Thursday, September 30, 2010

Help a Purdue lesbian couple get married

I'm glad I still check out my old student newspaper, because I found this wonderful story (emphasis mine):

Indiana regulations on homosexual marriage could be ignored for a Purdue Director of Communication in the College of Education and her partner when they entered to win a wedding in Washington, D.C., where binding their love is legal. Tonya Agnew and her spouse Amy Crampton received an e-mail that could bend the rules of gay marriage and reinforce love with no boundaries.

With a 200 word essay, any gay couple could enter to win a $100,000 wedding ceremony in the nation’s capital. Expenses could cover anything from the rings to the flowers to the entertainment. The winner is determined through online voting that ends Sept. 30. Anyone can vote in the contest, Freedom 2 Wed.

Agnew and Crampton are one of six finalist pairs that anticipate Thursday’s results, waiting to see if other applicants beat their first place standing of over 4,000 votes. Even though they live in a conservative state, putting faces to their names has brought overwhelming support and encouragement from friends and strangers.

“I was pleasantly surprised with the responses we were getting and many people have come up to us and thanked us for doing this,” Crampton said. “I started crying.”

Not only has this been an exciting experience for Agnew and Crampton, but marriage directly influences the lives of their two sons, Jesse, 17, and Leo, 7. The affirmation of their family was the primary inspiration for partaking in the competition, but it was also about letting the voters know that they are as equally committed to their family as anyone else.

Former co-worker to Agnew, Jennifer Jeffries, said winning will highlight compassion and love regardless of sex, because communities like Lafayette and Purdue are strengthened by the presence of strong and caring families.

“Tonya and Amy love each other, but they didn’t enter the contest to make a statement,” Jeffries said. “It is a response to their 7-year-old who couldn’t understand why, in the land of the free, his parents couldn’t marry.”

The eldest son, Jesse, has been an advocate for their cause and believes that his parents should have the same rights and freedoms as any other citizen. For that reason, Agnew says that having an actual ceremony where they will be legally recognized demonstrates that “if it’s good enough for our nation’s capital, it should be good enough for the rest of the country.”

Since the role of Crampton and Agnew as a joined family has become exceedingly more important to their children, their status as public figures and leaders in the gay community is also having an impact on Agnew’s work at Purdue.

“I feel responsible to be available and out and proud, especially for those who can’t be for whatever reason,” Agnew said. “Hopefully we are raising awareness and breaking down misconceptions.”



It's not being out at Purdue, and it's even harder being out in the rest of Indiana. What these women are doing is brave, and will hopefully serve as an example of how loving and normal gay couples can be, just like any heterosexual couple. It's a message Indiana definitely needs to here.

I'm sure any of the couples in the competition are worthy of winning, but I'm going to play favorites for my Alma mater and ask that you vote for Amy and Tonya here. Voting ends 11:59pm EST TONIGHT, so please hurry! They're in second place - let's have Blag Hag readers get them into first.

Need more convincing? They even stopped by the Society of Non-Theist's Blasphemy Day event today and took a photo with our secretary.So, go vote!

Happy Blasphemy Day

Happy Blasphemy Day, everyone! Here's an irreverent comic for you:



Feel free to blaspheme in the comments, though I suppose that's typical here. Remember, blasphemy is a victimless crime - giggle at the gods and the supernatural, but no attacking their human believers.




During my first day of grad school

I was walking around the building with the professor I'm doing rotations with this quarter, and we ran into (who I now know is) one of the secretaries in our business office.

Secretary: Hi! *pauses awkwardly* ...Is this...?
Me: ?
Prof: *long confused pause, then realization* ...my WIFE?!
Secretary: *nods*
Prof: *laughing* No, this is my first roton!
Secretary: Oh, I'm sorry! I just remember someone saying your wife was younger than you, so...

Real thoughts about grad school to come later, you know, when I'm not actually busy with grad school.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Atheists and agnostics are most religiously literate

Honestly, I have nothing to add to this interesting Pew study since other bloggers have already done a good job. I just wanted to stop getting emails about it from you guys, haha.

Consider this an open discussion about the study. Just because I don't have anything to add doesn't mean you don't.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How one Christian responded to the "It Gets Better" project

Did you come here hoping this was one of those times a Christian defies negative stereotypes and welcomes gays with open arms?

Well, sorry to disappoint you.

A couple days ago I mentioned Dan Savage's wonderful It Gets Better project, which aims to reach suicidal gay teens via YouTube since many can't get help anywhere else. I can hardly watch the videos without getting choked up. But here's a video this Christian decided to upload as a response, named the Lot Project:



A partial transcript for those who are too enraged to watch to completion:
"Billy Lucus, who hanged himself, obviously because he was gay, and unable to endure the guilt that the words of others prompted in him. This was indeed a tragedy, but not anywhere near the tragedy that Billy will discover in eternity when he faces the wrath of God upon rebellious and unrepentant sinners. Then, he will realize that his sin could not be atoned for by his own death, and he will realize that people like Dan Savage who encourage sin are deceivers. He will see them for what they are, the blind leading the blind. And he will realize that he has fallen into that ditch that the blind leading the blind inevitably fall into: that's eternal destruction and misery. Sadly, it's too late for Billy. For those who are viewing this video, however, their remains the opportunity of turning from sin to the obedience of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."
Now, before someone jumps in here screaming about how I'm a horrible person for assuming all Christians are this hateful, delusional, and ignorant - save your breath. I know. Plenty of Christians are wonderful people, pro-gay rights, and even gay themselves. This by no means represents every single Christian on the planet.

But you know what? If you want us to think those good, loving, caring Christians outnumber the awful ones, maybe you should put forth just a *tad* bit more effort in making that obvious, since this version of Christianity seems pretty common to me.

And no, hollering that this man isn't a "true" Christian doesn't help your argument.

I'm now a card carrying atheist

I'm easily amused:



Cue cheesy song about finally feeling like you belong.

Atheist groups in less religious areas

Last night I attended a planning meeting for the Secular Student Union at the University of Washington. It's equivalent to the group I started at Purdue, and also an affiliate of the Secular Student Alliance. What was interesting to me, as a Board member of the SSA, was how little regular members they had attending meetings.

You would think a liberal area like Seattle would produce way more members than an area like West Lafayette, Indiana. And obviously there are many variables that could contribute to this issue - leadership differences, advertising, event planning... But this is a trend I've seen talking to lots of student groups across the country. It makes sense when you think about it: When your non-theism is in the majority, or at the very least when no one cares about it, there's less incentive to have a club.

In Indiana, clubs like the Society of Non-Theists are the one thing people have keeping them sane from the surrounding area. It's the only place you can be completely open, safe, and accepted. Seattle isn't a religious area, so there's no reason to stand on the rooftops shouting about atheism.

Or is there? I personally think so. Yes, community was one of our main goals at SNT, but it wasn't the only goal. At UW, you may not need a club to find friends, but you can still use it for volunteering, intellectual discussion, and debates about more controversial issues. For example, many people in the area may not be religious, but you can show how important it is to speak up for your secularism. You can have events educating people about the Catholic Church's stance on condoms, or how some Islamic beliefs interact with free speech.

What do you think? Do secular groups still serve a purpose in less religious areas? Or is our job here already complete?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Off to lab safety training!

This morning is the mandatory lab safety training new graduate students have to go through. I probably shouldn't be excited, since I heard this is actually just a boring lecture. But we do get to use a fire extinguisher at the end, so I'm holding out for that bit of excitement.

But we all know the cool part about working in laboratories is the potential for disaster, right? I mean, who didn't go to chemistry lab secretly wishing something would explode? Be honest.

What's your best lab disaster story?

Mine actually happened when I was teaching, rather than as a student. We were using Bunsen burners and the rubber tubing connecting the Bunsen burner to the gas source caught on fire. The professor, other TA, and I all just sort of stared at it dumbfounded for a couple seconds before one of us thought to just turn off the gas. Molten rubber is not a nice smell.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mad scientists are made, not born

Know how I said I was susceptible to madness? It's worse than I thought:Crap. I've experienced everything on that list except for building a Doomsday device. Hopefully my data point is closer to neural failure so the world has enough time to defend against me.

(Via GraphJam, thanks to mocha)

Watch out! I'm susceptible to madness!

Biologists are the most common type of mad scientists in books, movies, and television in the last two hundred years. I never thought of starting my PhD in genetics as heading toward the dark side, but I may have to rethink that. I'll try not to create any horrific chimeras or crazy viruses during my lab rotations.

Though it makes sense, really. Biology is obviously the coolest scientific field, so we have more potential for fiction novels. Just think about it. What would a mad astronomer do? Look at stars maniacally? Yeah, biologists totally trump that.

(Via Skepchick)

Why Civilization is so fun

Nabbed from Politics and Pucks:


Oh Civ. You're so addictive.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A new boobquake song?

It's called Boys Love Earthquakes by Nichole Alden. I think it has to be about boobquake, but it's not explicitly clarified anywhere. Here are some of the lyrics:
Cover your head
Beauty must hide
Silence your lips
Keeping Inside
Far too tempting to uncover what they might
Beautiful girl, this submission isn't right

Lower your head
Body must bow
Purity gives excuse to disavow
Your defiance will devour and deny
Beautiful girl, there's no reason to comply

Don't shake, shake, shake
They don't allow
Don't shake, shake, shake
It's all your fault now
It's not exactly my type of music, but I like the lyrics. If it's not officially about boobquake, I think it definitely could be.

<a href="http://nicholealden.bandcamp.com/track/boys-love-earthquakes">Boys Love Earthquakes by Nichole ALDEN</a>

(Via Common Sense Atheism)

Next item on the gay agenda

Oh Indiana. And to think this happened in one of our biggest, most liberal (relatively) cities.
This is what they were after: a mulitcolored cupcake to celebrate "National Coming Out Day" next month; a rainbow confection to honor the diversity on the campus of IUPUI. But the student who had the order placed at Just Cookies was told no. [...]

"Look around, we don't have cupcakes," said owner Lilly Stockton.

Stockton said she talked to someone who did ask for rainbow cookies but couldn't accommodate the order.

Stockton: "I don't have enough colors to do that."

Reporter: "Not enough colors, not because you didn't like what they stood for?"

Stockton: "She didn't tell me what it was for."
Oh, wait, that sounds like a reasonable excuse. I'm sure other people from the store would back her up.
Then we talked to her husband David, who gradually made it clear that there was an earlier order... and yes, the customer was refused.

"I explained we're a family-run business, we have two young, impressionable daughters and we thought maybe it was best not to do that," said co-owner David Stockton.
Nevermind.

To quote one of my fellow grad students: "First cupcakes, then THE WORLD!"

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Who knew gays were like CO2?

Looks like Global Warming is in need of a scientific update:
Clerics in the South Pacific have fingered the key cause of climate change - homosexuals.

The revelation came at a conference at the University of the South Pacific considering the implications of Climate Change and Creativity.

Academics were apparently thrown off their consideration of "Arts in the Age of Global Warming" and "Ecology in Poetry / Poetry in Ecology" by reports of Church Ministers who maintained that climate change in Samoa are clearly attributable to to homosexuals.
Come on, that's preposterous. How in the world do gays cause climate change? I mean...

...wait a second.

GBLT.

Global Bolstering of Lavalike Temperatures.

Oh my god.

An ingenious plan, gay agenda. An ingenious plan.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dan Savage's "It Gets Better Project"

Last week an Indiana teen committed suicide thanks to merciless anti-gay bullying at his school. It stings that it's from my home state, but it hurts more that this isn't shocking. Gay teens are four times more likely to commit suicide, especially if they don't live in urban areas. Which is why Dan Savage thought of this wonderful project:
I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.

But gay adults aren’t allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don’t bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.

Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.

So here’s what you can do, GBVWS: Make a video. Tell them it gets better. [...]

Today we have the power to give these kids hope. We have the tools to reach out to them and tell our stories and let them know that it does get better. Online support groups are great, GLSEN does amazing work, the Trevor Project is invaluable. But many LGBT youth can’t picture what their lives might be like as openly gay adults. They can’t imagine a future for themselves. So let’s show them what our lives are like. Let’s show them what the future may hold in store for them.

I faced a lot of anti-gay teasing in middle school and high school even though I was straight. Because, dontcha know, anyone who's friends with gay people must themselves be gay. I can't imagine how bad it would have been if I actually was a lesbian, or if I hadn't had boyfriends. Not to mention the fact that our principal fought tooth an nail against us forming a Gay Straight Alliance my senior year. Heaven forbid we form a safe community for harassed students.

If you're a GLBT adult, please consider uploading your own video and submitting it by emailing Dan (mail (at) savagelove (dot) net). This may be our best chance to reach kids who need to hear that life is worth living, yes, even if you're gay.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another example of feminist distrust of science: Vaccinations

Not all feminists distrust science, but it's a common enough theme that it's become a major pet peeve of mine. I ran into another example reading a blogger I usually love, Lena Chen (who's also one of More Magazine's up and coming young feminists). So Lena, I apologize ahead of time for making an example out of you, but this issue is very important.

One of Lena's readers commented that vaccination seemed a lot like circumcision in that it lacked consent, and asked for Lena's opinion. Here's the bulk of her post:

I’m against mandatory vaccinations, but that doesn’t mean that I’m against vaccinations. [...] Invasive or not, vaccinations are something that individuals should be able to decide on themselves. Requiring them means that the government is essentially making health decisions for its citizens, without taking into account what they (or their parents) may want. (Most girls getting the vaccine are at an age when they can be informed about the benefits and risks of the procedure.) I got the HPV vaccine myself, and I’d recommend it to anyone, but I would never be able to justify mandating it, because I value personal freedom and think that choice should be left up to the patient.

And while, of course, it makes sense — in theory — to say that a modicum of personal freedom is a rather minor sacrifice for the “greater good”, it’s not like this line of reasoning hasn’t been abused in the past. Women — especially women of color and poor women — have more than just cause to be wary of a medical establishment that has historically profited from the coercion of marginalized groups. Forced sterilization of Black women threatened with the loss of welfare benefits, forced sterilization of individuals deemed “mentally defective”, electroshock aversion therapy to cure homosexuality … all of these things occurred in this country in the last fifty years. Frankly, I could give less of a damn about “public health” if it means that I get to live in a slightly more civilized society where no one is told what to do with their bodies anymore.

I commented:
Sorry, but I'm going to have to disagree. The way vaccinations work is through herd immunity. If the vast majority of people don't get vaccinated, it puts those who can't get vaccinated for medical reasons (newborns, the elderly, immunocompromised individuals) at even higher risk. If the government didn't require vaccinations, they would be effectively worthless.

Thanks to vaccination fear mongering by people like Jenny McCarthy and people who make it into a personal freedom issue instead of a scientific issue, we've seen a sharp rise in diseases that were thought to have been eradicated. See: Whooping cough in California.

This isn't some nebulous "for the greater good" ideology like forced sterilizations. The mechanics of herd immunity are pretty cut and dry.
Lena replied:
I think that one can definitely make a case for vaccinations being a good thing that benefits society and people's health, which is why I don't see a lot of folks opting out of vaccinations just because they're no longer mandatory. I do think that a lot of anti-vaccination advocates spout arguments that sound like conspiracy theories (I've even seen 9/11 comparisons made), but I have to agree that there's no reason why the government should be able to make decisions about their citizens' bodies. This isn't even something I would necessarily call fear-mongering, since there's a historical precedence for this concern.
Me:
Except that people do opt out of vaccinations when they're not mandatory. That's precisely the reason why we've seen a sudden whooping cough epidemic. This is especially true when you have people like Jenny McCarthy going around lying about how vaccines are dangerous and cause autism. Not to mention that she's well publicized by people like Oprah.

To say the government should not be able to make decisions about their citizen's bodies is nice in theory, but ludicrous in practice. Do we want disease epidemics spreading across the country? Do we want children dying of genetic disorders that could have easily been treated if tested at birth? Do we want food and drugs we put into our bodies to become dangerous because the government shouldn't regulate what's safe or not?

There's a point where historical precedence becomes antiquated distrust for science in general. We shouldn't forget the past, but we shouldn't be paralyzed by it either.
This could be worse. She obviously accepts that vaccine works and rejects the completely anti-science loonies. But at the same time, this is a perfect example of when ideology, specifically liberal and feminist ideology, supplants science and reason. And I say that as a liberal feminist. People have abused science in the past, but that doesn't mean science itself is forever evil. It's something that needs to be closely scrutinized, not ignored.

From my personal experience, I have a hypotheses as to why you see this sort of distrust in the feminist community. So many vocal feminist aren't scientists by training, but rather come from liberal arts educations like English, Political Science, Sociology, or Woman's studies. And when you consider most liberal arts majors probably only had to take one or two introductory science classes in college, it's understandable why they might not fully grasp how vaccinations are effective or why not all evolutionary psychology is bunk (though some is). If I tried to give my opinion about economics based on one class I took senior year of high school, I'm sure I'd be wrong about a lot of things.

Now, plenty of scientists are feminists - we sort of have to be in a traditionally male dominated field - but there's usually not much overlap between our studies and our feminism. That is, a political scientist can use their expertise to focus on women's issues, but a chemist can't really weave feminist philosophy into her next paper. Since we have less overlap, we can get busy in our geeky scientific jobs and forget to be vocal about other issues we care about. That's why I personally try to be an outspoken scientific voice for feminism whenever I can.

And that's why I'm going to give a damn about about public health - because it means I get to live in a civilized society, instead of dying from preventable whooping cough, measles, rubella, or polio.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I'm ready to take over the world with Rationalism

Who else is going to waste their entire Tuesday playing Civilization 5? I'm purposefully making this post now because tomorrow I'm going to be too busy conquering the world.

I'm a huge Civ fan, though I got into the series a bit late. A friend introduced me to Civ3 in high school, so I played that and Civ4. But I fell in love with the game instantly. There's just something so addictive about taking over the world! And something twisted and entertaining about Gandhi declaring war on you, or Abraham Lincoln adopting Slavery.

So needless to say, I'm excited for the new game. Sure, I'm going to miss sending out my flood of missionaries to convert everyone to Judaism. And I'm a bit sad Montezuma is back - seriously, what an asshole and source of much ragequitting. Go die in a fire, Monty.

*ahem* But I'm really happy about the new way city borders expand, aka logically and not based on a little arbitrary plus sign. And I think I'm going to love how the battle system actually relies on strategy including the map, not just stacks of doom. When I first played Civ, I would strategically place cities by mountain passes, until I realized it didn't matter. But now it does, woo!

But the new thing I'm geeking out about the most? One of the Policy trees you can research, in addition to things like Tradition, Honor, and Liberty, is Rationalism. I am atheist-geeking out about this so much. The bonuses are great:
  • Rationalism - Immediately enter a golden age
  • Humanism - +1 Happiness from every University
  • Secularism - +2 Science from every Specialist
  • Freethought - +2 Science from every Trading Post
  • Scientific Revolution - Gain 2 free Technologies
And the cherry on top? You can't have Rationalism at the same time as Piety, the religious Policy tree. Which is all about increasing happiness, not actually making progress.

lulz

Anyway, I'm super excited. Like I said, I'm going to play as much as possible tomorrow, mainly because I have my departmental retreat Wednesday through Friday. Need to get my conquering in! And classes start the 29th, so I'll try to squeeze so more in before I have no free time. If anyone is interested in a giant multiplayer Blag Hag reader battle over the weekend, my Steam username is Jennifurret. Friend me!

Now, I'm off. It's released at 7am here, so I need my beauty sleep. Yes, I'm willing to wake up early for a video game, but I bitch about 9:30am classes. I am a geek.

Today is the start of No Make-up Week

What is No Make-up Week?

I’m asking you to conduct your own experiment. To go a day or a week without make-up, to upload a no make-up photo online or simply explore the relationship through writing or whatever feels right. Make it your own.

It’s not about taking a week off because make-up is somehow bad or because not wearing it is better. It’s that by taking a week off, I should be able to understand my relationship to cosmetics more clearly. Why do I feel I need to sketch on eyebrow pencil before going to the grocery? To shellac my face before seeing a friend? And if I am going to a networking event or party, can I feel comfortable in anything less than contoured cheeks and caked on lashes?

When I think about not wearing make-up for a week, a voice inside of me screams, Noooooooooo! And this is exactly what I want to explore. I mean, the thing is this: Make-up is a powerful tool, it has the ability to transform, to incite imagination and creativity. But, when an option turns into a necessity, I don’t know it it’s still a tool. At the least, it loses it’s spark.

I won't be spamming you with photos, because I'm sans make-up in all of my photos - or at the most, wearing a little foundation. But I thought this was a great little project, so I wanted to share it with my readers.

I've blogged in the past about my make-up anxiety, but I'll probably put up another post or two throughout the week. There's also a Facebook event, and you can follow it on Twitter with the hashtag #nomakeupweek.

For now, consider this an open thread. What's your relationship with make-up? Do you ever feel obligated to wear it? Obligated not to wear it? How do you feel about the make-up double standard between the sexes?

One way to deal with crazy campus preachers

This is what Purdue's campus looked like last Monday:Crazy campus preachers are fairly typical in the fall. One, it's still warm, which is conducive to standing around outside yelling at people. But two, they hope to prey on the confused and lonely freshman. Because, according to this group, going to college is the work of the devil:
"Satan has a job to do...and you are it! The tremendous emphasis put on education these days is demonic. Satan knows his time is running out. Resounding throughout the halls of Aristotle are the voices of demons imposing their curriculum from hell. They insist 'Memorize and regurgitate. Better this world. Self-esteem. Defy God! Exalt Babylon!"
"Deny God! Exalt Babylon!"? Shit, they found the Biology Department's curriculum!

But my godless alma mater, the Society of Non-Theists, has a light-hearted way of dealing with our standard street preachers: our annual Pastafarian Preaching on Talk Like a Pirate Day.



Mike has a great summary here, describing the overall positive reaction of the event. Our Pastafarian Preaching is a silly satire of all the hateful preachers who come to campus, so it really does put a smile on people's faces. And they even made the day of this little pirate fan:
Great job, Purdue Non-Theists!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Spider siege update

Somehow I was able to get to sleep last night, but I was forced to wake up early because my bed was being delivered. Finally! The air mattress my landlord had lent me was slowly becoming deflated, so every night of sleeping became sadder and sadder. But here came the movers with my big new bed!

In a horrible twist of fate, THEY BROUGHT IN TWO MORE GIANT HOUSE SPIDERS. I froze watching one cling to my box spring, thankfully on the outside of a plastic sheath. When it fell to the ground, the guy simply picked it up like it was a piece of trash and carried it out. I was terrified. I mean, I'm glad he removed them, but ararrhghgh.

...I mean, I think he removed all of them. Gulp.

The worst part? I have this little overhanging canopy above my door overgrown with some cute vines. As they brought in the mattress, a giant house spider became dislodged from the vines and fell down to the opening of my door.

My doorway is a giant house spider home.

Fuck.

I would say I'm going to go buy a bottle of strong liquor to calm my nerves, but that actually involves going through the giant house spider infested portal. Right now I just can't imagine walking under something that I know contains these horrifying things. I'm doomed.

Maybe I can use my sincere terror to negotiate with my landlord about how he really should let me have a cat. I'd be willing to pay a pet deposit - I need a spider assassin on duty at all times. Plus, cat's require less effort than keeping around a spider squishing boyfriend.

Your regularly scheduled atheist programming will be back once Jen stops freaking out.

Reminder: Seattle meetup tonight

Even though you failed to warn me about terrifying spiders, I still can't wait to see my Seattle readers. Don't forget that tonight is our meetup!

Sunday, September 19th
6:30 pm until whenever
Seamonster Lounge
2202 N 45th St (in Wallingford)

See you there!

WTF IS THIS GIANT HOUSE SPIDER BULLSHIT?!?!

Seattleites, you have some 'splaining to do. Why the fuck did no one warn me about these "Giant House Spiders" that are apparently so common in Seattle? Gaaaaarrahrahbbebabelle.

I've blogged about my arachnophobia before, but just in case it's not clear: I am fucking terrified of spiders. Like, even ones that are a millimeter in diameter. I recognize that this is a totally irrational fear, but I can't logic it away, so please spare me. Consider this an evolutionary adaptation.

So yeah. Finding two daddy long legs (which, I know, are not spiders, but are spider-y enough) was unnerving. Finding some decent sized spiders guarding my mail box was flail inducing, especially since I see them hanging out in bushes everywhere. But this?

This is unacceptable.

I am not going to show or even link to a photo of these horrible things, not because I don't want to scare you, but because I am too terrified to even look at them on my computer screen. I turned around, ready to go to bed, and there's this enormous spider on my wall. It was brown, hairy, and each leg was thick and almost two inches long (not a wolf spider though - unfortunately I have seen those in person). The only reason I was brave enough to squish it was because the idea of waking up and it not being there was even more terrifying. Someone should have been videotaping me as I ran around flailing, silently screaming, and eventually settling on squishing it with a mop because I couldn't get any closer.

Hilarious for you. Not hilarious for me.

One of the more unnerving parts was how it died. I expected my wall to be covered in exploded spider guts. Instead, it sort of just crumpled into a little ball and fell off. The worst part? I found an identical looking dead crumpled spider yesterday, which means my landlord probably squished one of these before I came. Which means multiple giant house spiders within a short period of time.

FFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

If I had vodka, I'd be doing shots right now to calm my nerves. I feel like stuff is crawling all over me, and I was verging on a panic attack until I decided to blog my neurosis. Seriously, I am not going to be able to sleep tonight. I'm on an air mattress that's about 3 inches off the ground. At least with a bed I can pretend I'm safe.

Please don't point out how I'm not :(

Friend: They like cold, dry places like basements, not inside the house.I've NEVER seen one in my bed, EVER. If they're EVER in the house, they like corners of rooms and bathroom tubs because they like really really cold, dry, dark spaces. I'm being as honest as I can here. I'm so sorry this sucks for you. Is there anything I can do to help you feel better?
Me: I LIVE IN A BASEMENT
Friend: ...uh. Sorry.

EDIT:

Same Friend: My friend just told me that flea bombs work for spiders. And he says keeping a spotless place is the best defense
Me: Fuccccccckkkkkkk. I am a slob
Friend: Oh, hon.
Me: I will fucking clean if it means no giant ass spiders.
Friend: Yes! Good can come of this!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Kick off the War on Christmas with a cheesey Christian movie!

This is unintentional comedy gold:



I smell a a drinking game. Take a sip every time a stereotype or debunked fallacious claim appears. A very small sip - we don't want people getting alcohol poisoning.

I love this winning commentary from Steven Humphrey over at Slog:
In case you haven't noticed, atheists like me RUIN EVERYTHING for EVERYBODY. However, I will not ruin this. What follows is one of the most hilarious, anus-tingling Christian movie trailers ever, in which a small Alaskan town's Christmas is totally ruined by fat, evil atheist Fat Daniel Baldwin. As it so happens, Fat Atheist Daniel Baldwin is so jealous of hunky Christ Warrior Ted McGinley (who apparently competed with Baldwin for the affections of his own Mom... WHAT???), he'll do anything to ruin Christmas—even change a town banner to "Seasons Greetings" and man-handle an adorable child dressed as an angel. YOU FUCKING HORRIBLE BASTARD!!! C is for CHRIST, and C is for CHRISTMAS, you fascist, atheist MONSTER!!!!
Amen. ...Wait.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Brides + Plastic Surgery = New reality TV show

What the fuck?
The network is set to announce "Bridalplasty," where brides-to-be compete in wedding-themed challenges to win extensive surgical procedures.

Each week, a group of women competes head-to-head in such challenges as writing wedding vows and planning honeymoons. The winner receives the chance to choose a plastic surgery procedure from her "wish list." She's given the procedure immediately, and results are shown at the start of the following week's episode.

One by one, the women are voted out by their competitors and, according to the show's description, "possibly walking away with nothing and losing [their] chance to be the perfect bride."

The last bride standing will receive a "dream wedding," where she will reveal her new appearance to friends, family and the groom. "Viewers will witness his emotional and possibly shocked reaction as they stand at the altar and he lifts her veil to see her for the first time following her extreme plastic surgery," E! said.
...

Just when you thought American television couldn't sink any lower. My addiction with America's Next Top Model seems positively cerebral in comparison.

This is so stupid I'm not even going to grace it with serious feminist commentary. Feel free to have a real discussion in the comments - I'm going to be over in the corner weeping.

People warned me about the Seattle rain...

...but not the spike pits and Wall of Death.I'm going to be walking past this every day on my way too and from school. I hope this isn't an omen.

On the bright side, I'm happy that my new iPhone 4G (yes, I broke down) takes such nice photos! My old camera was 4 years old and being held together by duct tape, so this is a nice replacement. And while I'm rambling about iPhones, App suggestions are welcome.

I've forgotten what it's like being the token atheist

Sigh.

So last night one of the new Genome Sciences grad students held a little get together so everyone in our incoming class could meet each other. Overall it was fun - everyone seemed very nice, and I think we'll have a good group. Not to mention our host totally impressed everyone with his fancy cooking skills.

But it ended on a sour note for me. My ears perked up when I heard someone mention Richard Dawkins. Thinking I just found a new friend, I happily said I was a fan of his. A couple of the people there quickly started making comments about how much they used to like him when he stuck to biology, but not now that he talks about atheism. I commented that I like all of his stuff, and someone claimed that Dawkins was a militant atheist (said with that particular sort of disdain you probably recognize) and wasn't any different from religious extremists who go around blowing stuff up.

Wow.

It's not exactly a new argument. Actually, the reason I was so surprised to hear it was precisely because it's such an old trope that has been debunked repeatedly. I retorted that "militant" atheists simply disagree with people, not go around murdering or converting people. But it went on and on. It was the standard "You're an asshole if you say someone's religious beliefs are wrong" argument.

I asked if they had even read stuff like the God Delusion, since Dawkins really isn't as aggressive as people make him out to be. They claimed to have done so. I gave up defending Dawkins and instead commented that it can be seen as a "Good cop, Bad cop" approach. Aggression works at reaching some people, and that's what Dawkins does. Sympathy and diplomacy works better with some people, and other authors do that. But then the discussion just devolved into attacks, with one guy claiming outspoken atheists like Dawkins are only in it for the money, and he's just some pompous old British guy who can't even defend his arguments on TV.

Yeah, it was frustrating, to say the least. I just wish I had this comic with me:After last night, I recognize how spoiled I've been the last three years. Pretty much all of my social interaction at Purdue has been through the Society of Non-Theists. Sure, I'm civil and friendly with my classmates and coworkers. But all of my close friends were made through SNT, and I didn't really hang out with anyone else.

Why? Because I automatically felt comfortable around those people.

I'm not saying I can't be friends with religious people. Heck, some of the nicest people there last night were the most religious, and the ones debating with me weren't very religious. But when I walk into a crowd where I know everyone is an atheist, or at least sympathetic toward atheists (like at skeptical events), I can let my guard down.

I don't have to be prepared to debate and defend myself at any given moment.

I don't have to awkwardly deal with people assuming I'm religious.

I don't have to listen to people equating my outspokenness with suicide bombers.

And I don't have to purposefully hide parts of my life because I'm afraid it'll alienate people from me. Last night I was sure as hell not going to mention how most of my blogging is about atheism and as aggressive as Dawkins, or that I founded a club for atheist students, or that I was on the board for the Secular Student Alliance. And when someone asked how I had met Richard Dawkins, I didn't mention how we're being published together in the same book about atheism. I lied by omission about something I'm incredibly proud about.

Immediately afterward I felt bad for not being true to myself, but these are going to be my coworkers for the next five years. I don't bring up religion or my atheism in class or at work because I don't want it to be an issue, just as I try not to bring up politics. But when it is brought up, I'm not the type to stand there and take it. And thus I feel like the odd woman out.

But when I had dinner with the Seattle Atheists on Sunday night? I immediately felt like I was part of the group. I was so comfortable around them - it felt like I had already been their friend for years. The same thing happens whenever I have a blog meetup, or attend a skeptical conference. We may have different political opinions or hobbies, but everyone can sigh in relief at having one awkward wall already broken down.

This post is partially to get how I feel off my chest, since it's been kind of festering. It's partially to illustrate why atheist social networks are so important to people. And it's partially to sympathize with those of you who haven't been as lucky as me to have all these atheist social networks. I forgot what it was like being the token "militant" atheist in a group. I'll survive, but it's just not fun going into social situations on the defensive. Heck, even writing this post makes me a little nervous, since I'm sure some GS people will read it and I don't want them to take it the wrong way.

Thankfully the Seattle Atheists are having their game night tonight, so I'm looking forward to that more than ever. It's still a bit ironic, though. People built up me moving to Seattle as my escape to some secular paradise. At least in Indiana I can always assume I'm going to be in the minority. Here, it's just a little more disappointing when I am.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Creator of "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" forced to change identity for safety

Many student groups participated in "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" without too much trouble. Yes, there was controversy and disagreement, but no real threats. On the other hand, Molly Norris, the cartoonist and creator of "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day," hasn't been so lucky:
But on the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI, she is, as they put it, "going ghost": moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity. She will no longer be publishing cartoons in our paper or in City Arts magazine, where she has been a regular contributor. She is, in effect, being put into a witness-protection program—except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab. It's all because of the appalling fatwa issued against her this summer, following her infamous "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" cartoon.
People, this is why standing up against ridiculous religious beliefs is so important. Molly Norris suggested people draw a cartoon, and she now has to change her whole life so she won't be murdered.

A religion that reacts in such a way does not deserve respect or politeness. People have every right to believe whatever nonsense they want, but they do not have the right to force those beliefs on others. Muslims should not expect everyone to refrain from drawing Mohammed just because they don't want to. Hindus should not expect everyone to stop eating beef. Jews should not expect people to stop working on the sabbath. Catholics should not expect people to treat their crackers like they're the body of Jesus.

Now, I don't go out looking to start confrontations, so I'm polite to an extent. If my Jewish friend is coming over for dinner, I'll take their dietary needs into consideration. But the second Jews start threatening and murdering human beings for eating pork, I will not blink an eye before organizing a national Bacon Week.

I'm always asked why atheists need to be so organized if they're not a religion. Well, this is why. I want to live my life without being policed by religions I don't believe in. And if I have to choose between potentially offending someone vs. oppression and bodily harm, I'm going to lean toward the option of pissing people off.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Important! Meetup date change

Sorry for the inconvenience, but I'm going to have to change the date of our meetup to Sunday the 19th. Same time and place. Apparently there's some new grad student social event on Friday that I'm expected to attend that I just found out about. Sorry again for the confusion and getting your hopes up if you could attend Friday but not Sunday.

If it's any consolation, Sunday is Talk Like a Pirate Day. The Seamonster Lounge seems like a very appropriate place to celebrate this Pastafarian holiday with a bunch of heathens.

Seattle meet up this Sunday!

It looks like Friday the 17th will be the best day to have a little Blag Hag Seattle meetup for your schedules and for mine. Gah, change of plans, sorry! Make that Sunday the 19th. Here are the details:

Sunday, September 19th
6:30 pm until whenever
Seamonster Lounge
2202 N 45th St (in Wallingford)

I already found the place while wandering around Wallingford, so I know I won't get lost, yay! Feel free to show up later if you want.

If you're pretty sure you're coming, please let me know and indicate if you're bringing anyone else. Just need to know how many chairs to save. Can't wait to see you guys!

Yet another example of why I left Indiana

A Geocentrism conference? Really?I saw this story floating around and wasn't going to comment on it, but then I found out the conference is being held in South Bend, Indiana. Oh, Indiana. This is why I usually tell people I'm from Chicago instead (my home town is a Chicago suburb in Indiana, I swear!).

Phil Plait has an excellent summary of why Geocentrism is wrong over at Bad Astronomy, including this particularly insightful bit:

Look, I’m human: I say "The Sun rose in the east today", and not "the rotation of the Earth relative to the rest of the Universe carried me around to a geometric vantage point where the horizon as seen from my location dropped below the Sun’s apparent position in space." To us, sitting here on the surface of a planet, geocentrism is a perfectly valid frame of reference. Heck, astronomers use it all the time to point our telescopes. We map the sky using a projected latitude and longitude, and we talk about things rising and setting. That’s not only natural, but a very easy way to do those sorts of things. In that case, thinking geocentrically makes sense.

However, as soon as you want to send a space probe to another planet, geocentrism becomes cumbersome. In that case, it’s far easier to use the Sun as the center of the Universe and measure the rotating and revolving Earth as just another planet. The math works out better, and in fact it makes more common sense.

However, this frame of reference, called heliocentrism, still is not the best frame for everything. Astronomers who study other galaxies use a galactic coordinate system based on our Milky Way galaxy, and the Sun is just another star inside it. Call it galactocentrism, if you want, and it’s just as useful as geo- or heliocentrism in its limited way. And none of those systems work if I want to know turn-by-turn directions while driving; in that case I use a carcentric system (specifically a Volvocentric one).

You use coordinate systems depending on what you need.

So really, there is no one true center to anything. I suppose you could say the Universe is polycentric, or more realistically acentric. You picks your frame of reference and you takes your chances.

...That’s where Geocentrism trips up. Note the upper case G there; I use that to distinguish it from little-g geocentrism, which is just another frame of reference among many. Capital-G Geocentrism is the belief that geocentrism is the only frame, the real one.
I never thought about it that way! Thanks, Phil!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Oh no, they already know I'm here!

I haven't even been in Seattle for 48 hours, and this is what I just found on the steps leading up to my place:Man, Christians are quick.

Though as I went back to my car to get more groceries, I noticed all the houses had this on their steps. I still like pretending that I'm some infamous evil atheist worth personally targeting with silly evangelizing.

Oh, and the back? Just the same old "Why you should accept Jesus into your heart stuff." Nothing new to report on there.

This is the soap my landlord gave to me

I found this very amusing when I moved in:
Hey, I'm just happy I have soap!

My landlord is super nice, though it is a bit amusing seeing my car with a Darwin fish parked right by his car with a Jesus fish. I pray to the FSM that this will not be a source of blogging material over the next year or so. I want to live in my Garden Gnome Cave in peace.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Help is no longer needed in escaping Indiana

Because I made it to Seattle, woooooo!

Somehow Mark and I survived the drive without going too insane. The first day we drove for 15 hours and stopped in Wall, South Dakota. I swear we just happened to end up there when it got dark - we did not stop because of the tourist trap known as Wall Drug. Though since a bunch of my twitter followers insisted that it was hilariously bad, we checked it out. Sorry guys, but it was not worth the ten minutes :P

The second day we drove for 14 hours and stopped at Mt. Rushmore, which was a much nicer stop. Pretty cool, though we didn't stay for long. We spent the night is Missoula, Montana and were greatly impressed that you can apparently get alcoholic beverages for takeout at restaurants.

The third day we only had to drive 6 hours, but it was by far the worst. South Dakota and Montana were actually pretty beautiful. Idaho was beautiful as well, since we were basically driving through cloud filled mountains, which we don't exactly have in Indiana. Hell, I get excited when I see a hill. Or a patch of land without corn.

But man, Eastern Washington was so insanely boring. It actually reminded me a lot of the desert grasslands in Arizona where I do field research, but just a lot uglier. And then the last couple hours are a horrible combination of city traffic and mountains, so I felt like I was going to die. But I made it!

My apartment is super nice. I lucked out because I bought it from craiglist based on a couple of photos and talking to the landlord on the phone. It's a lot more spacious than I expected, and I have more storage space than I have stuff to fill it with. It feels a bit barren at the moment, but I'm sure that'll change soon enough. Oh, and the entrance is adorable, since it's a basement apartment:
I feel like I'm living in the Secret Garden. ...Or that I'm some sort of garden troll, whatever.

I am so exhausted. The combination of 35 hours of driving and sleeping on an air mattress until my bed arrives is not very relaxing. Not to mention I'm unpacking and buying various apartment necessities that I either couldn't bring or never had. I still need to go grocery shopping, since this is what my refrigerator currently looks like:
I can think of no more appropriate way to kick off grad school than an fridge that's empty except for a six pack of beer. Hurray college.

New horror novel, complete with a crisis of faith!

No, the crisis of faith isn't supposed to be the horrifying part. It's a murder mystery called The Faithful that's coming out October 1:
About the book:
Conflicted with his faith in God and the hypocrisy of the church, Aidan, an assistant pastor, is already a spiritual battleground. When he learns that his ex-fiancee was murdered in a possibly demonic ritual, he finds himself catapulted into an even deeper fight. Tormented by demonic threats and haunted spirits in the afterlife, Aidan becomes a medium that will hold the key to solving this murder mystery. As Catholic priests, paranormal investigators and rogue law enforcement seek Aidan out, readers both secular and religious will find that the Faithful tears at the emotions and doubts of humankind.
About the author:
Jonathan Weyer is a campus minister at Ohio State University and is ordained in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. He is the founder of The Thomas Society, a student-led ministry dedicated to answering questions from skeptics, doubters, agnostics, and atheists. Jonathan is also the only Christian minister to have been added to the Secular Student Alliance speaker's bureau. During the transition from church to campus ministry, Jonathan wrote the Faithful, combining his love of scary stories and his experience with doubters. He lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife Wendy, three kids, and a crazy cat.
For the sake of full disclosure, you should know that Jon and I are friends. Jen friends with a minister?! Shocking, I know. I haven't read the book yet, but if it's half as engaging as Jon is in person, it'll be wonderful. I'm sure his constant exposure to us crazy atheists will help him handle the "crisis of faith" in a non-cheesy way... though I have a sneaking suspicion the pastor will see the light. ;)

And hell, if you can't plug your friend's book on your own blog, what's a blog good for?

Jon was nice enough to share a more religious focused passage with us. Blag Hag exclusive material, woo!
I shrugged, “Yeah, you’re right. Natural, I guess. But, first, let me ask you a question.”

She raised her eyebrow at me as took a sip of her ginger ale. “Ask away, preacher.”

“What do you believe?”

“About God? I guess I believe there is one.”

“What does that mean?” I asked, folding my arms across my body, taking my “I’m going to teach” position.

“Well, I guess I’m not sure. I mean, I was raised Catholic, but I don’t go to Mass much anymore. I don’t hold to most of what the church teaches.”

Doesn’t that usually go with being an American Catholic?” I asked, smirking a bit.

“True,” Jennifer said. “I guess I have my own religion. You know, I believe in God and spirituality. I’m spiritual, but not religious.”

“Okay, let me stop you there. What does that mean, spiritual but not religious?”

She stared out the window, watching the Gallery Hop crowd pass by our table.

“You know, I have never really thought about it. I guess it means acknowledging God, being thankful, nice to people, helping in the community and all that. I guess a little praying gets thrown in there too, especially on some of the cases I have to investigate.”

“Okay, so this God you pray to, what is He or She like? Can you describe this entity?”

“Well, no, I guess it’s more of a feeling.”

"Exactly. Why do you need God to be a good person, to be nice and all that? You don’t.”

She folded her arms across her chest.

“So, who says what’s nice? Someone has to enforce the law.”

“So, God is a universal cop? That’s comforting.” I tried to keep the scorn out of my voice.

“No, I mean, laws come from somewhere right?”

“Sure. Society. It’s in the best interests of society for laws to be made.”

She slowly nodded her head. “I see what you’re saying, but I don’t buy it.”

“But what do you buy? This God you can’t define other than good feelings or ‘facts’ that you can’t prove?” I had leaned in close, far enough that our faces were almost touching.

Jennifer backed away, slowly nodding her head. “I guess, but I have hard time believing there isn’t something out there.”

“Like what? It could be anything, as Dawkins says. It could be a flying spaghetti monster. You don’t know.”

“True, I guess.”

“I suppose I don’t believe in God anymore because I see no other alternative,” I said. “I think the whole vague, spirituality thing is a crock, excuse me. Either believe in God, do what he says, or don’t. Why try to have both? It’s just hypocritical holding on to the notion of God without any of the responsibilities.”
You can pre-order a copy of The Faithful here.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11, Islam in America, & "Burn a Koran Day"

This an open discussion for the above topics. Have fun commenting, but keep it respectful.

Oh, and since I set up this post days ago... If the US has been destroyed from "Burn a Koran Day" due to crazy Christians/crazy Muslims/smiting from Allah, I fully expect my international readers to pick up the slack.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Who do I blog like?

This is a fun little website that analyzes the text of a blog. Here's mine:
"blaghag.com is probably written by a female somewhere between 26-35 years old. The writing style is personal and happy most of the time."
Hey, not bad! I'm a 22 year old female, though I can see how my writing seems a tad more mature. And that happy to ranty ratio seems about right.

I wonder if this works well for other blogs?
"friendlyatheist.com is probably written by a female somewhere between 66-100 years old. The writing style is personal and upset most of the time."
Oh, erm. ...Never mind.

Guess what I now own?

The first two issues of The Atheist comic:The covers are cool enough, but the story is kind of neat:
When your fears are beyond belief you need a hero beyond believing. Antoine Sharpe is a scalpel on two legs - skeptical, brilliant, ruthless. A special agent with a shadowy department of the U.S. government, Sharpe applies his unconventional intellect to any paranormal threats that arise. His mission: Debunk or destroy. When countless teenagers show signs of otherworldly possession, Sharpe and his partner must not only find the truth, but stop the apparent plague from destroying civilization itself. How far will Sharpe go to save humanity? Farther than you can imagine! This trade paperback collects the hard-to-find, critically acclaimed mini-series, featuring the complete first story-arc of comic superstar Phil Hester's enigmatic, intellectual government agent.
Woooo skeptical super heroes!

Unfortunately it's an old comic and there are only two additional issues. I kind of want to get my hands on them. At the very least they'd make some badass artwork for my new apartment.

Thanks, Ryan, for the great gift!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What one law about religion would you change?

You're dictator for the day. You're allowed to remove, alter, or create one law that is somehow related to religion (I'm allowing loose connections as long as you can justify it). What one law would you change, and why?

If you're not from the US, please make sure to say so in the comments so all us silly US-centric people can understand your new rule better.

Me? I can think of a bunch, but off the top of my head I would remove the tax exempt status of religious institutions. Though making gay marriage totally legal is a close second. The latter would probably follow if Mormons didn't have so much money to waste on hateful political campaigns.

So...who's up for a Seattle meetup?

Ok, ok. I know I just got in the car a couple of hours ago. I'm probably not even out of Wisconsin yet. But from all my rambling about Seattle the last couple of months, it seems I have a lot of readers there. And, well, I'm going to be a stranger in a new city, so might as well meet some people, right?

So, Pub Night! Woooo!

If you're interested, please say so in the comments. And let me know which dates out of the 17th, 18th, or 19th work for you. Seattlites (is that correct? WTF do Seattle people call themselves?) can suggest an awesome pub venue. Something in Wallingford would be awesome, since I'm not sure I'll have mastered navigating the city yet. You don't want to be responsible for me getting lost forever, do you?

Axe murdering readers, please don't answer that last question. Or come to the pub night.

PS: Did you know Greta Christina is going to be in Seattle Sept 12? The venue is small, but I'm going to try to make it!

And I'm off to Seattle!

Dad: How are you going to survive three days without the internet?
Me: Har har.
What I was really thinking: Well I already set up my blog to autopost and we'll probably be able to get free wifi at the hotels, or at the very least at McDonald's.

I have a problem.

Anyway, let's just hope we make it to Seattle in one piece. Hopefully we won't see conditions like this. But if anything interesting happens while I'm not driving, I'll tweet it. And when I'm driving, I'm sure Mark will be tweeting our spiraling descent into insanity.

What's your best/funniest/most horrifying road trip story?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How does religiosity correlate with writing proficiency?

I love OkTrends. If I owned a dating site, I too would view it as hundreds of thousands of data points ready to be analyzed in amusing ways. In their newest article, they looked at the correlation between religiosity and writing proficiency, as measured by the Coleman-Liau Index.Hm, interesting indeed. Or as they quipped, "Is there a Comic Sans version of the Bible?"

But even more interesting is when you break it down by how serious users report their belief to be:
"Note that for each of the faith-based belief systems I've listed, the people who are the least serious about them write at the highest level. On the other hand, the people who are most serious about not having faith (i.e. the "very serious" agnostics and atheists) score higher than any religious groups."
And those not serious Buddhists? Totally non-theists who just want something more fancy and enlightened to call themselves. Who doesn't know one of those types of college Buddhists?

Now, let's remember that correlation does not imply causation. Poor writing skills don't necessarily make you religious (poor reading skills, maybe). Religiosity doesn't necessarily make you a poor writer (unless you worship the LOLCat Bible). If I had to propose a hypothesis, it's likely intelligence is one of the determining factors for both religiosity and writing ability.

Of course, this is the blog from a dating site, not a peer reviewed scientific study, so take it with a grain of salt. Still interesting, though.

How my Grandma packs for road trips

True story.
I'm going to assume this is a universal Grandma trait, not something limited to Greek Grandmas. As much as I do love her avgolemono soup, not so easy to eat in the car...

Anyway, thanks, Yia yia! Now back to packing!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Apparently even Humanists can be sex-negative

This excerpt was meant to advertise Jennifer Hancock's new book, The Humanist Approach to Happiness: Practical Wisdom. What it actually accomplished was making me think it was all a load of bullshit that I most definitely am not going to waste my money on.
The Costs and Consequences of Sex

“Sex always has consequences. When Hitler’s mother spread her legs that night, she effectively canceled out the spreading of fifteen to twenty million other pairs of legs.”

– George Carlin

Everything has a cost. Before you act, you really need to consider whether you can handle the consequences. And this is doubly true when it comes to sex.

Okay, sure, with you so far!

Anyone who tells you that sex is no big deal is either lying or isn’t doing it right.
And the alarm bells start flashing. This sounds like it's about to set us up for some awesome "Sex is only safe and pleasurable when in a monogamous relationship!" bullshit typically used by Christians. Let's see!

Sex is a big deal and it has emotional, physical, and sometimes financial consequences. Before you have sex with someone, make sure you are prepared for those consequences. This is where being responsible comes into play.

Your Heart

First and foremost is your heart. If you are having sex for the wrong reasons, you will regret it afterward, and that kind of ruins the experience.

Okay, sure. If you're having casual sex but what you want and expect is a long term monogamous relationship, probably not going to end so well. And vice versa - if you want something casual but you're trapped in a long term monogamous relationship, you're probably not going to be very happy. That's what you're about to say, right?

Sex is best when it is a loving expression of your feelings for another person. When you are sharing a part of yourself in a very intimate way with someone you love, it can be magical.

JK. Sex is only supposed to be with someone you love. Except that many studies have shown that casual sex is not emotionally damaging and can actually lead to stable relationships.

If, however, you are having sex to keep your partner with you, then when (not if) they leave you, you will be miserable. The question you need to ask yourself is, if the worst that could happen happens and this person never calls you again, how will you feel about what you have done?

Your Health

Having sex with the wrong individual can kill you. Sexual transmitted diseases (STDs) are real, and if you have sex, you are at risk of contracting one. You can mitigate that risk by choosing your sexual partners very carefully, making sure that you are only having sex in mutually exclusive relationships, making sure each partner is tested for STDs before engaging in sex, and using protection anyway. If you think all this would kill the moment, consider how bad it would be if it actually killed you instead.

Sex can obviously lead to pregnancy, even if you use precautions. And if you aren’t prepared for that possibility, you might want to hold off on having sex until and unless you are ready to handle an unintended pregnancy. Also, if you don’t think your partner can handle that consequence, don’t have sex with him or her.

Wow, can you say sex-negative? This is reminiscent of a deep South's high school's sex education. OMG NEVER HAVE SEX BECAUSE YOU'LL DIIIEEEEE! Or worse, GET PREGNANT!!!!11!!one!!!

Look, people. Yes, STDs are a problem. Yes you should always use protection, get tested for STDs, and sleep with people you have at least some level of trust with. But the way to deal with them is not through fear mongering and omitting practical information (ironic given the title of the book). This is exactly what abstinence only education programs do, and they've actually been shown to increase the rates of STDs in teens. Knowledge is power.

Stuff like this contributes to society's stigma about STDs. You know, most STDs really aren't that bad. Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics. 65-90% of people have Herpes 1 ("oral" Herpes, though it's not limited to the mouth), and 15% of people have Herpes 2. Symptoms can be reduced to practically nothing with medication. And about 80% of sexually active Americans have HPV, though it usually clears without any symptoms showing.

Does anyone want an STD? No, just like no one wants bronchitis or any other disease. The stigma is blown so out of proportion compared to the actual harm, and fear mongering adds to that. But people shouldn't feel like getting an STD is the end of the world. That can have more consequences than the actual disease (source: read any sex advice column).

Your Money

Finally, there are sometimes financial consequences. Sex with prostitutes isn’t the only sort of sex that costs money. Having a child, even if you give it away, costs money. Contracting an STD costs money. Affairs can be very expensive. People have lost their jobs because of sex. Do you want sex badly enough to lose your job, or get extorted by a spurned lover who is threatening you? If not, then it is best to keep your pants on and pass on that offer of free sex. Nothing is ever free.

The Humanist Approach to Sex

“In all sexual encounters, commitment to humane and humanistic values should be present.”

– The American Humanist Association, Sexual Bill of Rights and Responsibilities

Sex is a big deal. There are consequences to having sex and you should be prepared for those consequences before engaging in sex with anyone. The Humanist approach to sexuality is that it should be pleasurable, loving, and free of guilt.

Free of guilt? ...Does anyone see the irony in that statement compared to the guilt-filled paragraphs that proceeded it?

But that doesn’t mean that anything goes. With the freedom to express your sexuality comes responsibility. From a Humanist perspective, sexual morality cannot be separated from general morality. Both must include compassion, ethics, and responsibility.

Whether any given sex act is morally acceptable from a Humanist perspective really depends on whether it helps the people involved become happy or causes suffering. Sexual pleasure must not come at the expense of someone else’s happiness.

To make sure sex is a source of both pleasure and happiness for you, take precautions to keep yourself and your partners safe. Don’t develop unrealistic expectations for yourself or your partners through the irresponsible use of pornography or other forms of sexually fantasy. Choose your partners wisely. And always approach sex as a responsible, educated, compassionate, and ethical person.

I do agree with her closing remarks, mainly because I do consider myself a Humanist. But that just makes the previous paragraphs even more disappointing. Precautions, responsibility, and avoiding harm shouldn't be connected to guilt trips about monogamy and fear mongering about STDs. Not to mention she provides no actual evidence for what she's saying. Seriously, sex-positivity FAIL.

I wish there was The Atheist's Guide to Sex to counter this. Featuring Greta Christina, Dan Savage, Heidi Anderson, Jen McCreight...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Oh gay stereotypes

Thursday night: Gay Male Friend lets me sleep on his futon

Gay Male Friend: Okay, so here's your futon, and I've put out two different blankets in case you get cold, and there are three pillows but let me know if you want more, and there's a towel in the bathroom on the door you can use, and in the morning I'll make breakfast!
Me: You don't have to make me breakfast...
Gay Male Friend: I know I don't have to, but I want to!

Morning rolls around...

Gay Male Friend: What do you want to drink? I have orange juice, apple juice, milk -
Me: Uh, apple juice would be great.
Gay Male Friend: Oh, and this is my awesome pancake recipe, I hope you like it.
Me: ...You're making pancakes from scratch?
Gay Male Friend: Of course!
Me: ...None of my straight male friends are going to do this.

Friday night: Straight Male Friend 1 lets me sleep on couch

Straight Male Friend 1: So, uh, here's the couch. Let me go get a blanket.
Me: Uh, do you possibly have a towel I could use in the morning?
Straight Male Friend 1: Oh, sure *gets one*
Me: *...tries not to think where the towel has been*
Straight Male Friend 1: I don't have much to offer for breakfast. I live off a diet of rice and beans.
Me: *laughs*
Straight Male Friend 1: No, I'm serious.
Me: ...

Saturday night: Straight Male Friend 2 lets me sleep on couch

Me: ...Uh, so can I have a blanket?
Straight Male Friend 2: Oh, sure, yeah *gets one*. Okay, good night!
Me: ...There's no pillow... gah... *uses cushion from other couch as emergency pillow*

After this, explaining this trend to Gay Male Friend 2

Me: And Gay Male Friend 1 even made me pancakes!
Gay Male Friend 2: Wait, from a box or from scratch?
Me: From scratch!
Gay Male Friend 2: Oh, good, I make them from scratch too.
Me: Goddamnit, why are all the good ones gay?