Astrology is Taurus feces

By Phil Plait | July 2, 2009 2:00 pm

Tonight on Showtime, Penn & Teller take on astrology! You can take a peek at the show online here (with the bad words edited out), or you can watch the show at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time.

I happen to know that a certain Beloved Internet Personality who blogs about astronomy and Doctor Who is on the show briefly as well. Well, it’s probably a good episode anyway, so you should order Showtime and watch it, and buy the DVDs as well.

Bonus ironic pun: the episode is directed by Star Price. Siriusly.

So, if you are totally convinced that astrology actually works, despite an entire Universe of evidence stomping on your face telling you you’re wrong, then you can give P&T a piece of your mind personally, since they’ll be at TAM 7. You can yell at them then… but be prepared to have Penn enthusiastically join that Universe of evidence.

And don’t forget:

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Astronomy, Science, Skepticism

Comments (59)

Links to this Post

  1. Conspirama | July 2, 2009
  1. Anonymous

    Is this the show with the two libertarians pretending to be skeptics &, because they can pull a rabbit out of a hat, I should believe what they have to say about such things as coffins, guns & the environment?

    Wake me when there’s a REAL show for skeptics like, perhaps, the Skeptologists…

  2. “I happen to know that a certain Beloved Internet Personality who blogs about astronomy and Doctor Who is on the show briefly as well.”

    Well I’m stumped, who could this be?

  3. Rebo & Zooty, er, Penn & Teller pulling a hat out of a transparent rabbit – Priceful!

  4. Anonymous,

    Where do they get into politics in this episode?

    Why do you bring politics into this?

    Were they disrespectful toward something that you believe in? Something political, that you consider more important than skepticism?

  5. I ordered season #1 on DVD, but I thought that their episodes on second hand smoke and global warming were such poopy drenched (I’m trying to keep my comment family friendly ;-) ) hatchet jobs that I swore off ever buying one of their DVD’s again. It made me question just how sloppy their other episodes–where they happened to be on the right side–were, and if I would have ever noticed had I not seen the two really bad ones.

    On the other hand, somebody who went to last year’s TAM told me that they now regret making those two episodes and would make a retraction episode where they call bachelor of science on themselves, but Showtime won’t let them (or so I’m told they said). So I guess that I tentatively forgive them. :-)

  6. Jeremy

    @Rogue Medic

    You realize that their “politics” bleeds rather heavily into their “skepticism,” prompting them to declare things like global warming “antiscientific scaremongering” and the like? And frankly, even when they’re right, I don’t think they’re doing the skeptical community any favors. Their two primary means of “convincing” the audience are yelling at people and mocking people, constructive arguments and supported claims are EXTREMELY few and far between.

  7. IVAN3MAN

    Phil Plait:

    I happen to know that a certain Beloved Internet Personality who blogs about astronomy and Doctor Who is on the show briefly as well.

    Who?
    :cool:

  8. somebody who went to last year’s TAM told me that they now regret making those two episodes and would make a retraction episode where they call bachelor of science on themselves, but Showtime won’t let them (or so I’m told they said).

    Because there is no other outlet available to them other than doing retractions of their show. you know…like …the internet…news… interviews on skeptics shows…articles for the

    I am going with their lack of effort to retract their contentions, rather than something someone you know said somewhere, to form my opinion about them on those.

  9. @Jeremy,

    You realize that their “politics” bleeds rather heavily into their “skepticism,” prompting them to declare things like global warming “antiscientific scaremongering” and the like?

    I’ll keep an eye out for when they may bring global warming into this episode.

    And frankly, even when they’re right, I don’t think they’re doing the skeptical community any favors. Their two primary means of “convincing” the audience are yelling at people and mocking people, constructive arguments and supported claims are EXTREMELY few and far between.

    Style matters. Their style does not appeal to you, although it does seem to have enough appeal to get them a 7th season.

    Clearly, these are the people we need to be critical of. The less-than-perfect.

    When you are more concerned about their politics than their skepticism, maybe your criticism is political, rather than skeptical.

  10. Jeremy

    “Style matters. Their style does not appeal to you, although it does seem to have enough appeal to get them a 7th season.”

    Rage sells. What sells and what’s convincing, however, are two different matters.

  11. JB of Brisbane

    @The Science Pundit -

    If you hold any sort of admiration for Mother Teresa, Ghandi or the Dalai Lama, watching the P&T:BS episode “Holier Than Thou” will probably turn you off them all over again. Sure, I take their point that these people may not be as holy and noble as they are made out to be, but the episode comes across more like a hatred rant. And don’t start me on the gun control ep.

    Other than that, I love the show.

  12. Last week’s episode all about orgasms was pretty entertaining, and I was quite happy to see a certain someone in the trailer for tonight’s episode! :)

    I’ve been a fan of the show for some time, and yeah, they do occasionally do programs I don’t agree with (circumscision, for example), but they do at least always entertain.

  13. The episode where they took on the Bulls Hit of that monolith of human suffering, Pet Ownership, was a victory for skeptics everywhere.

  14. Joseph

    I wrote a report about this is high school. The project was Astronomy vs. Astrology. I was required to give the history that led to what both are today. My teacher was expecting me to tear astrology a new one, as she very much disliked astrology and I have always been a skeptical fellow particularly in English and in her classes.

    I didn’t like my teacher and enjoyed making her life difficult. So I came up with, what I thought at the time, where semi plausible reasons why astrology might be real. Possible effects minute gravity fluctuations, changing back-round radiation due to planetary positions effecting magnetic fields, on and on with the cockamamie theories. I carefully supported my “facts”, gave proper references and even managed correct punctuation.

    I successfully irritated her and received a B-.

    I wish I could find that paper.

    -Joseph

  15. @Joseph

    I have always been a skeptical fellow particularly in English and in her classes.

    Particularly skeptical in English?

  16. @ Rogue – you can’t believe how people try to introduce woo into the english class – our teachers were always on us about our ‘spelling’.

  17. Ken

    > (with the bad words edited out)

    So in other words, that wasn’t a trailer … that was the whole show, with the bad words and gratuitous nudity edited out … :-)

    I enjoy watching P&T episodes. I agree with maybe 20% of what they say, but they are entertaining.

    > On the other hand, somebody who went to last year’s TAM told me that they now
    > regret making those two episodes and would make a retraction episode [...] but
    > Showtime won’t let them (or so I’m told they said).

    I think I call Bovine Scat on that … after listening to their radio show and watching a bunch of their other stuff I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re entertainers first, skeptics/libertarians distant second. Under no circumstances will they mess with what sells.

    The tipping point for me was the second B.A. vs. Joe Rogaine (Fear Factor Moon Hoaxer) show on Penn Radio. Penn definitely took the populist route over the science route. He really was enjoying the shouting and interrupting. I came out of that feeling pretty much the same way I felt when I started looking askance at my [former] Catholic faith…

    For one thing it left me a far bigger fan of Phil than I ever was for Penn. :-)

  18. Penn was an embarrassment on the second BA/Rogaine debate. Whatever interest Penn had in actually moderating the debate, as he did in the first one, went right out the window on the second. I honestly think he was afraid of Rogaine since he was in the studio with him.

  19. Stone Age Scientist

    Hmmm, suddenly, Mary Poppins’ words are ringing inside my head.

  20. Ray

    Jeremy,

    “You realize that their “politics” bleeds rather heavily into their “skepticism,”

    I would simply note that PP allows politics to bleed over rather heavily into his skepticism as well.

    My point? Everyone does it. Its both expected and nearly universal, no matter what side of the fence you fall on. However, once you know the problem exists, you can deal with it. Pity that some people here (and elsewhere) can’t.

  21. Hmmm, suddenly, Mary Poppins’ words are ringing inside my head.

    “I’ll have what she’s having.” ?

  22. Considering that Taurus is actually only the front half of a bull, I wonder where those feces go? On the other side of the celestial sphere?

  23. @Ray,

    I would simply note that PP allows politics to bleed over rather heavily into his skepticism as well.

    Such as?

    Do you consider that commenting negatively about the idiosyncratic interpretation of the Bible by only some religious sects as the basis for legislation to be an example of allowing politics to bleed over rather heavily into his skepticism?

    Fortunately, the Constitution contains some protection for those, who have not decided to follow those creative interpreters.

    Share these examples of Phil Plait promoting politics, that certainly is not in any way skeptical, because to be skeptical of the use of the Bible, X’s interpretation of specific printing Y, to rule over the lives of everyone, regardless of their religion – Why would anyone doubt (be skeptical) that this is the best way to make legislation? It sounds great to me, as long as I am the one doing the interpreting. :-)

    Or did you mean something else?

  24. Ray

    @ Rogue,

    PP regularly injects politics into his posts. Ask anyone who has been here a while. He’ll even tell you he does.

    And I do not consider commenting on the Bible as political. Funny that you would.

  25. Ray,

    Legislation based on Biblical interpretation is something that has come up a bunch recently.

    Can you come up with any examples of political posting by Phil Plait?

  26. Jack Mitcham

    That was an awesome episode… and that redheaded chick in the psych class was hot!

  27. Politics and skepticism are not necessarily mutually exclusive. But Penn and Teller let politics over-rule skepticism in that Global Warming episode. It made me sick. Their token attempt to “represent” the scientific consensus was making a big deal out of Al Gore refusal to appear on their show. What?! Gore is the only person who knows anything about global warming? They never bothered to contact Andrew Revkin or anyone from the Real Climate blog, or any other actual scientist. The closest they came was an old meteorologist. They also gave props to the head of a global warming denier “think tank” based on his being in that job for 20 years. I was appalled.

  28. Ibeechu

    @ Jack, totally agreed

    The episode ended pretty abruptly, though. I wanted to see more! But yeah. I wish I knew who that redhead was, and whether or not she’s single.

    Also, something caught my attention. Penn said that the experiment with the students demonstrating the Forer effect was invented by Randi, but for years I’ve known it to be from Bertram Forer in the 40s. Can anyone confirm one way or the other?

  29. I would say I interject skepticism into politics, and not the other way around. And I’ve noted before that the people who claim I am not skeptical when it comes to politics are always people who disagree with my politics. Why should that be? If I’m not skeptical, then even people who agree with my position in general should note that I’m not thinking critically on some topics (and I’ll note that I have admitted it many times when I’ve let my skeptical filters down). The point is, I strongly suspect these people accuse me of being uncritical only because they disagree with me, and won’t admit that perhaps they are the ones who are not thinking skeptically when it comes to politics. That may not always be the case, but it sure seems that way the majority of the time when I read those comments.

  30. Ray

    @Rogue,

    Read #30.

    If you want examples, read the Archives of this blog. Especially the months working up to the election.

  31. @Phil: Nice job on BS tonight! Can’t wait to see you TAM7…

  32. I hate the stuff you love.

    Cause your politics aren’t my politics. GOD, you’re an idiot ! Everything you say can be dismissed out of hand.

  33. Radwaste

    Let me suggest that when addressing government, the terms “business” and “return on investment” should follow a loud incantation of “equal protection under the law”. Faith doesn’t get the garbage collected, much less the kids educated.

  34. Theo Bee

    Astrology Bull? Very Likely most of it.

    But do consider that the seasons and moon have a large influence in our life.

    Any animal born in winter (including us) shows character changes from those born in summer, I know from experience my wife has mood swings synchronised to the moon, etc.

    Don’t dismis the lot because some followers go a tad overboard.

    Cheers,

    Theo

  35. Ray,

    Perhaps you should read post number 30 a bit more objectively. It does not appear to say what you seem to think it says.

    As I asked earlier, please provide some examples of political posts. You made the claim. You need to back it up.

  36. StevoR

    As an “amateur astrologer” I’ve come up with these :

    HORROR-SCOPES : ;-)

    Aries : Today will be your last day before you are either machine-gunned to death, run over by a truck or eaten alive by bedbugs. Make it a good one.

    Aquarius : LOOK OUT!!! LOOK OUT! LOOK OUT! Bugger I just foresaw I will be too late, you’re dead, no need to write anymore .

    Pisces : Feeling something’s fishy and rotten smelling? Yes that‘s a harbinger of your imminent demise. Still got to be better than this current incarnation of yours with the only star sign that’s wet, smelly & alcoholic.

    Gemini : You or your twin &/or other half will die a particularly nasty, drawn out and agonising death today. My condolences either way.

    Leo : Avoid zoo’s, avoid safari parks in Africa and elsewhere, avoid poachers & you’ll be okay. Maybe. If you’re lucky. And quiet. And don’t eat the wrong wildebeest.

    Cancer? : Yep. Sorry.

    Sad-git-hairy-ass : Enough said.

    Libra : Women beware of your tampons today. Men beware of your women! Also avoid scales whether fish, reptilian or measuring- they’ll be bad news for you all month, indeed all your life.

    Scorpio : Today you will die in your sleep in the early morning. In fact, you’ll die before you ever get to read this, so why am I bothering to write it?

    Virgo? : No, you’re not. Unless you’re very young in which case maybe you are. Anyway, its none of my business. Watch out for Richard Branson as he thinks he owns you. Avoid eating fortune cookies this week and even more so avoid misfortune cookies.

    Taurus : Red is not your colour. Beware of matadors or anyone Spanish or non-vegetarian. Avoid china shops, Pamplona & the stock exchange.

    Capricorn : Beware the ides of march, the first of the month, the last of the month, the sixteenth, thirteenth , second, third, fourth, fifth, seventh, eighth , tenth, seventeenth, nineteenth and indeed any day of the month with either an ‘e’, ‘a’, or any consonant at all in it.

    ****
    NB. The 13th star sign Ophiuchus (serpent bearer) not included. Seeing as astrological lore holds that Ophuichans are sceptical, logical thinkers who don’t believe in superstitious mumbo-jumbo that’s just as well really. ;-)

    PS. Yeah I know the “bulls hate red” thing is a myth that got busted by the mythbusters, anyway .. Astrology = Taurine excrement? Nice one BA – & very true. :-)

  37. StevoR

    @ 6. Jeremy :

    @Rogue Medic -You realize that their “politics” bleeds rather heavily into their “skepticism,” prompting them to declare things like global warming “antiscientific scaremongering” and the like? And frankly, even when they’re right, I don’t think they’re doing the skeptical community any favors. Their two primary means of “convincing” the audience are yelling at people and mocking people, constructive arguments and supported claims are EXTREMELY few and far between.

    I second that.

    I find Penn & Teller are often very off-putting and unfunny going out of their way to mock and offend rather than actually argue reasonably. Their political views do seem to unduly affect them & they are right-wing in the extreme. :-(

    PS. Did I inadvertantly use an unsayable “bad word” in my first Horror-scopes post (# 35) on this thread? It’s one that we consider very mild & use all the time in Oz but I gather is frowned upon a whole lot more over in the US.

    My apologies if I’ve offended and breached the rules & could the moderator please delete only the “rude word” (which isnt that rude anyway) and not the whole post? I’d do it myself but I’m out of editing time and only just remembered how hypocritically prudish some Americans and parts of American culture can be… Sigh. :-(

  38. @StevoR,

    <blockquote.I find Penn & Teller are often very off-putting and unfunny going out of their way to mock and offend rather than actually argue reasonably. Their political views do seem to unduly affect them & they are right-wing in the extreme.

    We should not mock or offend the anti-science mob?

    Oh my. I have been so, so bad. I have mocked many morons. Whether the mocked morons have been offended, I do not know. Few have been kind enough to provide feedback. I’ll just have to work on my prudishness.

    As for Penn and Teller, I have not seen much of their stuff. There does seem to be some confusion about which politics they are expressing. One criticism is that they are Libertarian, while you suggest that they are right-wing in the extreme. Maybe they do not spend enough time spelling out their political positions, since right-wing in the extreme and Libertarian are not the same thing.

  39. sameep
  40. Daumier

    I don’t watch Bullsh*t regularly but I catch it when I can. So when I saw it was on as I was channel surfing and saw it was about astrology I had to watch. While watching I put my head down for a minute, and snapped it back up again when I heard a familiar voice. What a pleasant surprise! And politics? Bah! Everyone’s got one, even skeptics, so why sweat over it if we’re not voting on anything? I love Penn and I love you Phil.

  41. bad Jim

    Back when I was in college I did a number of natal charts for friends and acquaintances. (I’m a Virgo, I don’t believe in astrology). What struck me was that when I told someone the chart indicated they were much different than they actually were, they were especially interested. That’s really true, they always replied.

    We love novelty, and we love attention. Note to aspiring astrologists: tell the subject they aren’t who they appear to be. Note to photographers: select the photo that looks least like the customer: that’s the one they’ll prefer.

  42. Windyshrimp

    @ P&T Haters..

    They brought me and many of my loved ones to look at things more skeptically. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have even known Phil Plait existed, honestly! They started me down the path of skepticism and looking at things rationally. I dismissed evolution before and accepted silly things, like ghosts and, 9/11 and lunar conspiracy theories! To say they do no help in the skeptic community is irrational and ignorant. Their show is a great way to help younger people, such as myself, to become interested in skepticism. I may not agree with all of their libertarian view points, but that is really for the viewer to decide.
    BTW Phil, nice girth on that telescope! I heard it is the width of the mirrors that matter. :P

  43. Anonymous

    If P&T had simply stuck to debunking pseudo-science, perhaps I would’ve liked their show more. However, then they decided to think that, since they’re magicians, they can tell me how to think about guns, diapers, coffins, etc. so forth. It’s as though a ballet dancer thought – “Heck, I’m a ballet dancer – I can tell everyone what I think about car repair!”

    The series has slid even further down with the gratuitous use of nudity & obscenities (Oh, wait – They told me how I should feel about those things earlier…) whenever they can’t fill their show with actual, um, content.

    When the show first debuted, I thought that it would be great for skepticism. However, it’s actually a libertarian show disguised as a skeptical show. Someone should tell P&T that there’s a huge difference between libertarianism & skepticism because the two don’t mix as well as they think.

  44. Ed

    People here are talking as if P&T are attempting to represent the skeptical community, or that it’s even primarily a skeptical show. I don’t think they’ve ever done anything but present the show as being their show where they make arguments for their own, often unique, viewpoints. It seems more like a show based on polemics then one on skepticism.

    One question I’ve always had about this whole concept of a “skeptical movement” is if people are just saying “pro-science movement”. If it truly is about skepticism then why can’t a skeptical mindset extend into politics? why shouldn’t P&T make arguments for their political views? The thing about politics, however, is that there are no peer reviewed, international, authorities that can judge a solid consensus of politics. You might disagree with their politics but that doesn’t mean they’re any less skeptical. Good science doesn’t make good politics. I don’t believe that the world would be better run by scientists. Politics often comes down to management, compromise and decisions that may take science into account but ultimately are judgments that are beyond the scope of science.

    From the sound of many of the comments here it seems as though people want P&T to just be Nova.

  45. StevoR

    @ 39. Rogue Medic Says:

    @StevoR, We should not mock or offend the anti-science mob? Oh my. I have been so, so bad. I have mocked many morons. Whether the mocked morons have been offended, I do not know. Few have been kind enough to provide feedback. I’ll just have to work on my prudishness.

    Nice alliteration. :-)

    I don’t say the anti-sciencers should never be mocked – & I’ll mock them quite often myself – but there are such a thing as reasonable balance and sublety too. Mocking can be done cleverly and in a way that makes you laugh or it can be done with a sledgehammer and just make folks wince.

    Maybe its a matter of personal taste or style but, speaking personally, I don’t find P&T funny but rather way over the top, immature and even outright cruel.

    I wouldn’t censor them or you from voicing their / your opinions but I find their style counter-productively, off-puttingly, bullying and I also disagree with much of what they say. Which, I think, is often is more driving their own political agenda rather doing any real skeptical stuff. :-(

    As for Penn and Teller, I have not seen much of their stuff.

    So .. uh ..you are not a big fan of them either then? ;-)

    FYI : They’ve done a number of really tasteless & OTT episodes viciously attacking, for instance the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa in a very biased, cherry-picking and outright mean way. They’ve also done some very pro-guns and anti-environment plus anti-animal rights shows. Now I’m not a huge environmentalist or animal rights person ( a bit of one tho’ I guess) but their attacks on some of the people who are have really turned me right off them. P& T in those eps and others come across as very intolerant, bullying, arrogant and nasty individuals. In My Humble Opinion Naturally.

    (Not that the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa are perfect or beyond reproach but c’mon there are ways and ways of criticising and the approach that P&T took was just vicious, cringe-worthy and unfair.)

    There does seem to be some confusion about which politics they are expressing. One criticism is that they are Libertarian, while you suggest that they are right-wing in the extreme. Maybe they do not spend enough time spelling out their political positions, since right-wing in the extreme and Libertarian are not the same thing.

    Maybe not exactly but they are pretty close… ;-)

    IMHON again.

  46. Ibeechu

    @ Anonymous #44

    Magicians are great debunkers. Look at Houdini. They know how easily people can be fooled, and how a lot of people can take advantage of said ease.

    Now, as for the libertarian stuff. Yeah, they’re overtly libertarian, but so am I. Penn has said it before – their show is an evangelical show. They’re telling the truth as they see it (albeit with the crack research team they have). Now, if your politics don’t line up with theirs, well, too bad. It’s their show and they can say what they want. The truth as they see it.

    @Stevor #45

    Penn and Teller are like strong coffee. I happen to like strong coffee.

  47. Porky Pine

    I haven’t watched a episode of them ever since their anti-smoking debacle.

  48. Mike

    Don’t you mean “Self-Loved Internet Personality”?

  49. Mena

    Mike, the self-love was last week’s episode.

  50. Menyambal

    Good job, Phil!

    I saw the preview last week and made a point of watching.

    Penn and Teller are pretty good, but I’d not start worshipping them because of their show.

  51. Sunny Ng

    Maybe it’s the lighting, but you look younger Phil. ^_^

  52. BJM

    RE: “Astrology Bull? Very Likely most of it.” — Theo Bee (comment #35)

    Any system which is mostly bull is entirely useless.

    You mention the effect of the Moon and seasons. People are much better off learning about these things absent the help of ‘mostly bull’ astrology.

  53. Ray,

    Is it the label of politics that offends you. I see nothing but a criticism of bad politics. Politics that attempts to contradict science, but fails.

    @ Rogue,
    PP regularly injects politics into his posts. Ask anyone who has been here a while. He’ll even tell you he does.
    And I do not consider commenting on the Bible as political. Funny that you would.

    The first page had 3 comments on some politicians pretending that science is not real. All because of their misinterpretation of the Bible. And you wrote that you do not consider this political.

    The rest is commenting on NASA (2 comments), censorship of science (2 comments), and the post on Independence Day. OK you got me on the Independence Day post. No, that was posted after your comment.

    These are posts on science that happen to involve politics. If you do not see the difference, that is not my fault. Perhaps you think that the fault is in your stars.

    Whine away. Would you like a tissue?

  54. @47. StevoR,

    What I have seen of Penn and Teller has not been as you describe. I don’t watch much TV. I have seen their magic show in person and did not see anything like that behavior.

    Maybe not exactly but they are pretty close… ;-)

    Libertarian means respecting personal freedoms and economic freedoms. How does right wing in the extreme respect personal freedoms? It would be just as accurate to say that extreme left wing is pretty close, except for the little part of economic freedoms.

  55. Gwenny

    First of all P&P are ENTERTAINERS who happen to be skeptics. But they are first and foremost, entertainers. Second, it amazes me that so many otherwise intelligent people have taken the “global warming” bait hook line and sinker and no longer allow themselves to keep an open mind about it. Is there climate change? You betcha. Always has been, always will be until the Earth is a cool lifeless rock. Do humans have an influence on the environment? Without a doubt. Can we STOP climate change? F*** no. We can modify our behavior to decrease our impact but, in the long run, the Earth will do what the Earth does and we have no power to stop it.

    The whole global warming movement is a con. None of the things they say will help will actually have any impact and if global warming folks were intellectually HONEST, they would admit that our energy is better spent redesigning our communities to survive what is coming, in securing our food supply and in NOT meddling with stupid ideas that cost bazillions of dollars and, like the iron in the ocean, actually HURT.

  56. Mark

    I’m surprised no one mentioned on the show the fact that because of the “wobble” of the Earth, the Sun is no longer in the constellations associated with the zodiac signs at the time of birth, it’s almost an entire month off. Not to mention the convenient omission of the 13th sign of the zodiac…

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