during our day trip there. While we were there, we noticed that many of the windows of the school had been smashed, one clearly smashed with a hammer. Many times the smashed glass was on the outside of the building, implying to me that this was something that was trying to break out rather than in.

We looked through many of the windows, but didn’t find much other than the typical left-behinds of maintainence. There was police line yellow tape smattered through the building that we could see,  and one door was blocked off completely with it. The stark white light that was in the school last night was no longer on, and I couldn’t find a source for it. We did note that one of the classrooms had fluorescent lights still turned on.

Beyond that, we did a tiny bit more digging at the Library, and I found that Prospect Hill used to be the polling station for Ward 4 of New Berlin, until February 2008, just a few months before the Military academy moved in.

At this point, I’m taking a group of friends back tonight, just to see if anything else stirs up. I keep getting the feeling that there’s an unfinished story there, but beyond that I don’t have a clue. Any information or stories you can provide about Prospect Hill Elementary School in New Berlin, WI would be much appreciated.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Reviews: The Social Network

Just got home from seeing The Social Network in theaters for the first time. I can understand why Mark Zuckerburg wouldn’t want to see it, there’s a few things that have been exaggerated about him and his life, plus Jesse Eisenberg adds a few details to Mark’s character that I can hardly imagine that the real Mark has or is.

First of all, what surprised me is that the story is told in memories, meaning that what takes place “now” is the characters in the board rooms meeting with lawyers and discussing the several lawsuits that are going on. I thought that the movie would be about how facebook was created, not told as a memory. It’s an interesting artistic choice, one that keeps the plot moving very fast.

That’s another point – this movie moves very fast, and if you don’t know the real story behind the creation of facebook in reality, there’s a good handful of things that might confuse the average viewer.

Second, the primary buzz (at least when the movie came out) that this movie was about Mark creating facebook as a way to get a girlfriend is a bit bent. Yes, in the movie it does show Mark’s character in a relationship with a girl named Erica, and Mark’s character attempts revenge on her, but he does it while drunk and gets into a bit of trouble for it. Beyond that, the focus isn’t so much on relationships as it is about hooking up. (I do wish there was a little bit more boy on boy action represented, since facebook’s Co-Founder, Chris Hughes is actually gay).

There’s a good number of legal terms that come up in the movie, and anyone who doesn’t have a basic grasp of law and legal proceedings is going to be lost in the terms.

A couple of artistic choices definitely struck me. First, it was a walk down memory lane seeing the old versions of the facebook site on screen. Second, I enjoyed how much sex was emphaised over relationships – I feel that it’s a good expression of how society is evolving in it’s definition of relationships. Ironically enough, this whole issue is a plot point in the movie – relationships and why the relationship status was added to facebook itself.

Third, (and a smaller point) I loved the choice of music. There are no theme songs, per se, but I recognized many of the famous classical pieces that were included.

Fourth, I also enjoyed the pace of the movie. As I said, it goes quite fast, and just like how watching Beyblade motivates me to play the game, watching The Social Network makes me want to blog, to facebook, to tweet, and so much more. Note, I came home and immediately hopped on WordPress to write a blog which will sync to facebook, and to twitter, and to Tumblr, and then a second time to my facebook as a note, and so on and so on. On top of that, I’m building in more features onto my WordPress (As soon as I understand Google Friend connect!) and posting for the second time in a short period. Again, so much pace described above, and all inspired from the speed of the movie.

Fifth, I noticed the emphasis on how college students are performing incredible business tasks from the setting of their dorm rooms. It makes me smile to reflect on how much of an impact that people from the ages of 16 to 28 are having on the world right now, and how much more of an impact they are going to have for the next 60 years! So many things in the world and in life are about the change, and much of that will be coming from the fast paced people depicted in this movie.

Finally, I enjoy the level of knowledge that’s shown throughout the movie. Everyone seems to be an expert on everything, which is easy these days. With mobile and cloud computing, anyone can do a Google search from just about anywhere and get a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips in seconds about whatever they need at any moment. And if you’re at a high speed computer in an office, then you have an infinitely bigger capability of gathering loads of useful information and basically creating a data army to use at your will.

A very nice piece of art, I’d say.

All in all, I’m pretty sure this makes my list of top 20 favorite moves of mine of all time.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie