Monday, January 31, 2011
The only way to summarize this video is my reaction:
"Oh lord, awful Native American stereotype. Wait, they're cutting out to a diverse group. They're not going to go through each - wait - yes, yes they are. Jesus, the Asian eyes aren't even glued on properly. ...Good lord it gets worse and worse. OH MY GOD THE BLACK PEOPLE WTF. ...And the white people are from the South, of course. I'm so glad that's ov-OH MY GOD JOSE! JOSE! I want to cry. I'm losing my mind watching this."
You know you need to sit through the whole thing now.
Fashioning a polo shirt that complemented his witty humor, an atheist high school math teacher recounted how he won his tussle with an influential right-wing group.What? That wasn't the takeaway point from this article? I guess for Purdue students, it's important to illustrate that atheists aren't always running around naked. That misconception may be partially my fault.
Glad Hemant's talk went well at my alma mater!
PS: Club members report that about twice as many people showed up than the Exponent reported. Boo, student reporting!
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Ham: It's for profit! You just hate Christians!
Lynn: You're a ministry with the explicit goal to convert people to Christianity!
Ham: I'm going to ignore everything you say and keep saying "for profit"!
Lynn: lol, Flintstones and unicorns.
Last week's weight: 179.8 lbs
Current weight: 178.6 lbs
Weight loss this week: 1.2 lbs
My weight was so perfectly stable at 179.8 for the whole week that I thought my scale was broken. But then I magically lost 1.2 lbs this morning. Weight loss is weird.
But yeah, not a good week for being healthy, thanks to lots of stress at school, no time to go grocery shopping for healthier food, and womanly issues. Yay hormones!
Though now's my chance to pull way ahead of JT, while he's at an atheist conference gobbling up conference food all weekend. Mwahaha!
Friday, January 28, 2011
1. Make an observation about a particularly odd aspect of human behavior.
Example: "Why is it that everyone congregates in the kitchen at parties, even when there's plenty of space elsewhere?"
2. Come up with an explanation for how that behavior would have increased fitness in hunter gathering societies.
Example: "Well, food used to be sparse, so humans would congregate at food sources, so you'd be more likely to find a mate there, and thus have more babies.
3. Bonus points are rewarded for including 50's era gender stereotypes.
Example: "Well, we KNOW women are drawn to the kitchen because they're inclined to gather food, so they're always in the kitchen anyway. The men just go there to be around their potential mates."
Hours of fun guaranteed.
Oh, and those of you that know my address? Don't even bother - I live in an impenetrable fortress known as an unmarked basement apartment with a practically hidden entrance. And that's even if you can find the house at all, which is tucked behind a wall and shrubberies. My apartment is totally missionary-proof.
And anyway, even if they could find the address, they'd just end up bothering my landlord.
...on second thought...
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Leaving religion was a very hard thing to do and there are still people from my former church who still do not know that I have completely given up God; although since they know my husband is an atheist, I am sure it would not surprise them. I do know they still pray I return.I have a feeling that this is a common story for women. Like I said before, religious women often find their only source of power within the religious community. Leaving that can be shattering. Imagine how hard it is for women who don't have a godless spouse to encourage them. Being aware of the particular difficulties women have in leaving religion is the first step to making atheist communities more welcoming and diverse.
I grew up Catholic but was really apathetic about it once I got to college. I wasn’t very religious after college; but as soon as I got married and had our first child, I rejoined a church because I “just knew” I had to have our son baptized. We moved a lot when our kids were younger and finding a church home helped fill the void of not having family near. My husband travelled a lot as well and here was a great group of people offering to help out; a welcomed support for a mom of two children, eighteen months apart and in a new town. The MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group in my town became my life line as I met other young moms.
With church comes Bible study and I participated in one called The Excellent Wife. This book reinforces your hypothesis Jen, that as a woman our place is in our homes raising our children, taking care of our families and supporting our husbands and church. I fell into it hook, line and sinker. I was extremely grateful that Phil’s job gave us the freedom to allow me to stay home with our children. (Being a SAHM is something I would do again without any hesitation.) So I thought it best to do as this study taught and live by those guidelines. I did the woman work of the church: Sunday school teacher, vacation bible school leader, etc., and took the advice of this study and let Phil be the head of the household: not shared responsibilities. From the outside looking in I had the best Christian family out there. Inside looking in, not the greatest; that decision put a great deal of unnecessary stress on Phil.
Then three things happened: Phil became a vocal atheist, I am diagnosed with bipolar and Phil and I agreed to do a book swap. Phil left the church and of course this spreads like wild fire. I get pitied wife looks, lots of prayers, etc. Then I am diagnosed with bipolar. This too spreads like hotcakes but now I am told that this is God’s punishment for marrying an atheist. Here I thought God was going to help me through this horrible illness of up and down mood swings. My pastor even said so. An older member of the congregation thought otherwise. To be fair, my inner circle of friends at my church were amazing, understanding and incredibly helpful while I went through those early days of a correct diagnosis and figuring out the best meds to help stabilize me. However, cracks began to form.
The last thing that pushed me out of religion was a book swap. Phil asked me to read one of his books and I gave him one of mine. His choice was Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation. Another crack.
Through what would seem like a careful orchestration of events by my husband, I finally left religion completely behind. Those events involve TAM, Phil Plait, an LCMS church behaving like a Pentecostal one, and an insensitive pastor during my grandmother’s final days. Leaving God was easy. Leaving the church family, I had come to love, was not. My routine was hijacked, which threatened my stability. I had to go through the death of my grandmother without the comfort of God, and felt as if I had no real sense of purpose for awhile. I still miss a good potluck; Lutheran woman know how to cook (I just pretend the fruited jell-o mold isn’t there).
I have attended many skeptical/atheist events but I am tired of always hearing about god. I would much rather have a glass of wine and hear about your kids, your partner, your school work, your job, than about god. This is what Christians do very well; they have lunch with you before they try to convert you. I attended a leadership workshop on evangelism that pretty much said: have a picnic with someone, make a vested interest in their life before you bring up god. I was never a good evangelist, but I loved the getting to know people part.
Women do not suffer mental health problems such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of having an abortion, researchers reported Wednesday.Too bad there are too many people who don't care about science or facts. Oh well, they're a lost cause anyway.
The study, published by Danish scientists in the New England Journal of Medicine, adds to a growing body of scientific literature that has failed to find that abortion causes psychological problems, as some abortion opponents have asserted.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Thousand Oaks, CA
Secular Student Alliance Southern California Leadership Summit
Then my Spring Break Minnesota Tour!
St. Cloud, MN
Secular Student Alliance at St. Cloud State University
University of Minnesota Morris Freethinkers
Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists at the University of Minnesota
Woooooo, partaaaay! ...Wait, doesn't everyone go to Minnesota for spring break? No? Hey, any SSA affiliates in warm states, you know you totally want me to come visit next winter.
I'll release the specific times and locations for the Minnesota talks once we get closer.
American Humanist Association Annual Conference
I may have a trip to North and South Carolina thrown in there, but those aren't completely set in stone yet.
...Yes, I know, I'm crazy. Also, my PhD is going to take 24 years to finish.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Genetics is complicated. This is a concept that all non-scientists, regardless of political leaning, seem to have a hard time grasping. I've heard liberals who are worried that advances in genomics will result in a simple prenatal test, which bigots would gobble up to make sure they're not growing the next Ricky Martin or Ellen DeGeneres. This always seemed like a silly fear, since people from the religious right also tend to be not so fond of abortion.
But it's not just the liberals. Now World Net Daily is worried gays are going to abort straight babies:
If two homosexual men want to use in vitro fertilization to conceive a baby and then use genetics technology to ensure the baby is also "gay," while disposing of any "straight" embryos, would the law have any ethical problems with that? John A. Robertson of the University of Texas Law School is the chair of the Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and an advocate of what his book "Children of Choice" calls "procreative liberty." In a paper for the Washington, D.C., think tank Brookings Institution, Robertson presents a futuristic scenario where advancing science and society's evolving morality could create a once only dreamed-of ethical dilemma:Of course gays, what with their agenda and all, are going to engineer some gaybies! So much more reasonable. Heterosexuals are doomed.
"Larry, a pediatrician, and David, a wills lawyer, meet in their late 20s, fall in love, and marry on June 15, 2025, in Indianapolis," Robertson writes. "By 2030, they are well-enough established in their careers to think about having their own child. Larry's 24-year-old sister Marge has agreed to donate her eggs, and David will provide the sperm, so that each partner will have a genetic connection with the child. … In the process, Larry and David come to realize that they would prefer to have a male child that shares their sexual orientation." He continues, "The clinic doctors are experts in embryo screening and alteration, but cannot guarantee that the resulting embryos will in fact turn out to be homosexual. To increase the certainty, they will insert additional 'gay gene' sequences in the embryos."
I don't think you should chose an embryo based on sexual orientation, but let's put ethics aside for a moment and talk about the science. The ethics debate is irrelevant because the "science" they discuss is ludicrous. As someone who's studying the "mushrooming" field of genomics, let me try to explain.
Homosexuality almost certainly has a genetic component (1) and has potentially been associated with certain areas of the human genome (2). However, "genetic component" does not equal "gene." Genetics is way more complicated than what you learned back in middle school - it's not just single genes with dominant and recessive alleles. You can have multiple genes affecting the same trait, numerous alleles per gene, and interactions between certain combinations of certain alleles between different genes.
If you do find a single mutation that's associated with homosexuality, it's likely to be very very rare in humans. If it was more common, we would have identified it a long time ago using traditional genetic tools. Such a mutation would be able to explain just a small percentage of homosexuality. I'm sure by now you've heard of studies in the news that have claimed to find a genetic component to heart disease, or schizophrenia, or something. If you read the fine print, it usually only explains something like 3% of the disease. Not really predictive enough to start aborting the breeders.
If this sounds complicated already, it's just the tip of the iceberg. You can also have mutations in regulatory regions of genes. These aren't DNA sequences that code for the actual protein, but rather regulate things like how often or in what tissue that protein is made. You can also have copy number variants (CNVs), where some people have extra (or less) copies of a certain gene.
Thanks to massive advances in technology, we can study stuff like mutations, regulatory regions, and CNVs pretty well now... but they're still not the full story. Often times a single "hit" - one mutation in a gene, or one big deletion in a chromosome - isn't enough to actually cause a trait. This is especially true when dealing with neurological traits like autism or learning disabilities, and may be implicated in a behavioral trait like homosexuality. Often times you need multiple mutations or deletions - or a combination of both - until you actually show the trait in question.
But it's still even more complicated than that. It's not as easy as saying Mutation A + Deletion 2 = FABULOUS! Both of these events are extremely rare, and there are likely thousands and thousands of different combinations of "lesions" (messed up DNA) that could cause a trait. So even if you sequenced a baby's full genome, you'd have no idea what all the de novo (new) mutations and deletions would do, because they've likely never been seen in that combination before.
And all of this isn't even taking into account epigenetics (which can further regulate DNA, and can even differ between twins), and environmental factors (which can range from hormones you're exposed to in the womb, to listening to too many show tunes as a small child).
So the odds of Teh Gay being boiled down to a simple test, or a simple gene you can use to infect the population? Basically zero.
Genetics is complicated, and I don't expect everyone to be able to understand it in depth. Even as a first year PhD student, I tried my best to write the above paragraphs jargon free and without unnecessary detail. But at the very least, admit that it's complicated and you have no real idea how it works instead of concocting conspiracy theories.
Though I have to admit, it's amusing that these are the same type of people who claim that simply knowing gays exist, or worse, allowing them to be parents is enough to turn someone gay. Which is it, nature or nurture? Oh right, whatever currently fuels your paranoid hate speech the most.
But you know, maybe the totally wacked out religious types would be content aborting fetuses if they even had a 5% higher chance of being gay. In which case, I'd like to point them to a study that showed each older brother a man has increases his probability of being homosexual by 28% to 48% (3). If they really want to avoid bringing gay men into the world, stop giving birth to sons. And if you're not willing to rely on abortion, only have one child.
A win-win situation, if I do say so myself.
1. Bailey JM and Pillard RC (1991). A genetic study of male sexual orientation. Archives of General Psychiatry, 48:1089-1096.
2. Mustanski BS, et al. (2005) A genomewide scan of male sexual orientation. Human Genetics, 116(4):272-8.
3. Blanchard R (1997) Birth order and sibling sex ratio in homosexual versus heterosexual males and females. Annual Review of Sexual Research, 8:27-67.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
The Association will be requesting that the BBC make a public apology and a statement that they do not support the personal views of Professor Brian Cox or Dara O'Briains on the subject of astrology. We also request that the BBC will commit to making a fair and balanced representation of astrology when aired in the future.The BBC is certainly biased...toward reality. Martin Robbins has the spot on response:
Ah, beautiful. If only the media would give such a fair representation of hokum like astrology. Maybe we could extend that to religious claims as well, so reporters don't have to report miracles and end of the world prophecies like they actually have a grain of truth to them.
On the second sentence at least I think we can all agree. I'd love to see the BBC give a fair and balanced representation of astrology. In fact sod it, let's extend that to all newspapers as well.
Such a representation would depict astrology as a pseudoscience with no real basis in evidence that was already being ridiculed in the Dark Ages, and note that after thousands of years astrologers still can't produce statistically meaningful results.
It would observe that any apparent successes of astrology probably owe more to the use of cold-reading techniques, convenient vagueness, and the exploitation of psychological quirks like confirmation bias or the Forer effect, and express amazement at the continued ability of the astrological industry to lift hundreds of millions of euros, pounds and dollars out of the pockets of customers each year.
Finally, it would make the point that intellectually-speaking, the pursuit of meaningful predictions in astrology isn't so much flogging a dead horse as punching a piece of rock and wondering why it won't say anything. Fair and balanced reporting is not the best thing to ask for when your views have about as much credibility as Andy Coulson's future in journalism.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Last week's weight: 182.8 lbs
Current weight: 179.8 lbs
Weight loss this week: 3.0 lbs
Under 180 pounds, wooo!!!
Though when I look back, I weighed about 175 pounds before my senior year at Purdue. That's what applying, interviewing at, and actually starting grad school will do to you - stress eating until you gain 10 pounds. Hurray.
Other than that, I don't have any major weight loss revelations this week. I learned I don't have to completely deprive myself of stuff like pizza and chocolate - I can just eat them in moderation. Amazing how that works.
Oh, and if you're doing your own New Years resolution, maybe you'd be interested in the Secular Student Alliance's Carrot and Stick Project. Executive Director August Brunsman found effective motivation to get healthy - he wrote two checks, one to the SSA, and the other to Campus Crusade for Christ. If he made his goal, he'd tear up the check to CRU. If not, well... you see why he lost the weight. Eek, CRU.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Notice how they don't resort to building up straw-men, using emotional arguments, automatically disregarding something because it doesn't fit with their ideology, asserting that scientific findings make moral judgments, claiming the whole field of evolutionary biology is bunk, or slinging around nonsensical pejoratives like "Dude Science" or "Bro Scientists."
Other bloggers, take note at these great examples.
Please. If I hear someone seriously use the phrase "Dude Science" again, I'm going to lose my mind.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
- Evolution is a huge conference, with over a thousand people attending. It's a great place to learn about cutting edge research, scope out potential graduate schools, and network with other scientists.
- Presenting your research at a conference as an undergrad is an amazing experience. Not only is it great practice, but it's excellent resume fodder. Not many undergrads get the opportunity, and it'll definitely make you stand out on grad school applications.
- The Undergrad Diversity program will pay all of your expenses (plane, housing, food) to attend the conference. If you have lab mates going, you get the bonus of rubbing it in.
And if you get in, say hello to me! Well, assuming I can convince my advisor (whoever that'll be) to let me go this year, even though I probably won't have any research to present. I wouldn't be motivated to go to any old conference in Norman, Oklahoma, so you know it has to be awesome. That and I want to see my former labmates and meet ERV.
So, go apply!
To those of you we had to turn away, I'm sorry! We never thought the talk would be that popular. If you couldn't hear or see anything, I'm sure I'll give the talk again in Seattle at some point.
Thanks to everyone who came!
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Scorpio Saturn rising in your sign will subject you to the powerful force of Fate, which everybody knows is stronger by far than electromagnetism, gravity, or the nuclear strong and weak forces.Indeed! My other favorites include:
Capricorn Faith is the evidence of things not seen, which any well-rounded human being must admit is better than only trusting good hard provable evidence.And
Aquarius This is a good week to spend with family, which is the kind of advice stupid old Ophiuchus would never have given you.You can check out the rest here.
Monday, January 17, 2011
A state lawmaker thinks it's time Indiana followed Arizona's lead in cracking down on illegal immigration -- and wants to go even further by barring the use of any language but English in most government transactions.[...]The former home of the KKK just can't be outdone in the battle for most racist state, can they? Come on, it's a serious problem for Indiana - just look how close it is to the Mexican border. And those illegal immigrants are practically taking over. A whopping 5.5% of "Hoosiers" are Hispanic! They're doomed!!! Better make sure even the legal immigrants can't vote by making everything in English, or they'll surely let all of their buddies in! And THEN where will we be?!
Like Arizona, the bill requires a state or local law enforcement officer who stops anyone for a violation of a law or ordinance to ask for proof that the person is here legally if the officer has "reasonable suspicion" the person is not either a citizen or a legal visitor. [...]
Most government transactions, documents and meetings must be in English. That means the state would have to end the Spanish-language portal on its website, and stop issuing forms, such as voter registration or absentee ballots, in other languages. Exceptions are made for law enforcement and court proceedings; public health needs; tourism and international trade needs.[...]
Though the Senator assures us it has nothing to do with race. I'm sure he's very concerned about all the French speaking Canadians that have been dying to hide out in our corn fields.
Thanks, Indiana. This is why so many people in Seattle look at me with a mixture of horror and pity when I say where I'm from. You're doing a great job living up to that image.
When you're part of a sexist, patriarchal religion, often the only source of power you have is in raising a family or helping with social events (cooking, event planning, making sure the Church pot luck runs smoothly). You aren't supposed to be the bread winner or waste time on other hobbies when you have children to raise. Because of this, leaving your religion makes you lose the only source of power you ever had. You no longer have the social structure of the church, and often times you are alienated from your family.
I don't claim to be the first person to come up with this idea, but it's very important that we talk about this. If this is correct, it illustrates the importance of having friendly godless social networks as safety nets for women leaving their religion. Groups based on debates, speakers, and intellectual sparring are awesome, but sometimes what you really just need is a friend.* And while I personally approve of pub nights, they're not somewhere a women with children can easily visit.
But I'm basically a life long atheist, so I don't even have personal experience to back up my claims. So I leave it to my readers:
Ladies, how difficult was it for you to leave organized religion? What helped you come out as an atheist? Or if you haven't come out, attended meetings, etc, what would encourage you to do so? Do you think this hypothesis is the main reason why so many more women are religious, or is it something else?
*Obviously not saying that women are inherently uninterested in intellectual discourse about atheism. The women who don't need the comfort of a social group are already leaving religion and participating in atheism - this is a step to get the other women more involved.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Last week's weight: 181.8 lbs
Current weight: 182.8 lbs
Weight loss this week: -1.0 lbs
But I'm not worried - so many things cause minor fluctuations in weight, and I was down to 180.2 earlier this week. Since then I started EA Sports Active (less evil now that I'm on Easy mode, but still effective) . From the level of soreness that's producing, I'm probably gaining muscle weight, which is good!
...And I totally gorged myself on Indian food for dinner last night, so I blame that too.
So, I'm not disappointed. I'm still on a good trajectory. I've been eating a lot better and actually doing more than sitting in front of my computer (though I still do that a lot).
Though JT pointed out that Lyz has added a Final Weigh-In to the SSA SoCal conference schedule. What is this nonsense, Lyz?! Not all scales are calibrated the same! And people weigh more in the afternoon! And I'll be wearing significantly more clothing than when I usually weigh myself! AND YOU PUT IT AFTER LUNCH! That's just cruel.
Don't make me play the "I'm technically your boss's boss" card ;P
...Time to go eat a salad and play DDR.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
The first facepalm was shared with the rest of the skeptical community:
1. It doesn't matter if the signs up are updated, because both new and old signs are complete and utter bullshit. (I admit, I'm a bit hurt at PZ saying "only the deeply gullible and ignorant can fall for it any more." It's no more crazy than religion... though I guess a lot of teenagers, including teenage Jen, are gullible and ignorant to an extent.)
The second facepalm was the old astrologist in me bubbling up:
2. This is not news. Most Western astrologers use the Tropical Zodiac. It's not based on the position of the stars in the sky, but rather when the sun crosses the Tropic of Cancer (the summer solstice), the Tropic of Capricorn (the winter solstice), and the equator (which happens twice). These four points are used to divide the Zodiac into 12 neat little sections that are basically the same from year to year. The "new astrological signs" this press release is talking about is actually using the Sidereal Zodiac, which has been used for ages by Eastern astrologers. That uses the position of the constellations.
If you ask an astrologer why they use one and not the other, they'll give a BS answer about how one is better for showing certain aspects of your life. I "understood" this ten years ago, so it's annoying seeing this covered by every news outlet or having a flood of facebook friends babbling about their new sign. Old news, guys.
The third facepalm was aimed at myself:
3. I still have a visceral emotional reaction to people not "understanding" astrology even though I now logically know that it's all horseshit. If you were formerly religious, you can probably relate to this feeling. Someone says something incorrect about Catholic doctrine, and you feel compelled to correct them even though you're arguing about something irrelevant because you know the wine isn't actually blood, or whatever. But you still emotionally revert back to Catholic mode for a second.
When I think "Eww, I am so not a Virgo, I'm totally a Scorpio," I want to slap myself.
But I wondered how a Western astrologer would respond to this news. If someone who dabbled years ago was annoyed, they must be furious. I looked up my old buddy Eric Francis who drew up my chart around Boobquake (and was nice enough to not get too mad when I tore it apart). Sure enough, he has a post about this news, and it's just too chock full of goodies to ignore.
After explaining what I went over in my second point, he states "This is not rocket science — but it is science." Oh yeah, you know it's going to be good.
So, hear ye, hear ye! Vedic astrologers use the the sidereal zodiac, and most Western astrologers use the tropical zodiac. They have different purposes, and different philosophies. Both zodiacs work. Most Western astrologers are familiar with their sidereal chart — it tells a different story, and can reveal deeper tendencies you may have noticed but not named. I’m a Pisces in tropical astrology but an Aquarius in sidereal astrology. If you’re curious, cast your sidereal chart and see where the planets show up.
The differences between the two or the reasons behind them are not explained here, or anywhere, but they both work! Because he said so! I mean, isn't it proof enough that astrology can produce vague descriptions that sort of fit anyone? Oops, I meant "deeper tendencies you may have noticed."
As for Ophiuchus. This is an old hoax. Historically, Ophiuchus has never been listed as a constellation in the sidereal zodiac. It is a constellation out there, but it’s off the ecliptic (that is, it’s not along the path of the Sun through the sky). I’ve read that Ptolemy mentions it in his literature as an off-zodiac constellation, meaning that the Sun never travels through it. In any event, there are some two dozen constellations that touch the ecliptic; but the sidereal zodiac uses just 12 of them.
The origin of the hoax is a sci-fi author named John Sladek — a satire writer who died in 2000. Sladek liked to prank astrology, and he has a whole novel about a fictitious 13th sign based on Ophiuchus he called Arachne that was “suppressed by the scientific community.” The Ophiuchus hoax first made its rounds in the late 1990s and pops up again like those emails from the guy in Nigeria who wants you to send him your bank account number so he can transfer $15 million your way.
Or like astrologers who say they can explain your personality and predict your future, except those pop up in newspapers every freaking day. Glad we cleared up that that's legitimate, but everything else is a hoax. Thanks.
The irony. It burns like the fire of a thousand Suns conjunct Aries.
*slaps self* Whoops, sorry about that.
Boobquake and its Aftershocks
Saturday, January 15th at 1:00 pm
Followed by a town hall-style discussion on how atheists/freethinkers handle the holidays.
Light refreshments provided.
Greenwood Public Library
8016 Greenwood Ave N
Seattle, WA 98103
Hosted by the Seattle Atheists
My Trip to the Creation Museum
Tuesday, January 18th at 7:00pm
Eat, drink, and be entertained by the horrors of the Creation Museum!
Blue Star Cafe & Pub
4512 Stone Way N
Seattle, WA 98103
Hosted by the Seattle Skeptics
I've been going to the meetings of both of these groups since I moved here and enjoy them a lot! I'm honored to be presenting for them. And I'd be even happier if people showed up, so stop by!
And in case you're not in the Seattle area, don't worry - I have a lot of conferences planned in the next couple months. So far I'll be in Southern California, Minnesota, North Carolina, Boston, and Kamloops BC. Check out my speaking page for all the info.
1st Year: *talking to another labmate about something completely off topic*
Post doc: Hey, that's five minutes you just wasted that could have gone toward curing autism!
Me: That's why I'm not studying autism.
Post doc: *laughs* So you can waste as much time as you like?
Me: Yep. Evolution's not going anywhere!
Joking aside, I actually have been getting a lot of work done. For the fellow biologists: I run my first microarray on Tuesday! For the non-biologists: I get to do cool nerdy stuff I haven't done before!
This is why I don't consider myself a science blogger. Too lazy.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
The only influential female atheists you could think of were Jennifer Michael Hecht, Barbara Forest, and Susan Blackmore? Really? I mean, they're excellent, and I'm happy they made the list - but only three women?
It's especially annoying when about 8 of the men on the list aren't even known for being outspoken atheist activists - they're just scientists who's research may help convince people that the world is a bit more godless, or may take a dig at theism every once in a while. If that's how you want to define influential, fine. But the list explicitly says that it's looking for people who "actively encourage others to disbelieve in God." That ranks them ahead of people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Susan Jacoby, Valerie Tarico, Debbie Goddard, etc...?
Not to mention I haven't even heard of a couple men on the list. Yep, definitely influential if someone very active in the atheist movement has never heard of you.
And no non-white people? I already mentioned Ali and Goddard, but how do you forget Hemant Mehta? He's certainly influential.
At least this is on some random website. If this list appeared within the atheist community after all of the discussion we've been having over the last couple years, I may just give up hope of people getting it.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
...then here's a great idea for a Valentine's Day gift! Katie Hartman and other Skepticon volunteers are selling handmade skepticism-themed Valentine's cards to raise money for Skepticon 4. There are a bunch of choices, ranging from nerdy to blasphemous:I'm kind of hoping The Trophy Wife gives PZ the one that says "You'll do until PZ Myers is single" for irony's sake. Or PZ could get that for his wife, and... yeah, I have no idea what that would even mean. Maybe not the best idea.
(Via JT's blog)
Cindy Jacobs is obviously wrong. Birds aren't dying because Americans made progress in gay rights! Birds are dying because they're so gay! With your lesbian albatrosses, and gay penguins (who got a book deal to corrupt our youth, no less)... There are so many examples of homosexual behavior in birds that Wikipedia has a list devoted to it!
No wonder why god struck them down. It's just unnatural.
Monday, January 10, 2011
With the hokey opening sequence and mind numbingly simple initial explanations, I assumed this game must be made for old people who are trying to get in shape using their kid's video game console. Based on that observation, I thought it would be perfectly fine for a young adult who's been playing DDR for a week to start on Medium instead of Easy.
I only made it through half of my work out before quitting because my legs were cramping up and I felt like I was going to vomit. That's including watching minute long tutorials before each exercise. And by watching, I mean flopping onto my couch like a beached whale and frantically pressing the "Show Tutorial Again" button.
No one should have to do mountain climbers followed by bent arm side planks.
The salt in the wound was having the game tell me I only burned 55 calories, despite the fact that all of my muscles burned and I felt like I was about to die. Maybe it was supposed to make me vomit. That would certainly get rid of some calories.
Fuck you game.
EDIT: 20 minutes have gone by, and I still feel like heaving. I'm having flashbacks to middle school gym class... Except my legs hurt so much I don't know if I'd be able to dash to the toilet in time.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Rock Beyond Belief just officially announced Dawkins' participation. I was one of the first people asked to participate, and now I'm on the same lineup as people like Margaret Downey, Dale McGowan, Hemant Mehta, Eugenie Scott, and Richard freaking Dawkins. I'm honored to be a part of such an amazing lineup. I'll try to do my best to not pee my pants from glee.
Though technically, I guess Dawkins and I were both speakers at the last TAM. At least now I'll have a chance for him to sign my copy of the Atheist's Guide to Christmas...which we're both contributors too.
In moments like this, I realize how awesome my life is.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
...Is there some list of Official Liberals somewhere that all of these organizations share? Did I finally make the cut? Does voting Democrat in Washington State automatically set you up for certain spam mailers? I wonder what voting Republican gets you...
Oh well. I guess it's more interesting than the 38975298 letters I get telling me to apply for a new credit card.
Starting weight: 186.4 lbs
Current weight: 181.8 lbs
Weight loss this week: 4.6 lbs
Yay! ...Okay, before anyone pops in and says "JEN! That's not less than 2 pounds! I thought you were going to be healthy!" let me explain. The first time I weighed myself was in the afternoon after eating a big lunch and while wearing jeans. Every subsequent weighing has been in the morning before breakfast while wearing lighter pajama pants. Weight fluctuates throughout the day, and when I weigh myself in the afternoon it's higher. Next week my weight loss should be closer to 2 lbs.
The most helpful tool I've had so far is using LoseIt!, a calorie counter. I'm a data geek, so I love being able to see trends in my own eating habits. I feel motivated to keep using it because I want a larger sample size! I was quickly able to see how many calories pop, beer, and even juice add to my day. I've been drinking a lot more water because of that.
And even a half hour of DDR every day has been really helpful. I started getting Cs on standard mode, and I'm already back to getting As on heavy. And my legs no longer feel like they're going to fall off after just a couple songs! EA Sports Active 2 should arrive Monday, so then I'll start working on other parts of my body.
You should also know that the stakes are somewhat higher. Phil Ferguson of Skeptic Money wanted to get in on our little competition, even though we have a week's head start. If either JT or I can lose more weight than Phil before the end of the contest, he'll throw in $100 to the Secular Student Alliance. And if both JT and I lose more weight than Phil, he'll throw in $250. Unfortunately for Phil, his wife is on "Team Jen," so he's a bit doomed if she does a lot of the cooking.
And unfortunately for JT, some of the SSA staff is on Team Jen. Jesse sent me a hilarious photo of him "sabotaging" JT's sandwich with mayo. No where is safe, JT. Mwahahaha.
(Remember, you can pledge here!)
Friday, January 7, 2011
2/15 speakers are women? :|Do I think that the event coordinators are sexist masterminds, purposefully plotting to exclude anyone with a preponderance of X chromosomes? Of course not. But I do think organizers need to be aware of these gender gaps. Some may be caused by subconscious sexism, but many are caused by a seemingly inescapable cycle:
- Women aren't invited to speak at conferences...
- So no one knows what good women speakers there are...
- So when people go to plan conferences, all of the good speakers they think of are male.
It's a big PR problem, too. You know how people keep asking where the atheist women are, or claim that atheism is a club for Old White Men? It's because they see events like this.
So how do you NOT respond to my concerns? Like the following commenter. I point them out because this type of thinking is way too common. Let me reply line by line:
Jennifurret, do you think the organizers are being sexist?Not consciously or malevolently. Though the rest of your comment? That kind of is.
Should they seek out more women to speak?Uh, yes. Already explained earlier in this post.
Do you have a list of such speakers you could give them?I know you're trying to pompously assert that it's my duty as an Owner of Ladybits to solve this problem, and assuming that I've done nothing to help. But actually, yes, I do happen to have a giant list of awesome female atheists that is linked to repeatedly. Event organizers can feel free to consult it!
If you feel there need to be more women at such conferences, then by all means, go to such conferences. Get involved, write articles, get invited. I'd do it except I'm not qualified to be a woman, so you have to.First of all, even if I was just some random commenter, this is annoying as hell. Obviously there are no qualified women to chose from already, so I should go and do the work to be at the same level as these deserving men. Thankfully this person proves my point (and makes them look like a total jackass) because I'm:
- Involved. Board member of the Secular Student Alliance, popular atheist blogger, founder and former president of an atheist group.
- Writing articles. Not just here, not just my popular piece on atheism at Ms. Blog, but actually published in an atheist book.
- Getting invited. I currently have 7 upcoming speaking events, 4 of which are at conferences. I have a couple more that are potentially being worked out, one of them at a major conference.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Nope. Turns out it's normal, and the media decided to hype it up:
What follows is a more in depth explanation that I, as a biologist, found interesting. I was content knowing skepticism had prevailed once again... until I made the mistake of reading the comments. Emphasis mine:
But the in-air bird deaths aren't due to some apocalyptic plague or insidious experiment—they happen all the time, scientists say. The recent buzz, it seems, was mainly hatched by media hype.
At any given time there are "at least ten billion birds in North America ... and there could be as much as 20 billion—and almost half die each year due to natural causes," said ornithologist Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society in Washington, D.C.
But what causes dead birds to fall from the sky en masse? The Arkansas case points to two common culprits: loud noises and crashes.
?Now that the evil media brought falling dead birds to our attention I ask why hasn't NG ever done a documentary on this 'common' occurrence that apparently the general population knows nothing about? It is strange that so many of us have not witnessed birds dropping from the sky at a fireworks show. World firework competitions are held every year in my area and not one bird has died from blunt force trauma. I know wind turbines are deadly for birds and bats and solutions are being examined. I remember a robin hitting the window one day... it was stunned and it took awhile, but he eventually flew away... obviously a lucky one."Yes, yes I do.
"Alfred Hitchcock knew a thing or two! Birds don't fall from the sky! We've been setting off fireworks for 235 years and this has NEVER happened!!! Wake up America! This is just another government compromise for terror! Are we going to wait until PEOPLE start dropping dead in the streets? Get A grip"
"What else did she say that ya'll aren't printing? What's up with this story? "Birds just die all the time, no big!!" Well, they don't fall from the sky all the time. And our global environment isn't poisoned all the time like it was with this gulf spill made worse by corexit. Then you've got cell masts and communications technology that has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier and dead birds and health problems surrounding cell masts.
What's the deal here, National Geo? I subscribe and love your articles and photos.. You're one of the best. But printing garbage like this really makes me lose faith. I thought, Oh good! National Geographic did a story on this. Then I read it and felt very frustrated.
Birds do not fall en masse out of the sky all the time. It does not happen. Does Mr. Whatsit from the Audobahn society think we're all stupid?
I was about to lament that there was no hope, but as I was writing this post, this comment appeared:
almost all of theses skeptical comments are more irrational than unexplained mass animal death. Little creatures are most susceptible to minute events. Your anecdotal evidence that "i've never heard of this" or "this has never happened" has zero weight in the real world of animal life. You ignore basic facts of animal life that has happened since thousands of years before your ignorance was formed and insist there must be something sinister happening.One out of 25 people being sane is good, right? ...Right?
your tinfoil hats reflecting sunlight probably kill more birds through disorientation than any of your made up fantasies.
My favorite comment on the story so far is the one that calls me smelly. The creativity is overwhelming!
But grad school is also pretty cool. The new quarter has started, and here are my classes:
Advanced Genetic Analysis (first half) - basically how to set up experiments using a bazillion different genetic tricks in order to investigate, well, anything. You know how cool it was solving Punnett square problems? Yeah, it's like that on steroids. ...What do you mean Punnett squares aren't cool?
Molecular Population Genetics and Evolution (second half)- I can't wait for this class. Should rename it "Jen has a giant nerdgasm every Tuesday and Thursday."
Introduction to Statistical and Computational Genomics - I know the title sounds scary, but this will likely be my easiest class. Half of the time is learning how to program in Python, which I pretty much already know. Probably won't learn anything new until the last couple weeks, where we talk about classes. But the other half of the class is a lecture on bioinformatics, which I basically know nothing about, so that'll be useful.
My lab rotation still is about human population genetics and evolution, but this time instead of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) I'm looking at copy number variants (CNVs). ...If I was a good science blogger I would take the time to explain what those are, but I have to run to class. Sorry, you're stuck with Wikipedia for now!
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
When faced with body weight challenges, real men set weight loss goals,Done!
publicly declare their weight loss goals,Ditto! And for charity, too!
and of course, use the Total Gym.Awwwwww, and I was soooooo close to becoming a Real Man (TM)! All because I didn't use Chuck Norris's weight loss program. Apparently standing in front of an American flag in tight jeans burns a lot of calories.I wonder how Conservapedia would deal with the fact that two prominent atheists started a public weight loss routine right before they made all of these ludicrous claims. Oh, right, the way they deal with all contrary evidence: ignoring it.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
And he's not the only one. Apparently there are nine of them, part of the "Rain City Supehero Movement."
PS: If you'll allow me a bit of shallowness, Dan from near Seattle is super cute. I'd use my super powers to, uh, save him any day. ...Unfortunately I have no super powers.
Monday, January 3, 2011
Okay, they don't explicitly say "fat doo doo heads." Their logic is more like this:
1. Here are five atheists. Two died decades ago, but that's probably because they were so FAT.
2. Don't they look overweight? I mean, we don't have their height, or weight, or body fat percentages, or cholesterol levels, or anything of biological significance, but they sure do look like fatties, don't they?
3. What? You can provide examples of fat religious people and of thin atheists? Shhhhhhhh!
4. And you know why atheists don't get married as much? Because the men are all fat slobs. Sorry, ladies (though you're fat slobs too).
5. And didn't you know fatties are stupid too? Science says so. No, not that evilutionist science, because they're fatties too. The good kind of science that we can twist... I mean, interpret to fit our own views.
6. Therefore atheists are wrong and God exists. Specifically the Christian God. QED
I don't want to waste too much time debunking the intellectual void that is Conservapedia, but let me just leave this here:Curious, curious indeed... With Conservapedia logic, correlation implies causation, therefore religious people are the true fatties! Neener neener! ...Well, except Mormons, who are apparently fit machines, obviously making Mormonism the correct religion. Isn't using fatphobia as a debate tool fun?!
Though maybe they're right. Maybe as I shed the pounds I'll become more and more religious! If you want to support this science experiment, or just show your support for healthy atheists, you can pledge a donation here.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Anyway, this isn't going to turn into a weight loss blog, but I will, however, update you on my progress every Saturday, mainly so you can yell at me if I've been slacking off. For those who are concerned that I'm going to be frantically starving myself in an attempt to win a bet...don't worry. I like food way too much to do that. And the goal isn't just to lose weight - I live way too sedentary of a lifestyle, and I want to get in shape. I mean, my 64 year old father is infinitely more active than I am - he golfs or plays tennis every day. I mean, that's great for him, but I shouldn't be winded walking up hills at age 23.
My goal is to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week, since anything more than that 1. Isn't healthy and 2. Isn't sustainable. I'm going to adopt three basic healthy habits (though for more, totally check out Greta Christina's Fat Positive Feminist Skeptical Diet):
1. Reduce pop consumption. No drinking pop while in lab or class, and no buying pop at the grocery store. I'm not strong willed enough to remove it entirely, but it's better to have it be a treat at an occasional dinner than a staple.
2. Bring lunch to work at least 4 out of 5 days of the week. We have a cafe in our building that's delicious, but it's also totally fattening. Not only will this be healthier, but I'll also save money.
3. Exercise for at least a half hour every day. I'm kind of a hermit and hate people watching me at the gym, so my two weapons of choice are EA Sports Active 2 (in the mail, recommended by a friend) and Dance Dance Revolution. I used to play DDR a ton in high school. In fact, me not playing it is pretty well correlated with me gaining weight. I played a half hour today, and man, do I suck after not practicing for so long. I'm motivated to exercise just so I can start scoring As on Heavy again.
Also, totally need to remember to wear my sports bra while playing. Didn't really have boobs when I used to play...ouch. Quickly vetoed the idea of recording myself playing as proof, as much as some of my readers may enjoy that.
I bought a cheap scale too. The scientist in me is already annoyed by its accuracy and precision, but it's good enough. I really just wanted to be able to make a nifty graph, because I'm kind of a nerd about data. And before any "never ask a lady her weight" nonsense starts, I'll just tell you. Partially because I don't give a damn, and partially because I want to track my progress here.
Starting weight: 186.4 lbs
Goal for SSA SoCal con: 175ish
To put that in perspective, I was 165 when I started college. I could have stood to lose a few pounds even then, but I was also two cup sizes smaller, so it probably cancels out.
I can't wait to put all the weight back on via alcohol once I defeat JT. Mwahaha!