Sunday, October 31, 2010

One day left to enter my contest!

You know you want to win a copy of the Atheist's Guide to Christmas. There have already been a lot of fabulous entries, but you still have until 5pm PST tomorrow to submit yours. Go here for the details!

Happy Halloween!

I celebrated with a religious costume last night:What? I didn't say it was a serious religion.

Tonight I'll probably celebrate by reading more papers for class and getting some coding done. Grad students are pretty scary.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Natural genes no longer able to be patented

From the NY Times:
Reversing a longstanding policy, the federal government said on Friday that human and other genes should not be eligible for patents because they are part of nature. The new position could have a huge impact on medicine and on the biotechnology industry.
I feel as someone starting their PhD in Genome Sciences, I should have a nice elaborate analysis for you... but alas, I don't. I can tell you all about how genes work, or how to isolate them in the first place, but I'm no expert on the pros and cons of gene patents.

I have my ideas, but feel free to discuss in the comments. Do you think this is good or bad for future research? For future medicine?

Friday, October 29, 2010

This is my life

Just replace "comic" with "blog."Read the whole thing here.

(Via Pharyngula)

Anyone doing NaNoWriMo?

Every year as October comes to an end, I get excited for three things:

1. Halloween! It's my favorite holiday. What's not to love about dressing up in silly costumes?
2. The day after Halloween. Fuck yeah, half priced candy!
3. My birthday, wooo!

But there's one thing that I simultaneously look forward to and fear:

National Novel Writing Month.

It's just how it sounds. During the month of November, you're challenged to write a 50,000 word novel. It's the one time where quantity matters more than quality, because it's an exercise in creativity, not editing.

Then why do I dread it? Because I fail every year.

I probably won't attempt it this year, since I'm busy enough blogging while doing this little thing called "getting my PhD." I haven't quite decided yet, but I may be a "Nano rebel" and try to finish my in-progress manuscript. I'm suddenly more motivated to get it done when I have an editor who's happy to read it.

But are any of you participating? Do you know what your plot's going to be? Have any of you actually succeeded before?

Indiana doesn't care about GLBT rights? Shocking

From the South Bend Tribune:
The South Bend Common Council voted Monday to defeat a proposal to ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The vote was 6-3 with council members Tom LaFountain, David Varner, Derek Dieter, Timothy Rouse, Karen White and Henry Davis Jr. opposed.

[...]Explaining his opposition to the proposal, council President Derek Dieter, D-District 1, said afterward, "I just don't think it's needed in South Bend."

Dieter said he had not seen any documentation proving workplace discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people exists, "and I think it (the proposal) would cause more harm than good to small businesses."

For his part, Patrick Mangan, executive director of the conservative group Citizens for Community Values, praised Dieter and other opponents of the proposal, who he said "stood up to a lot of pressure behind the scenes."

"I'm pleased the council did the right thing in lovingly opposing special rights for homosexuals," he said, adding, "And I renew the offer to all those struggling with same-sex attraction to come to freedom and come to wholeness."
And Indiana wonders why it suffers from such a brain drain. Let me give you a hint: educated, caring people get sick of dealing with the rampant backwards bigotry. Unfortunately that means when you're electing people, too many of your choices are hateful idiots. Sigh, what a Catch 22.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm published! ...Wait a second

More evidence that you shouldn't always trust Google Scholar to deliver the best research papers. I decided to look up my name to see if my paper on genetic bottlenecks was searchable even though it's in a book. That's the third link listed. The first and fourth aren't me, just some other poor J McCreight who has had their Google image search ruined forever by boobquake. But to my surprise, the second link is also mine (click image for larger):
...It's a pdf of a paper I wrote my senior year of high school for AP Composition titled "Creationists in Scientists' Clothing: Scientific and Legal Reasons Why Science Classes Must Omit Intelligent Design." It's pretty damn good considering I was 18 when I wrote it, but I derive endless amusement at how serious it's being treated. Apparently my English teacher is second author, and the journal is ImageShack.

I mean, come on Google Scholar, how unprofessional. You forgot to mention it was 3rd period! What will happen to my academic reputation if someone thinks I was in 2nd period?!

Mmmm, sexy brains

No, I haven't turned into a picky zombie. I'm talking about the Skepticon pin-up calendars.To me, nothing is sexier than intelligence... but having a nice body that's photographed very artistically is a plus too.

Skepticon is November 19-21 in Springfield, Missouri, and will feature amazing speakers like PZ Myers, Greta Christina, Amanda Marcotte, James Randi, Debbie Goddard, Dan Barker, D.J. Grothe, and Rebecca Watson. Not only is it notorious for being so awesome, but it's free. You can help keep it that way by buying a calendar.

Oh, and apparently if they sell 600, Hemant will pose next year. Need I say more?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Want to make some easy cash?

Christine O'Donnell's campaign is offering $1,000 to anyone who can show that separation of church and state is in the Constitution.

Wait, what's that? They want that exact phrase, even though the concept is well understood through case law? Whoops, how silly of me to think a Teabagger running for office would have a better understanding of the Constitution than a five year old.

Apologies to all five year olds.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Troll physics explained

Rage comics are one of my guilty pleasures. Combine them with my love for science, and you can't go wrong. A physics professor was asked to explain the (lack of) science behind some of the funnier "Troll physics" comics. Here's one of my favorites:
"DM: Jumping off the ground - or even a chair on the ground - is nothing like jumping off a chair while you and the chair are in freefall. Because the chair isn't connected to anything, you'll be pushing the chair DOWN as much as pushing yourself up (via Newton's third law). And since you have much more mass than the chair, the force you and the chair exert on one another will speed up the chair's descent much more than it slows your own."
Is it bad that I think I would have learned more from my physics class if it would have incorporated internet memes?

My copy of Atheist's Guide to Christmas just arrived!

Nothing is going to wipe the grin off my face today - I'm published.:D

My drawing of Atheist Barbie looks pretty snazzy too. Yes, technically my art has been published as well!

Don't forget you can enter my contest to win a free copy! Or if you're feeling less creative, you can preorder here.

Feminist blogging & putting atheists on a pedestal

You need thick skin to be a blogger - or really, to interact with people on the internet in general. The "Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory" sums up why pretty well. One way I keep my sanity is to not read the comments when people share my posts on sites like reddit, though sometimes I slip up out of curiosity. Let me just say, the Encyclopedia Dramatica article on boobquake is so unflattering, it's flattering.

Usually I'm okay. But I'll admit, sometimes the trolls and assholes can get to me, especially if I'm already in a bad mood for some other reason. I have a better time handling douchebaggery here, since my readers tend to eviscerate the comments reeking of stupidity. But it's not foolproof.

If there's one thing that will ensure I'll have a bad day, it's posting about feminism.

Until now, I couldn't figure out why sexist comments here upset me so much.

It wasn't because they were shocking
- they'd fill up the antifeminist bingo card almost instantly. They're so predictable that some of my readers will even preemptively comment with stuff like, "Misogynistic comments and oblivious sexism in 3... 2...1..." And when I see those tired arguments elsewhere, I usually just facepalm and move on.

It wasn't because they were popular - I deal with a much lower frequency of assholes than "official" feminism themed blogs. And I have many supportive, understanding, and empathetic commenters who help restore my faith in humanity.

It wasn't because they disagree with me - religious apologetics or conservative viewpoints don't make me want to tear my hair out anywhere near as much.

It wasn't because they were rude - in fact, the obviously trollish ad hominem attacks (usually about my appearance) are the easiest to brush off.

So, why? Why do the horrible comments about feminism literally make me want to scream, but equally horrible comments about atheism or science just induce mild frustration? I figured it out when sexist comments were recently aimed my way at an atheist meeting. It wasn't the first time I'd heard such things in person, but it was the first time I'd heard it in person at a godless gathering. It clicked.

I expect better of atheists.

I've put us up on a pedestal.

It makes sense why I would think this way. Based on personal experience, non-theists do tend to be less sexist than the general public. For one thing, we lack the anti-woman rules perpetuated by most major religions. On the contrary, humanism is explicitly supportive of gender equality. It's also hard to be a sexist skeptic, since there is no evidence to support sexist ideas. Ideologies that support gender equality and skepticism go hand in hand (even if you want to debate the name said ideology should have, because the "f" word gives you hives). And it's hard to be an unskeptical atheist. Most atheists don't believe in god precisely because they're skeptical of religion and the supernatural.

Unfortunately, there are exceptions. Even though we don't have sexist religious tradition, we can still pick it up from our surrounding culture. And not all atheists are skeptical, nor do all skeptics apply that skepticism to every area of their life.

So when I see some of my predominantly godless readership perpetuating the same fallacies, it's frankly disappointing. I had deluded myself into thinking we were above that - that I could feel totally comfortable within this group - but I was wrong. If I toe the line and keep criticising religion, I'm fine. But if I dare to mention women's issues, I'm effectively told to get back in the kitchen. It brings the worst out of people.

Some days it can really bring me down, but ultimately it just motivates me even more. It illustrates why combining my interests in feminism and skepticism is so important. It's not just about showing women why atheism and skepticism is the better option for women, which I still would assert. It's about showing skepticism why sexism is not rational, and making the atheist movement more welcoming to women.

I'm critical because I know we can do better. It may take a lifetime to find out, but hopefully I'm right.

Monday, October 25, 2010

You know you're a grad student when...

Your foursquare page looks like this:

Win a free copy of The Atheist's Guide to Christmas!

Usually I have a rule about No Christmas Stuff Before Thanksgiving, but I'm breaking it for this special occasion - the American edition of The Atheist's Guide to Christmas is coming out next Tuesday, on November 2nd! It's not just any godless book; I'm one of the 42* contributors! There will be a (hopefully) humorous chapter by yours truly called "Gifts for the Godless." This is my first time having a creative piece published, so needless to say, I'm super exited. Not only will I be alongside people I look up to like Richard Dawkins, Phil Plait, and Simon Singh, but it's for a good cause - all author advances and royalties go to the Terrence Higgins Trust.

November 2nd also happens to be my 23rd birthday. Since I can think of no better present for myself, how about I give a present to you? ...And by that I mean "My editor is hooking me up with a couple free copies to give away at my discretion, how about I distribute them in a fun way?"

So, time for a contest!

Write new lyrics for an old Christmas carol that have a godless or scientific theme.

  1. Post your entries in the comments. If you're one of those people who's still having trouble commenting, feel free to email your entry to me.
  2. Make sure to include an email address when you log in or in the body of your post. If you win, I need to contact you about a mailing address.
  3. Arbitrary bonus points will be awarded for things like humor, Blag Hag inside jokes, and singing your song or making a video.
  4. And really, my rules are lax - if you want to remake a famous Christmas-themed story or poem, or do godless lyrics for the dreidel song, I don't care. Really, just make something in the spirit of the contest that you think I'd like, since I get to pick the winners.
Entries are due Monday, Nov 1st at 5pm PST. I'll announce the winners the morning of the 2nd!

And remember, the American edition is different than the version that came out in the UK last year. There are a bunch of new authors, like me. So even if you have that version, you may want to check out the new one!

*Yes, that choice of number is intentional. Don't you want to win it even more?

I now have the right to bitch about politics

I'm registered to vote in Washington! Now I just need to figure out what crazies I need to avoid before filling in the bubbles.

As my dad always says, "If you didn't vote, you have no right to bitch." And what's a blogger good for if they can't bitch? ;)

(Also, it seems sort of wrong that I can link to my dad's blog instead of just quoting his witticisms. What have I done?!)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Summing up the cultural difference between Seattle and Indiana

This morning I'm going to "Smut and Eggs," a gathering of awesome people to watch gay porn while eating brunch. Then tonight I'm going to the gay bar by my house to sing karaoke with a guy who's actually not gay, but just shares my appreciation for gay culture (aka fabulousness). And then next Friday I'm going to Hump!, "The Pacific Northwest's biggest and best amateur-and-locally-produced porn festival" and pet project of Dan Savage.

...I've come a long way from a one-gay-bar-city and anti-porn evangelical Christian events. Trying to hold back the tears of pervy joy...

Friday, October 22, 2010

A reminder on how to make women feel welcome

In light of my recent posts, I thought it would be good to redirect you to an older post I wrote: "Want more skeptical atheist women? Defend us."

Though I have an addendum. To all the ladies and guys who are incredibly annoyed by ignorant sexism: We need to stick together. I know it's hard. Our immediate reaction can be "Well, I'm never going back to that group again!" But all that does is continually remove the good people from the community. Instead of having no community, you can have an awesome one just by showing up and speaking up to the assholes.

I know there are lots of cool people in the Seattle Atheists. Some were there last night but didn't hear what transpired. Maybe they would have called out these guys if they were sitting at my side of the table. But I also met a lot of awesome people at the dinner with Greta Christina - and it was maybe 60% female!

But you know what? I haven't seen them since.

I haven't been in Seattle long enough to know why, but if it's because they got sick of stuff like what I experienced last night, I don't blame them. Why keep going back to something that makes you feel uncomfortable and unwelcome?

Well, I guess my argument is that you can make it more comfortable and welcoming.

So no, I haven't given up on the Seattle Atheists. Last night one of their officers asked me to speak for them eventually, and I'd still love to. And Guy 2 sent me a very nice email this morning apologizing for not calling out the sexist douchebaggery. Admitting something is wrong is the first step to improving a community.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

This is why women don't come to atheist meetings pt. 2

Guy: They're [aka my boobs] attractive. I mean she's attractive.
Me: ...

Guy 4: *very politely and respectfully asks me about my views about feminism and men participating it*
Me: *has intelligent discussion with Guy 4 about feminism, describing the differences between first, second, and third wavers, and explaining that it's called that partially due to history*
Guy 3: I thought feminism was just about hating men.
Guy 4: *starts talking to someone else*
Me: No, that's just a stereotype. Some feminists may act that way, but that's not because they're feminists. Just like there are some atheists who hate religious people and act like jerks, but that doesn't mean all atheists act that way. Feminism is about equality between the sexes.
Guy 3: Then why call it feminism? That implies men are better.
Me: Well, like I said, part of it is historical. But men are still more privileged than women, so it's still called feminism.
Guy: But sexes already have equality.
Me: *head explodes due to the irony of this with his previous actions*

Now, I'm not saying all atheist guys are like this... Guy 4 was very nice to talk to. But I was the only female at this meeting, and if I didn't have an incredibly high tolerance for this type of stupidity or an incredibly high desire to be a part of an atheist group, I probably wouldn't come back. Not all guys are like this, but some of the good ones could have called out the jackasses.

This is why women don't come to atheist meetings

Guy: *holds up phone like he's taking a photo of me*
Me: Uhhh... *moves aside* Are you taking a photo?
Guy 2: No, he's comparing you to your boobquake photo.
Guy: *nods and grins* Nice. *shows another guy*
Guy 3: Lookin' goooood.
Me: *blank stare*
Guy 3: What? It's not harassment since we're not in a workplace.
Me: >:/

This is right after I wondered out loud where all the other female members were, since I was the only one there.

I don't get fashion

The clothing information from my photoshoot just went up. Holy crap.
Strenesse cotton wrap top, $220; Pamela Robbins, 914-472-4033. Joe’s Jeans cotton blend jeans, $158; Old Navy synthetic ballet flats, $20; Old Navy. Her own necklace.
Just to remind you, this is what that outfit looked like:
$158 for a pair of jeans? $220 for that shirt?! I'm glad I didn't know that when I was putting it on, or I probably would have destroyed it due to my nerves of trying not to destroy it. I just... don't understand fashion. I'm not paying more than $30 for a shirt that simple, and when I'm splurging on jeans I'll shop at The Gap when they're having a sale.

I could probably concoct that identical outfit for less than 50 bucks. Are these pieces incredibly durable? Are those super famous brands that I'm just oblivious about? Is this like when I watch America's Next Top Model and don't understand why they're screaming happily about something?

The only thing in my price range were the Old Navy shoes, and those were casually destroyed during the shoot. They didn't have flats in my size, so the just cut the backs off of these. I was wondering why they were so unfazed by destroying their property - it's because they were worthless compared to everything else!

Oh, and the necklace isn't mine - it was one of the staff's. I was wearing my gray Scientific Method Surly Ramics that day. I tried to negotiate getting it in, but failed. Sorry, Amy!

And my outfit was cheap compared to the rest.
Most expensive dress: $1,250
Most expensive shoes: $1,095

I think everything in my closet isn't work a thousand dollars. Gah.

Purdue to host intercollegiate Quidditch tournament

Why do all the awesome things happen after graduation?!
Purdue University is hosting an intercollegiate Quidditch tournament from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 24), just days before the world debut of the final Harry Potter film, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

The Hogwarts-looking Windsor Halls will serve as the backdrop as caped contestants chase gold-clad human snitches and launch balls through custom-made hoops, all while dashing around on broomsticks trying not to be leveled by bludger-bearing beaters.

Several colleges will send players, including Purdue, Ohio State, Loyola University Chicago, Illinois State, Ball State, Bowling Green State University, Carthage College, Miami of Ohio and Transylvania University. Purdue's invitational tournament is scheduled for the same week as the DVD and Blu-ray release of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" Ultimate Edition, the movie in which Harry and Ron Weasley attend the Quidditch World Cup.


Of course, if the Harry Potter universe was real, my complete ineptitude in gym class would probably translate over into not being able to fly at all. Though if Ravenclaw can still have a decent team, maybe not all magical nerds are unathletic.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

First they stop worshipping Zeus, now this?!

There's a new blog for Greek atheists called Atheia - available in Greek and English. Good to know some of my cousins are coming to the dark side.

Oxi theos kala!

...Yes, I know that's not grammatically correct at all. That's probably 5% of my Greek vocabulary. The other 95% is terms for food, or words that would help you acquire food. I have my priorities in order!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Onion mentions me in their new video

Watch the news ticker at the bottom, starting at 45 seconds in:

Thousands Of Girls Match Description Of Missing Sorority Sister

I mean, who else could they be talking about?

Seriously though, I love the Onion. I about lost it at "I just kept thinking that could have been me, you know? Was it?"

Monday, October 18, 2010

My More Magazine photoshoot and interview is out!

OMG OMG OMG *flail*


The November issue of More Magazine is just starting to trickle out. I'm not sure if it's quite on news stands yet, but I'm going to give you a sneak peek because I'm in it! Wooooo! I wasn't having the greatest day today, and this is just what I needed to lift my spirits.

First, I'm happy with the awesome cover choice, Jane Lynch from Glee:Look, my article even gets a tagline! "Feminists in Fishnets? The tweeters, texters, and bloggers you need to know about." ...Okay, it's obviously there to get your attention, so I don't really care that the only fishnets I own are part of a Halloween costume. ON THE COVER!!

Though I'm a little suspicious of that "Best Diet for your DNA" article. Hmmmm, I reserve judgment until reading it.

My article is right after the piece on awesome chocolate desserts, which I approve of. And the spread looks amazing (click image for larger version):I'M IN A FUCKING MAGAZINE! ...Whoops, that wasn't very lady like, let me try that again.


I didn't feel like I was wearing a lot of make up that day, but I was definitely surprised when I saw that photo - in a good way! I feel classy.

It's a two page spread, but I'm only going to post that image so you have some incentive to go and find it on news stands. The intro paragraph under the right half of the photo makes me feel all tingly inside:
We know. We know. We've seen the divide. And we've heard it at events we've thrown - some of you, standing in the back with your arms crossed, saying, "You call yourselves feminists?! When I was your age, I was marching on D.C...." Well, yeah, but in 2010, the stakes have changed. The standard bearers for a new generation are out there. They just approach activism in a different way. Here are the names you need to know now."
Yay for rebutting the "Feminism: Ur doin' it wrong" argument! Always a pet peeve of mine. And I may be biased, but I think my description before my interview wins:
"Grad student; liberal, geeky, nerdy, scientific, perverted atheist (all her words)"
Hell yeah. Look, I got the word atheist in there! Wooooo!

So, keep an eye out when you pass news stands! And there should be a supplemental video interview online soon where I ramble about science, skepticism, and feminism - I'll make sure to keep you all updated.

Friend: That goes in the speaker bio, right? One of More magazine's top ten new feminists?
Me: Yay, I sound more important now!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Firebrands, Comfrontationalists, Accommodationists, oh my!

These labels have been flung around the atheist blogosphere lately. Jerry Coyne seems to be one of the people most outspoken about "accommodationists," those that think science and religion can happily get along. Coyne thinks science and religion are inherently incompatible - a view I happen to agree with - and explained it nicely in a piece for USA Today.

The opponents of accommodationists have been labeled "confrontationalists." PZ Myers wrote up an excellent piece on why he's a confrontationalist after a panel discussion at the Secular Humanism conference. Apparently the whole accommodationist vs. confrontationalist idea was interesting enough for the New York Times to do a piece on it. It's the whole firebrands vs. diplomats thing all over again - I guess the media love seeing drama within movements. So why am I beating a dead horse?

Because I hate labels, especially crappy labels.

They're not just crappy because typing accommodationist and confrontationalist over and over makes my hands cramp up - they're simply horrible at describing what they're trying to convey. We're really dealing with two totally different topics: 1) The relationship between science and religion, and 2) Strategies for engaging people.

I would argue the way people think about science and religion falls (mostly) into a binary. There's the camp that thinks science and religion are compatible, comprised of people like Chris Mooney, Eugenie Scott, Francis Collins, and Chris Stedman. They're the people you'll hear talking about "non-overlapping magesteria" and listing successful scientists who are also religious. Then there's a camp that thinks science and religion are incompatible, comprised of people like Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Jerry Coyne, Hemant Mehta, and myself. We'd argue that religious belief is inherently unscientific, and simultaneously being religious and a scientist involves a bit of compartmentalization in your brain.

Notice how religious belief or lack thereof doesn't necessarily put you in one category or another. You have atheists who believe science and religion are compatible, and atheists who don't. And I'm sure there are religious people out there who think religion and science are incompatible - the type of theists who make whole museums devoted to poo-pooing science.

The problem starts when we try to merge this viewpoint with different ways people engage others, like labeling the other side as "confrontationalists." We try to lump this binary with the idea of firebrands and diplomats. But I'm going to argue that it is not a binary, but rather a spectrum. And it's not just a spectrum in that some people are more aggressive than others - some people can also span wide parts of the spectrum. To illustrate, here I compare myself with some bloggers I enjoy (mainly chosen since I feel the most familiar with their strategies, and didn't want to misrepresent others):

Notice how I didn't simply rank people along the spectrum with a single point. That's because I think there's a serious aspect people miss when trying to employ this false dichotomy: those who can engage people differently depending on the situation.

I generally hate labels, so I'm hesitant to add "Situationalists" to the growing list, but it describes some people the best. PZ is pretty much always a firebrand, but bloggers like Hemant and Greta can be more or less aggressive depending on the situation.

It also describes me best. When I was president of my student group at a conservative college in a religious area, I needed to be much more diplomatic. I could have run out guns blazing, but the club would have never gotten off the ground. Because I chose a more diplomatic route, we became as well respected as we're going to get in our community. That's what was needed in that situation - becoming established, and letting people know that atheists aren't all monsters.

But here on my blog, I have a much different approach. I'm more of a firebrand. I'm not representing an organization, so I'm more able to speak my mind and "rally the troops." Or as Rebecca Watson lovingly called me during our panel podcast last week, I'm "a dick with a purpose."

I don't think my range is broad just because I'm young and new to the movement - I can think of other student leaders who rank on either extreme of that spectrum. Lucy Gubbins of the University of Oregon's Alliance of Happy Atheists is very much a diplomat, and JT Eberhard of the Missouri State University Pastafarians is very much a firebrand.

And I think they both are amazing - being a situationalist is not necessarily better. People should do what they're good at. If you're good at playing Bad Cop, there's a Good Cop out there too. We just have to remember there are people like me who don't neatly fit on either side.

Then why are we labeling all people who think science and religion are incompatible as confrontationalists? We have people like Hemant who clearly fall into that group, but are about as friendly and diplomatic as you can get. If I had to guess, it's because most people who think science and religion are compatible also happen to be diplomats. The term "accommodationist" is the mish-mash of those two ideas - you don't just think science and religion are compatible, but you want to use that idea as a way to reach people in a friendly matter.

So, can we nix the confrontationalists label? It seems to serve no other purpose than to paint those who think science and religion are incompatible in a negative, hostile light. Hey, maybe the reason why the arguments of accommodationists seem so wishy washy is because they don't have enough firebrands on their side.

...Or maybe it's just because they're wrong. But that's a whole other post.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Have you had trouble commenting?

A bunch of people have told me they have had trouble commenting here lately. I'm going to attempt to fix the problem this weekend. If you've had issues commenting, please email me at blaghagblog(at)gmail(dot)com. To help me out, please include:
  1. What browser you're using
  2. If you have anything like Adblock enabled
  3. How you're attempting to login (blogger, twitter, facebook, disqus, etc)
  4. Exactly what sort of problem you're having. Can you not log in? Are you clicking post and it's never loading? Can you not edit posts? Does disqus open a portal to the nether-dimension? Let me know.
Sorry for everyone who's been having issues. I blame Disqus, but I'll try to fix it.

If you had issues either here or at your own blog but found ways to fix them, please let me know that too!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My landlord is a debate-loving creationist who just realized I'm an evolutionary biologist

Enjoy the schadenfreude, everyone.

My landlord just knocked on the door to discuss various landlord-y things, like how he'll fix one of my broken chairs and how much Comcast sucks. He asked how grad school was going and what sorts of classes I'm taking, and I mentioned how Gene Regulation was really hard. He's on a board that heads genetic research for a certain disease, so we were having a pretty in depth discussion about genetics. It was nice until...

Landlord: Well, I'm a creationist. Though most of my colleagues are evolutionists.
Me: ...Well, I also have a degree in evolution. Genetics and evolution.
Landlord: *glint in eye*
Me: What have I done?!

He then spent the next fifteen minutes trying to convince me that junk DNA somehow proves evolution is wrong, how evolution can't predict anything or be useful, how no study has shown evolution to be true. I tried to provide counter arguments as nicely as possibly, while trying not to get evicted from my apartment.

Landlord: Well, I shouldn't keep you from your paper any longer. But I see I'm going to have a lot of work to do with you. *wink*
Me: I could say the same thing *wink back*
Landlord: Haha, bye!

I should state that my landlord is super nice and helpful (and looks just like the old man from Up!). I just spend so much of my life debating creationists, I like to escape from it at home. As long as "Must debate evolution before rent is accepted" doesn't become part of my lease, I'm happy.

I just hope he doesn't Google my name.

Scientific illiteracy

Reading scientific papers helps me understand why so many people hate or distrust scientists.

Let me clarify briefly. This is not meant to be me bitching about my graduate school workload. This is not me thinking my PhD was going to be a cake walk. I was prepared to finish undergrad feeling like a genius and walk into grad school feeling average. I was prepared to learn, and learning requires feeling stupid first.

This is me trying to think what science looks like to an outsider.

The last couple of weeks I've been doing pretty much nothing but reading scientific papers - that is, peer reviewed research papers published in academic journals. Some of these have been historical, the oldest being from the 1940s, and some have been from the last couple of years. Some have been good, some have been excellent, but the majority have made me want to stab my eyes out with the nearest pipetman. I've been reading primary literature for the last three years, but dealing with so much recently has made me realize one thing:

Most scientists are terrible writers.

And when I say terrible writers, I'm not just talking about English skills - though that certainly is a problem. When I had to read some of my classmates' papers in undergrad, I was often thankful to find a sentence that wasn't a fragment or a run-on. I don't have perfect grammar, especially when informally blogging, but I can usually get general concepts across. And don't even get me started on the organization of some papers. Your methods are where?

But most science writing is simply impenetrable. Everything seems to be lingo and jargon, to the point where they might as well be speaking another language. This problem gets worse with time, since fields are becoming more specialized, not less.

And if that wasn't bad enough, so many scientific papers are drier than Indiana on a Sunday. You would never guess most papers were authored by the same person who will perk up with excitement when you ask them about their research. Obviously papers are meant to be impartial, but that doesn't mean they have to be devoid of all liveliness. When a paper does include a rare joke, or even a clever ribbing of another study, readers get excited. We like being reminded that humans wrote these papers, not some computer program (unless simulating papers is what your research is about, then...). I nearly pooped myself when I saw a paper use an exclamation mark once. Needless to say, exclamation marks should not provoke this amount of surprise.

So why is this an issue outside of my own graduate school woes? I hate tooting my own horn, but allow me to prove a point. I have a BS in Genetics and Evolution from a respected university. I have three years of research experience in a laboratory. I have one published paper and at least one more on the way. I won the award for Outstanding Biology Student every year I was at Purdue. It's safe to say that I am more trained in biology than your average person, yet I still have to spend hours reading a biology paper to grasp even the most basic concepts.

I look back on all the times I asked people if they read the original research before passing judgment on a study. Or all the times I sighed at another bad piece of science reporting. Now I just sympathize. If I'm having such a hard time, how do we expect laypeople to understand science?

I'm but a lowly first year graduate student, so I obviously don't have all the answers... But I'm also a blogger, so here's my opinion on two things we can do to improve science communication:

Relax pointless publishing rules. Journals are so focused on word count, formatting, figure size, supplemental material... Are you really communicating in the best way possible when you're worrying about having to spend hundreds of extra dollars for every page you go over? Or when you sacrifice clarity in a graph because it's cheaper to get it printed in black in white?

One of my papers recently was rejected, and I cringed at some of the questions reviewers had. We clarified all of those points in the initial draft, but they were eventually cut due to word limit restrictions. This is made all the more ridiculous when you consider that most people access journals electronically now. Is the internet not big enough for that extra pdf page? We obviously want some limits so people don't get excessively verbose, but this is just silly.

Encourage more scientists to be journalists. And I don't just mean recruiting science majors after they've been taught how to write (though for the love of FSM, someone please do that too). I mean encouraging scientists to blog about what they know, and then utilizing those bloggers who have proved their communication skills. It's hard enough to understand the primary literature, let alone translate it into something people can understand. We need to exploit that talent we have.

The thing that worries me the most? That this is probably just the first of many disillusionments I'll have about science over the next couple years.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Upcoming speaking events

You may have noticed that my Speaking page has been growing. I thought I'd point out some of my upcoming speaking events, in case you're in the area:

11/13/2010 - Seattle, WA
Society for Sensible Explanation - Boobquake and its Aftershocks

2/05/2011 - San Diego, CA
Secular Student Alliance Regional Leadership Conference - Topic TBA

3/24/2011 - Minneapolis, MN
Campus Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists (CASH) at UM - Atheism & Feminism (snazzier name forthcoming)

TBA 2011 (tentative) - Ft. Bragg, NC
Fort Bragg Freedom Festival - Topic TBA

I'll give more details about times and locations when we're closer to the event.

A note to people who are interested in having me speak to their group:

- If you're not near Seattle, I probably can only travel during official UW breaks or on weekends.
- My visit to UM is during my spring break. If you're near Minneapolis, I'd be happy to speak to your group while I'm out there! Hey, if I'm going back to the Midwest during my vacation, I might as well make it worth it ;)
- If you're within driving distance of Seattle, I'm much more likely to be able to come. Wink nudge Portland and Vancouver.
- If you're a student group affiliated with the Secular Student Alliance, they may be able to help you fund some of my trip because I'm on their speakers bureau.
- If you have any questions, email me at blaghagblog(at)gmail(dot)com.

This is where the magic happens

I'm not feeling particularly blogging inspired (thanks, grad school), so here's some random photos of my new apartment, now that it's all set up (click images for larger):How about a game of geeky I Spy? What can you spot, other than the inevitable wire-induced fire hazard beneath my desk?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Federal judge bans Don't Ask, Don't Tell


A federal judge in California issued a permanent ban Tuesday on the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays and lesbians in the military, ordering the Defense Department to immediately halt any efforts to remove personnel because of their sexual orientation.

The government has 60 days to appeal the ruling, which gives the administration until after the midterm election next month to make a decision. But it also presents a problem for President Obama as he tries to rally his Democratic base.

Don't fuck this up, Obama.

Monday, October 11, 2010

And all the bloggers wept

It was bad enough knowing a sedentary lifestyle can lead to weight gain. Now persistent exposure to light at night can too? I give up, I'm doomed. Pass the cheesy puffs.

I feel bad for all the computer addicts who put their computer in front of a treadmill in an attempt to stave off the inevitable. Resistance is futile! Accept your plumper future!

What? At least you won't be as overweight? ...Shut up, you.

(Via Boing Boing)

Setting the record straight

Why am I such an ally to gay rights issues? Why do I care so much about issues that don't directly affect me? People ask me this all the time, and my responses so far haven't been lies. I care about my GLBT friends. I care about civil rights. I think the world could use some more fabulous drag shows.

But I've always omitted that I personally understand.

I've bottled this up so long, that it may take a while to explain. Let's hop into a time machine and head back 10 years, when I was starting the 7th grade.

It started when chatting with an online friend who was a couple years older than me. She was playfully teasing me, asking if I liked any boys in my classes. Answering truthfully, I said no. Being a progressive person, she then asked me if I liked any girls. Again, answering truthfully, I said no. I was still at an age where everyone had cooties.

But the interesting thing about that conversation was that I didn't make any judgment call between opposite and same sex attraction. No one had ever explicitly told me "Girls are supposed to like boys." It must be different for kids being raised in conservative religious families, or really, kids raised in this time at all. Gay marriage is much more of a public issue now, and it's hard to ignore someone spitting venom on TV about how homosexuality is wrong. Being told one way was the right way wouldn't have stopped my biology, but it would have definitely drag me down with guilt.

Why? Because a year later I found myself with my first crush, and that crush was a girl.

Oh, it was awkward, and it was heartbreaking - but mostly because that's how all crushes are to a 13 year old girl. I was just lucky that I never thought it was sinful or wrong. I wasn't religious, and I was delightfully oblivious to the people who thought my feelings were disgusting.

But it still wasn't easy. There was something overwhelmingly horrible knowing the odds are against you - that, if you're rounding up, maybe 10% of people would also be interested in the same sex. I couldn't get my friend out of my mind, but I knew the odds of her feeling the same way were slim to none. It's terrible liking someone without them liking you back, but it seems just a tad more terrible when you know there's literally nothing you can do about it. No amount of persuasion will change their biology.

Eventually after much agonizing, I told her. And because she's a wonderful person, she didn't freak out or blab my secret. I knew she was pro gay rights, but I didn't know how she'd handle being the object of someone's infatuation. So, it could have been worse. But she still wasn't interested, so I forced myself to move on.

In high school I started dating guys. It wasn't an act, or a way to hide away the gay - I was legitimately attracted to guys too. Eventually I discovered the term for this was "bisexual," and I felt relieved. There was a label for me, and that was comforting at a time where you feel like you don't fit in. But also in high school I discovered another thing - that there was a lot of hatred targeted toward homosexuals. I was happy I was at least attracted to guys as well. I wasn't lying by omitting my attraction toward girls, I was just avoiding the constant harassment.

I made my mistake when I felt comfortable enough to tell my friends. My boyfriend at the time laughed at me, though he doesn't remember his reaction now. I do.
"You're not bisexual. This is just a phase. Girls just act bi because they want attention."
I was hurt. I had mustered up the strength to tell him, and all he tried to do was convince me I was straight. I turned to my gay friends for support.
"Uh huh, you say you're bisexual now. Give it time and you'll realize you're gay. You're just too afraid to admit it."
At the time I didn't know it, but apparently this was common enough to have its own name - bi erasure. Thinking that bisexuality doesn't really exist. And you know what I did?

I erased myself.

I started calling myself straight. It was just easier, and I was sick of putting up with the constant debates about my personal preferences. And I was predominantly attracted to men, so it made it easier. I wasn't shutting down such a huge part of myself like other closeted people do.

Now I'm nearly 23, and I still call myself straight. To be honest, I found the best definition when reading The God Delusion:
Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. 'I cannot know for certain, but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.'
Except for me, I read it as:
Very low probability of homosexuality, but short of zero. De facto straight. "I cannot know for certain, but I think me having a relationship with a woman is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that I won't."
I could have called myself a number of things. Bicurious. Heteroflexible. A Kinsey 1. Two beer queer. Eventually I gave up, because all the labels were just silly. I was me. I decided if you want to know who I'm attracted to, you can get to know me instead of judging me from a couple words. I stuck with "straight" because it was good enough and because I didn't want to constantly defend myself. No one has to defend heterosexuality.

So why did I make this post? Because even though it's comfortable, it's a lie. And as a skeptic and a scientist who's always in search of the truth, it just seemed wrong to keep on lying. Maybe 95% of the time I'm attracted to men, but the other 5% still matters.

But even more importantly, I think it's necessary to say it to show that everyone doesn't fit in neat little boxes. Not everyone is 100% gay or 100% straight. Bisexuals don't always like each sex in equal amounts. Bisexuality doesn't mean you're not monogamous, or that you can't make up your mind. Someone's sexuality doesn't necessarily stay exactly the same throughout their lifetime. And if you want to experiment or you have that one person you'd go gay for (or straight for), that doesn't mean you have to have an identity crisis.

You don't need a new label. You're you.

So here I am, saying it. Sometimes I like the ladies. I've crushed harder on some of my female friends than on some of the guys I've actually dated. Those drunken makeouts weren't really due to drunkenness that much - I just thought you were hot. I'm disappointed that I somehow made it through undergrad without doing more than those drunken makeouts. I blame my unfortunate tendency to fall for straight women.

I wanted to post this last year, but I chickened out. I almost psyched myself out of it again. The fact that I was so afraid to admit a smidgen of gayness to a welcoming, pro-gay, liberal community really speaks wonders of how hard this is. Bigots want to shame us all into the closet, and we can't make progress for civil rights until we're able to be honest about who we really are. So, my secret is out.

Of course, after flipping through photos from TAM, maybe it wasn't a huge secret after all...
Yay vaginas!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Podcast is about to start!

Tune in to League of Reason here. Feel free to treat this post as an open discussion about the podcast. Show will be going until 2pm PST.

Yet another way to show your love of Blag Hag

I finally got off my ass and set up the RSS feed for Blag Hag's fan page on Facebook. So, go like it and become a fan! Share it with friends! Yadda yadda etc!

And while we're talking about being a fan of Blag Hag, make sure you're using the correct RSS feed to get my posts. is updated instantaneously. The old feed, using, generally will lag for many hours before getting a new post up. Just so you know.

Oh, and you can follow me on twitter too. Yay.

Okay, I think that's all. Phew.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Tune in to League of Reason tomorrow!

I'll be one of "three hurricanes of female skeptical ass-kicking" participating in a discussion about ladies of skepticism tomorrow. I'm not sure what can make that endorsement any better, other than mentioning the other two hurricanes are Rebecca Watson and Ashley Paramore (healthyaddict).

You can tune in by going to League of Reason tomorrow, Sunday the 10th at noon PST (3pm EST). It'll be live and two hours long, so let's hope I don't herp and derp too much.

Dance Your PhD finalists are up!

If you've ever had a hard time explaining what your research is about, maybe you should consider interpretive dance. That's what the Dance Your PhD contest at Science asks grad students to do. It's fun, but the winner also gets a $500 dollar prize.

You can vote for whichever one you like the best here. To show I'm not inherently biased toward biology, my favorite was actually the chemistry one. I thought it did the best job at actually explaining the concept, while having the least abstract dancing. Oh, and I loved the part with Taq polymerase in the middle. Seriously, just watch it.

...Okay, it still had to do with DNA, shush.

Maybe in a couple of years I'll be able to do this, though I kind of suck at dancing. Right now my lab rotation project wouldn't be too interesting of a video though - not sure how to interpretively dance to coding in Python...

Required reading for the accommodating atheist

If you haven't already, you really must go read PZ Myer's excellent post about why confrontational atheists feel it's so important to actively speak out against religion. I'm tempted to print it off and give it to all of the grad students who have told me how much they dislike Richard Dawkins and "new" atheism, without them realizing that I'm also one of those rude, trouble making, "new" atheists. Want to know why I'm so vocal? Here you go.

May I suggest an update to Phil Plait's now popular mantra? How about, "Don't be a dick, but being a liar is worse."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I already like this site way more than Facebook

I received an email earlier today from Nature Publishing Group advertising their new social networking project, GenoMate:
We at Nature are pleased to announce our premier academic social networking/graduate relationship development website. New multidisciplinary fields, particularly Systems Biology, require a greater degree of collaboration and shared expertise. Nature GenoMate combines cloud-based productivity tools with a social networking engine that includes your colleagues and citations.
At first I thought this was going to be super lame - I mean, do biologists really need a separate social networking site? But when I looked at the features, I realized how awesome it is. It's really pertinent to the needs of grad students. For example, they give great advice that first years like me may not know:Or their Erlenmeyer-Briggs personality questions that match you with others:Go check out the rest of their features here!

I feel so lucky that my department received one of the first invitations. Helps that the main developer apparently works here, though I'm not sure who it is... hmmm...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I like it to actually have a point

There's been a new meme running around Facebook recently. If you haven't heard about it, or if you've been confused by it, allow me to post the original message to explain what it is:
Remember the game last year about what colour bra you were wearing at the moment? The purpose was to increase awareness of October Breast Cancer Awareness month. It was a tremendous success and we had men wondering for days what was with the colors and it made it to the news. This year's game has to do with your handbag/purse, where we put our handbag the moment we get home for example "I like it on the couch", "I like it on the kitchen counter", "I like it on the dresser" well u get the idea. Just put your answer as your status with nothing more than that and cut n paste this message and forward to all your FB female friends to their inbox. The bra game made it to the news. Let's see how powerful we women really are!!! REMEMBER - DO NOT PUT YOUR ANSWER AS A REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE- PUT IT IN YOUR STATUS!!! PASS THIS TO EVERY WOMAN YOU KNOW
How is this raising awareness? Or more importantly, who the fuck isn't aware of breast cancer by now? We don't need to be raising awareness that it exists. We need to raise awareness about self examinations, mammograms, or places where we can donate money. That will actually save lives. How is posting a cryptic facebook status update that's purposefully meant to confuse people saving the lives of people who suffer from breast cancer?

Because it isn't meant to raise awareness or save lives. The point of this is to titillate. Now, I'm not going to pretend I'm above juvenile humor - I just made a post giggling at naughty sounding scientific words. But this is even bellow all of the "I Heart Boobies" t-shirts - even though those reduce survivors to their breasts, at least they actually raise money for research, treatment, and prevention.

But this is just sad. I think this redditor sums up how I feel quite nicely:

I'm a dude. I thought some of my facebook friends were just horny and proud of it, so when I read things like "I like it on the table / couch / car," I thought, "Good for you! You're owning your sexuality, even if it's some awkward public declaration of it! Go do your thing!" To find out it's about breast cancer ruins both the campaign and my friends' false sexual declarations.

Our society needs to stop treating women's sexuality like it's only acceptable when used as a tool or in jest. It's just as sad that women are perpetuating it. They're effectively saying "This is funny because I would never actually talk openly about my sexual preferences, or even admit to being sexual, and I like confusing guys so they'll give me attention by posting a bunch of comments to my status!" Cut it out, ladies.

I like my purse on my floor. And I like having sex wherever I goddamn want.

Now go here to actually do something worthwhile - one click has a sponsor fund a free mammogram.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Terms from the paper I'm reading


Coitus interruptus.

Erotic induction.

...I swear this is a Nobel prize winning paper on bacterial gene regulation and not a nerdy porno script. Though just think what's going to happen when I'm allowed to name things.

Feel free to share giggle inducing terms from your fields.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Well, I feel less isolated in my stupidity now

Thanks for all of the nice comments you guys left on my post last night. Thanks to your comments, I've learned two things:
  1. I have a lot of well educated blog readers. Seriously, I was amazed at how many of you guys have pursued PhDs, are professors, etc... We're definitely not the average American demographic. I guess that could make me feel even more intimidated, but I'm going to try to think positively about it - you guys stuck around even though I'm just a 22 year old starting grad school, so I must have something intelligent to say. Or at the very least, something entertaining to say. I'll take that.
  2. My woes seem to be pretty common. I think the better question now is if anyone hasn't experienced impostor syndrome.
But I also feel better after attending class and reading more papers. My Monday class is a three hour discussion of multiple related papers, and it actually went really well. Our professor guided us through the discussion without giving away the answers, but still explained parts that we were confused about instead of letting us totally flounder - aka, he did an excellent job. I realized I understood a lot more than I gave myself credit for, and even more light bulbs went on during the discussion.

Then I read even more papers for my class tomorrow (seeing a theme here?). At first I felt doomed, again. But then tonight I was in a little study group with some of the other students, and:
  1. Everyone seemed just as confused and lost as me. And
  2. I actually got to explain a concept to a couple people! A concept that seemed simple to me (gel electrophoresis of DNA segments) only because that's basically what I spent the last three years doing, not to mention teaching. That really helped make it clear that we all come from such different backgrounds, that sometimes you're going to feel completely in the dark, but other times you'll actually know what the heck you're talking about.
I'm still tired, but I feel slightly less doomed. I think I'm partially writing this post so I can come back and read it when I'm feeling completely idiotic again.

...Like tomorrow when I try to fix my Python code. *gulp*

Sorry, but freedom of religion doesn't protect your bigotry

Take it away, Senator:
[Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) ] went further and "said if someone is openly homosexual, they shouldn't be teaching in the classroom and he holds the same position on an unmarried woman who's sleeping with her boyfriend -- she shouldn't be in the classroom."

Controversy over DeMint's position on this issue first arose in 2004 during a Senate debate, when he was asked whether he agreed with the state party's platform that said openly gay teachers should be barred from teaching public school. DeMint said he agreed with that position because government shouldn't be endorsing certain behaviors.

[...]"(When I said those things,) no one came to my defense," DeMint said on Friday in Spartanburg. "But everyone would come to me and whisper that I shouldn't back down. They don't want government purging their rights and their freedom to religion."

So, let me get this logic straight:

1. Your religion thinks homosexuality and sex before marriage is a sin.

2. Freedom of religion makes it so your religion must be followed by every person in this country, regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof.

3. Therefore, allowing these sinful people to have jobs and interact with children is repressing your beliefs.


Yeah, can someone please this Senator how our Constitution works?

This would be laughable if he was just some kook for thinking this way. Unfortunately, this sense of entitlement is common and has real effects on people. An Oregon teacher was just reassigned to a different school district because he answered a 4th grader honestly when asked why he wasn't married - because he loves a man and marriage is not legal for them in Oregon.

Yep, because it's better that we extoll the virtues of lying than be honest about something any 4th grader probably already knows about just from watching tv. Gotta love those traditional, Christian values that deem certain types of love inappropriate.

For the people who told me to read PhD comics...

I've already been reading them for two years. This is probably part of my problem.

And while I could generally relate to them thanks to undergrad research, I'm now convinced the artist has a spy camera set up in my apartment. Take today's comic for example:I read this comic cuddled up in bed exactly like the main character, skimming Google Reader while I decided if I wanted to hit snooze again or get out of bed.

I got out of bed.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

And here comes the Impostor Syndrome

I was going to make this massive upbeat post about starting graduate school, how excited I am, and how proud I am to be the first person in my family to pursue a PhD, or really, to study science at all.

Then I actually went. And now I'm having massive Impostor Syndrome.

In summary, feeling incredibly stupid, overwhelmed, and unprepared is not what I needed heaped on top of the general melancholy I already felt for being utterly alone in a new city. Did I mention I suck at making new friends? Well, I do.

It doesn't help that all of my grad student friends are telling me to get used to it, because it never goes away. Or that when I've tried to confide in some of my fellow first years, they look at me like I've sprouted a second head because they totally understand the papers we're reading. Or that I feel like I can't even discuss it here on my blog, since apparently everyone in the department knows about it. I say apparently because within five minutes of me showing up to a department event, someone new approaches me and goes, "So, I hear you have a blog!"

I mean, that's a great thing for people in your new department to read, right? "I have no idea what any of these papers mean, not to mention I'm completely uninterested in them, and I'm not quite sure how I got accepted here anyway." The whole point of Impostor Syndrome is that you feel like you need to hide your ineptitude. Maybe if I voice my concerns on a popular blog, I'll be cured!

...Or not.

I just can't shake the feeling that I don't know what I'm doing. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy science and doing research. And I have about a million different research ideas running through my brain. My problem right now is I think all of my research ideas are surely retarded, which is why no one has thought to do them before (not because, you know, they're potentially innovative or something). So instead of piping up when someone asks me, I sit quietly and seem totally uncreative and stupid.

It doesn't help that on top of that, I look back at how much I enjoyed my summer. Right now I would love to do nothing but write books, blog, speak for student groups and conferences... I'm not sure if that's just me having escapist fantasies, or if that's what I should actually be doing. I always told myself you need training to be a research scientist, and that you can paint and write books on the side, not the other way around. But then I come home exhausted from a day in the lab, realize I haven't done any artwork in the last four years and that all of my novels sit half completed, and I wonder if I'm just deluding myself.

Of course, if I tried to make a career out of writing, I'd probably be sitting in my apartment starving, wishing how I could be off in a lab discovering some new aspect of evolution and actually getting a paycheck.


I apologize that this post is so crappily written and without a real point*, but I just needed to think out loud for a bit.

*Ugh, apparently I have Blogger Impostor Syndrome too. Sorry.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Am I supposed to be giving sex advice now?

Why is Dan Savage in Indiana? Have we traded places?

Though I am genuinely curious. He's been making posts about being in Bloomington, IN for a while - almost since I moved to Seattle. Is IU getting up to some awesome sexual shenanigans again? Man, why can't Purdue be cool enough to have Dan Savage visit, let alone camp out there?

I mean, I've always been the unofficial Sex Advice Giver of my group of friends, thanks to scientific curiosity. Freshman year of high school I had the "Birds and the Bees" event in Science Olympiad, which forced me to learn a lot about human sexually. Soon I had read everything on Scarlet Teen and Ask Anne, and then I spent many years listening to Love Line. And then I spent many years listening to the Savage Lovecasts to undo most of the sexist crap I learned from Love Line (though it wasn't all bad). Add to that the four classes I took at Purdue dealing with sex*, and all the random books** and papers I've read, and... well, yep, I'm a bit academically obsessed.

So, sex advice wouldn't be out of character for me. Though I guess I'm really only qualified to talk about rodent sexuality. I'm going to guess no one is having problems with their partner's copulatory plugs.


*For the curious:
Sex, Gender, & Sexology (Health and Kinesiology Dept)
Human Sexuality (Psychology Dept)
Evolutionary Psychology (Psychology Dept)
Sex & Evolution (Biology Dept)

**I highly recommend:
Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation
The Red Queen
As Nature Made Him