Thursday, March 31, 2011

More Indianapoplexy

Here's the article from the ACLU:
On December 23, 2010, Shuai, a 34-year-old pregnant woman who was suffering from a major depressive disorder, attempted to take her own life. Friends found her in time and persuaded her to get help. Six days later, Shuai underwent cesarean surgery and delivered a premature newborn girl who, tragically, died four days later.

On March 14, 2011, Shuai was arrested, jailed, and charged with murder and attempted feticide. Had Shuai, who is being represented by National Advocates for Pregnant Women and local attorneys, not been pregnant when she attempted suicide, she would not have been charged with any crime at all.

Of course, no one would deny that what happened in this case is terrible and tragic, and probably no one feels that more than Shuai herself. But this case is about so much more than whether attempted suicide should be a crime — in Indiana it is not — and the death of her daughter; its implications go much further.

The state is misconstruing the criminal laws in this case in such a way that any pregnant woman could be prosecuted for doing (or attempting) anything that may put her health at risk, regardless of the outcome of her pregnancy.

That's right: according to the ways the laws are being applied here, the state of Indiana believes that any pregnant woman who smokes or lives with a smoker, who works long hours on her feet, who is overweight, who doesn't exercise, or who fails to get regular prenatal care, is a felon. And the list of ways these laws could be construed to unconstitutionally prosecute pregnant women goes on and on.

Allowing the government to exercise such unlimited control over women's bodies, decisions, and every aspect of their lives, and to send them to jail when they disapprove of a woman's behavior, would essentially reduce pregnant women to second-class citizens by denying them the basic constitutional rights enjoyed by the rest of us.

Moreover, what does it say about our society — about our obsession with incarceration and using the criminal justice system to treat public health issues, and with controlling women's lives and treating women as if they were somehow separate from their own pregnancies — that we would give a life sentence to a woman who tried to kill herself, just because she did so, in a moment of utter despair and distress, at the end of a wanted pregnancy? Is this (or any) punishment really appropriate here? Does anyone really think this will somehow deter desperate and distraught pregnant women from attempting suicide in the future?

If, as a society, we truly cared about healthy moms and babies, our focus would be on how we can support pregnant women, not how we can manipulate our criminal laws, and undermine basic constitutional principles, to find new ways to punish them.

Sigh. I'm too dragged down by this stuff to have anything to add.

I need a term for Indiana-induced rage

Because shit like this keeps happening:
On Wednesday, House Representatives of the Indiana state considered a controversial anti-abortion bill, introduced by state Rep. Eric Turner (R), that would make abortions illegal in the state after 20 weeks. Representatives were also considering a bill amendment, proposed by Rep. Gail Riecken (D), that would make exceptions for “women who became pregnant due to rape or incest, or women for whom pregnancy threatens their life or could cause serious and irreversible physical harm."

You know, pretty common sense exceptions.

There's just one problem with the amendment, argued Turner, the original bill's sponsor: Women would then have a "giant loophole" where they could simply lie about being a rape or incest victim and procure an abortion anyway.
The amendment was voted down 42 to 54 and the anti-abortion bill itself passed the House 72 to 23.


I really don't know what else I can say about this sort of shit. I know I may not live there anymore, but I care about my friends and family - fuck, I care about strangers who are having their rights and fucking dignity ripped away by people like Eric Turner.

The only thing giving me hope for Indiana is that there are amazing people like Rep. Linda Lawson (D), a sex crimes investigator for six years, who managed to passionately defend the women of Indiana in a situation where I would have been speechless.



Not cool, Hemant

I love ya. You're an awesome friend and a brilliant blogger. I know you're an all around good guy and you thought you were just being funny.

But please don't ruin a brilliant interview with Kari Byron of Mythbusters about her atheism by saying "This whole post was really just an excuse to post a picture of Kari."

It's not funny, it's disappointing.

I know you were just joking and you're a supporter of diversity. And before people accuse me of trying to make you a eunuch - you're allowed to remark that she's attractive. Hell, I think Kari is hot.

But to too many people, only appreciating a woman for her looks and not for her intelligence is not a joke - it's a negative mindset that joking helps perpetuate.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Does who wrote the Bible matter when it comes to ethics?

I friend pointed me to this article by Bart Ehrman - Who Wrote the Bible and Why It Matters. It didn't start off so well:
Apart from the most rabid fundamentalists among us, nearly everyone admits that the Bible might contain errors -- a faulty creation story here, a historical mistake there, a contradiction or two in some other place.
Unfortunately those "rabid fundamentalists" are more common that Ehrman suggests. One third of Americans believe the Bible is literally true.
But is it possible that the problem is worse than that -- that the Bible actually contains lies?
Uh, duh? Okay, that's the atheist in me talking - I understand he's using this lead in for journalistic reasons. The middle part of his article is pretty good, explaining how certain parts of the Bible that are claimed to be written by certain people are actually forgeries. But I found one of his specific examples intriguing:

This may all seem like a bit of antiquarian curiosity, especially for people whose lives don't depend on the Bible or even people of faith for whom biblical matters are a peripheral interest at best. But in fact, it matters sometimes. Whoever wrote the book of 1 Timothy claimed to be Paul. But he was lying about that -- he was someone else living after Paul had died. In his book, the author of 1 Timothy used Paul's name and authority to address a problem that he saw in the church. Women were speaking out, exercising authority and teaching men. That had to stop. The author told women to be silent and submissive, and reminded his readers about what happened the first time a woman was allowed to exercise authority over a man, in that little incident in the garden of Eden. No, the author argued, if women wanted to be saved, they were to have babies (1 Tim. 2:11-15).

Largely on the basis of this passage, the apostle Paul has been branded, by more liberation minded people of recent generations, as one of history's great misogynists. The problem, of course, is that Paul never said any such thing. And why does it matter? Because the passage is still used by church leaders today to oppress and silence women. Why are there no women priests in the Catholic Church? Why are women not allowed to preach in conservative evangelical churches? Why are there churches today that do not allow women even to speak? In no small measure it is because Paul allegedly taught that women had to be silent, submissive and pregnant. Except that the person who taught this was not Paul, but someone lying about his identity so that his readers would think he was Paul.

So...if Paul really had said these things about women, they would be fine? I understand that Ehrman is using the Bible to try to argue that churches need to stop doing these things, but my point is it doesn't matter who wrote it or where. If Jesus himself had said those quotes, they would still be unethical.

But maybe that's just my point of view as an atheist. Whether it's written by a particular dude or some random other dude, God still doesn't exist and Jesus still wasn't resurrected.

But what about the devout believers - the ones who actually base their lives off of these passages? Will this type of argument be enough to change their minds? Maybe that of some individuals, but I doubt it will affect the major institutions. Fundamentalists think the Bible is the literal word of God - it's contrary to everything they believe to accept that whole passages could be lies. To them, the Bible can't be wrong.

43% of Americans are young earth creationists. They're prepared to ignore all scientists in order to keep the Bible infallible - you think they're suddenly going to change their mind because of a couple of historians?

Maybe I'm being cynical, but I not adopting this as my new tactic to promote equality of the sexes.

EDIT: Case in point. Saw this link from the SSA immediately after writing this post. Campus Crusade for Christ already has a whole website devoted to refuting him. At least he's freaking the Christians out - that's always a good start.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I know what I'm doing in 4.5 years

You and your committee may be the only people who read your PhD dissertation (well, if you're lucky) - but you can still enjoy is aesthetically:From Street Anatomy:
A long-time Street Anatomy fan and soon-to-be doctor, Stephen, recently sent in this image of an anatomical heart made up entirely of the words from his dissertation. He put tons of effort into studying a particular cardiac arrhythmia, noted below the heart, and instead of hanging fancy diplomas on the wall, he chose to immortalize his time and efforts into a piece of anatomical art.
Someone please remind me of this awesome idea when I'm about to graduate.

Sometimes you can't win

That's the look I give when I've just lost a couple more brain cells.

Day 1:
Man: Men are sexual beings! We evolved to be promiscuous!
Woman: Um, but biology isn't an ultimatum. You can control your actions.
Day 2:
Man: We should care about a skewed gender ratio because then I'd have more women to date!
Woman: No, we should care because women also have ideas to contribute. We don't just exist so you can have sex with us...
Woman: *stares blankly at viewer*
The Joys of Feminist Blogging]

Monday, March 28, 2011

The wrong reason for diversity

At the Secular Student Union dinner tonight:

Guy 1: So, what was your talk in Minnesota about?
Me: The intersection of atheism and feminism, what we can do to get more women to leave religion, and how to make the atheist movement more welcoming to women.
Guy 2: Cool! Is the lack of women really that big of an issue? I'm just new to everything.
Me: For a lot of groups, yeah. I mean, just look at ours. There are only three women.
Everyone: Yeah... *shame*
Guy 3: Heh, I'm dating a third of the SSU's women.
Me: So yeah, I talked about how to make groups more welcoming so more women join.
Guy 4: I guess that's a good thing. Means there would be more girls to date.
Everyone: *glare*
Me: Um, that's precisely what you shouldn't say.

Super Duper Hint For The People Who Don't Get Why This Is A Problem: Women don't exist for the sole purpose of dating you. They can actually participate for the same intellectual and social reasons that you do. It's fine to be attracted to someone and date within a group, but don't only see a woman as Person Who I Want to Sleep With.

On the bright side, I'll never be out of blogging material.

Blag Hag 2011 Census Results Pt. 3

Time to respond to some of your comments! First of, a HUGE thank you to all the wonderful, thoughtful comments people left me. I really appreciate having people thank me for the blog and telling me to "Keep being awesome" (a phrase about 40 of you used, haha). Looking down the list and seeing that most of you just want me to keep doing what I've been doing definitely makes me feel like I'm doing something right.

Blog related:
Post moar plz :P
This was one of the most common comments I got, haha. Trust me, there are days where I have four great post ideas but I'm stuck doing homework - grad school keeps me a lot busier than undergrad. But at the same time, I do waste a lot of short posts on tweets, I'm going to make a more conscious effort to keep those things for posts. I'm trying, I'm trying!
I think it is always very interesting to read about your family (Dad atheist, Mum theist, grandparents mustn't know that you are atheist...) so I would enjoy more posts, but then, this goes into a very private area and I understand if you've got limits here.
Honestly, I don't blog about it too much because religion just doesn't come up that much with my family. Oddly enough, knowing some of my family now reads my blog has made me shy away from a couple of other topics. Is it weird that I have no problem talking about certain things to total strangers, but I'm awkward when it comes to my family?
As a scientist, how about blogging your thoughts on Mother Nature a little bit more? Or is that more PZ Myers territory?
That's something I hope to do more of as my confidence as a scientist grows - maybe my Science Communication class will help. Part of me just doesn't feel informed enough to write good science articles. And to be perfectly honest, I'm a little lazy. It takes a lot more time and effort to write a good science blog post than something that's opinion based.
you could explain a little more about your studies/research.
I would love to talk about my research more. Unfortunately I can't really discuss stuff publicly until it's been published, lest our ideas get stolen by someone else. I should talk about what I'm learning in my classes more. I guess at the end of the day, I blog to relax, and I don't really want to think about school anymore, haha.
I truly appreciate you comments on feminism. You give me ideas with which to shape my discussions with my daughter, son, and wife.

I really appreciate your posts on feminism, particularly those that relate it to skepticism But really, any feminism posts are filling a void in most of your male readers daily rss feed, I assume. As a male feminist, or at the very least a feminist ally, I think it's nice to have the patriarchal bullshit that women have to face brought to our attention from time to time. We sometimes need to be jolted out of complacency. Keep up the good work!

Keep updating on your involvement in the atheist community, especially with a feminist bent. The posts about feminism in atheist might end up putting up the biggest bullseye on your blog, but I for one appreciate them the most.

LOVE the feminism blog posts, and I 100% agree with you on these issues. It's seriously disturbing to discover how some atheists respond to discussing feminist issues, especially when I typically hold such faith in the atheist community as a whole. I really value your voice and discussion on these topics.

I very much enjoy reading perspectives that combine sex-positive (granted this is more subtle and not a main focus of the blog, but I appreciate having a skeptical feminist place that doesn't portray all porn as they enemy of women), feminist and skeptic interests. Your blog fills a space that I feel should have greater recognition at large.

Nope, you're doing awesome. I must say, I absolutely love the feminism stuff you post on your blog, but I really hate the shit that you get for doing so. You are able to put into words ideas that I have been mulling for ages but haven't yet been able to fully verbalize, and I appreciate that. Keep up the good work, and think of the haters as simply giving more data for your analyses.

You have probably taught me more about feminism than any other internet writer, and these days - in large measure thanks to you - I am proud to call myself a feminist.
I got 38 comments exactly like these. Thank you guys so much - it's awesome knowing what I'm doing is worthwhile and making a difference.
Don't listen to those whiny commenters who start their blubbery bitchiness whenever you do something that dings their sensibilities. They don't pay the bills, so they should just go fuck themselves three ways from Friday...Whatever that means.
Unfortunately my awesome commenters don't pay the bills either. But thank you!
i have no idea if you really read the comment threads much, or just let them go, but they're usually pretty interesting, when i read them.
I read 99.5% of the comments people make here. Occasionally people will get into deep philosophical discussions that aren't really related to my original posts, and sometimes I'll tune out on those.
I find some posts to be too US-centric. The underlying assumption seems to be that all of your readers are American. Please consider the fact that "www" stands for "word-wide web" (And America is NOT the whole world). People of all different cultures read your blog, it would be nice if you could keep that in mind. Thank you.
I do try to keep this in mind, but it certainly is a bad habit of mine. I'll try to be better in the future!
I have a rather selfish comment, but since you asked, I might as well respond. Every now and then, you have posts consisting of a humorous picture, and some response to it in the subject or the post that can only be understood if you've seen the picture. As I'm totally blind, I feel left out of these sorts of posts. It may be that describing the picture would remove some of the humor, but if it can contribute or not detract, it would be helpful. These posts are certainly rare, and the majority of your posts are predominantly writing, and I enjoy those.
Oh crap, I never even considered this! This, folks, is a perfect example of privilege. I'll try to be better about captioning photos in the future. Though knowing how forgetful I am, I will probably forget from time to time - I apologize preemptively to anyone this is an issue for.
Teen pop music should play when I come to the page and there should be no way to turn it off. Also you have a serious lack of pixelated gifs dancing around the page at random. Attend to that.
I'll find a way to get Rebecca Black on auto-play ASAP. Maybe even a midi version.

Ask out the dude on the bus already, sheesh!
But, but, it would be so awkward! And the likelihood of him actually having things in common with me (other than just being cute) aren't very good! Argh!
Friend me on Facebook :D
Sorry, but I stopped friending blog readers on Facebook - it was just getting unusable. If you're desperate to connect to me via facebook, Blag Hag has a fan page.
Get yourself invited to go on "Ask an Atheist."
I was invited! A couple times, now. We just haven't worked out a date yet. One day, one day it will happen.
I've had an internet crush on you for a while, and wanted to tell you to boost your self-esteem. I didn't know how to tell you without coming off as creepy. I'm 19, so I hope that you think I'm young enough to find this adorable. :)
Haha, it's cool - I have my fair share of internet crushes too. As someone who was that awkward unpopular nerd most of her life, it does give me a bit of an ego boost.
Keep doin' what you're doin'! Also, stay in school! I couldn't go straight to grad after under, and won't be able to for a while yet. You're living the dream! The exhausted exhausted not-enough-time-to-study/research dream. *noncreepywomanonwomanhugs*

Give up academia and concentrate on being entertaining and informative.
Haha, such mixed opinions. Trust me, giving up on academia has crossed my mind. Unfortunately, blogging doesn't pay the bills. That and I really do love science, as much as a pain it can be at times.
Go to Dragon*Con!

Speaking tour of Australia?
Find someone to buy me the plane ticket :P
Just so you know, i'm finishing up my B.Sc next year, and am now somewhat terrified about the prospect of grad school. But on the plus side your scary spider stories make me laugh.
I'm glad you get enjoyment from my suffering :P
I just wanted to say, as an atheist undergraduate biology student, it made me feel really good to know you watch America's Next Top Model as well :)
Oh my god, it's like crack. It's so horrible and against everything I stand for, but I can't stop watching. I mean, what the hell is up with Alexandria?! I'm rooting for the plus size model or the adorable southern bell.
I guess asking for cheesecake shots would be labelled as "sexist," huh?
Maybe a bit, but hey, since you were brave enough to ask, here you go.
I am drunk, in a french hotel, at midnight having attended the worst conference I've ever been to. Nothing I could possible write here would be coherent.
And with that winning comment, we're done.

That's all you got, Ken Ham?

Allow me a moment to gloat.

Ken Ham is bragging about how much traffic his various anti-science websites have received in the past year, and how much they've improved from the year before. Let's ignore for a moment that a good chunk of that traffic is people showing up to giggle at his wackiness and just look at the numbers:

• In 2010, the Answers in Genesis main website had more than 10 million visits for the first time (10,225,465 visits, previously 8,726,503--a 17% growth) from more than 5 million unique visitors (5,445,617 unique visitors, previously 4,650,206--a 17% growth).

• The Creation Museum website had more than 1 million visits for the first time (1,079,290 visits, previously 899,890--a 19.9% growth).

• The Answers Vacation Bible School (VBS) website had more than 100,000 visits for the first time (110,767 visits, previously 34,231--a 223% growth), with almost half a million page views (476,551 page views, previously 122,301--a 289% growth).

Alright, Answers in Genesis has me beat - even though Pharyngula's traffic dwarfs it. But I owned the Creation Museum. One million visits? Blag Hag had 2,316,028 visits during it's second year of existence. It had 344,158 visits it's first year - a 573% growth. And when you look at page views, I had a 791% growth.

Oh, and Answers Vacation Bible School? Psshhh. I beat you in a single day - 261,474 on the day of boobquake. The following day beat you too.

Even if you factor out all of my boobquake traffic, I still got over a million visits this year and a 295% growth. Me. A godless science student with a free Blogger account, some opinions, and a little bit a free time. I outpaced your multi-million dollar, highly advertised, anti-science "Museum."

Two words:

Wah wah.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Blag Hag 2011 Census Results Pt. 2

And now for the questions about atheism and blogging!

As always, click the images for bigger versions.Last year men used the terms "skeptic," "freethinker," and "anti-theist" more often than women. This year "anti-theist" is still used more, but "skeptic" and "freethinker" are not significantly different. However, "atheist" and "infidel" were used less by women now. There's a general trend of women avoiding terms that tend to have negative associations.

I'm intrigued by the changes in term usage since last year. All of the labels except "freethinker" were selected by a smaller percentage of readers this year. "Atheist" was hit particularly hard, dropping from 82% to 42%. The next biggest change was for "agnostic," dropping from 23% to a measly 3%. I think the most likely explanation is that I'm attracting a much broader readership, while I originally started out predominantly as an atheist blog.

Oh, and most people still hate the label "Bright." Wah wah.

Favorite open responses:
  • Evil
  • Evil baby-eating atheist
  • Baby-eater (I'm seeing a trend)
  • Awesome
  • Badass
  • Cool
  • BAMF (Again, a trend...)
  • He Who Shall Not Be Named
  • Chaotic good
  • Bipedal furhead
  • Devoutly in the awe of the unknown
  • "Indifferent agnostic" - it's not that I don't know, it's that I don't really care
  • I'm not a pastafarian, but I do think they are sexy. Is that ok? (Yes)
I'm not sure what I was expecting to find here, but I was just curious. Unsurprisingly, people are more likely to do activism that requires the littlest amount of time and effort - being out, buying a book, commenting on a blog.

I was a little surprised that the only gender difference was in writing letters to the editor (anyone have an explanation for that?). I guess from personal experience I expected women to participate less. Of course, there are two potential problems here. One, this doesn't look at the frequency of these events - maybe they showed up to a single event or wrote a single blog post. Two, we have a biased sample - these are women who are already reading at least one atheist blog (mine), not women in general.This one surprised me a bit. I thought everyone would keep updated about the blog using some sort of RSS reader, like Google Reader or Blogger Dashboard, mainly because that's what I do. Apparently slightly more people manually check the blog through bookmarking or some other sort of link. I have 3,928 subscribers. Using this updating method data as an estimate, I probably have approximately 8,000 readers. Wow! Not to shabby for a 2 year old blog.

Twitter and Facebook are rarely used on their own, but rather in addition to another method. Though you can see a slight difference when seeing how much people comment:It seems that people who use Twitter and Facebook, either alone or in addition to bookmarks or RSS feeds, are more likely to comment. Maybe they use those things because they're more socially interactive online in general?

But overall, a very small percentage of my readers make up the vast majority of the comments. Hello, all of you lurkers out there! Though an interesting trend is seen when you break it up by gender:Ladies! Why aren't you commenting as much?! No wonder blogs can look so male dominated. Seriously though, why are women less likely to comment? Are we less inclined to speak up thanks to social conditioning? Is there something about the environment in the comments that make them seem unwelcoming? If you're a lurker (lady or otherwise), please let me know. I'm generally curious, but I also want to make sure my blog is a place where you can feel comfortable.I guess a 5 point Likert scale wasn't the best way to ask this question, since if you stick around to read Blag Hag, you probably like most of the topics. Oh well. I should check to see if non-US readers are the most apathetic about politics, and if everyone but graduate students are apathetic about my grad school posts, haha. Other than that, I didn't get too much out of this question. Going to keep doin' what I've been doing.

The only topic that differed between the sexes was Feminism:Women readers really like when I talk about feminism. Shocking, I know. Thankfully my male readers still generally like it! ...Of course, I've probably scared off all the dudes who can't stand it. Hm.
A couple interesting things on how people found my blog:
  • If you want readers, get Pharyngulated. PZ has the power. Though he seems to send mostly guys over. I'd be really interested to see the gender makeup of his readership - is it really that male biased? I wonder what my gender ratio would look like if you took out the Pharyngulites...
  • Boobquake attracted equal numbers of male and female readers. Take that, haters who say it's only guys sticking around for my boobs!
  • More women seem to find their way here after being referred by friends (or according to some comments, family). Maybe this is their first step into the atheist community? Regardless, thanks for recommending my blog to friends!
  • Of the "Other blogs" specified, the most common mentioned were Dan Savage (25), Skepchick (10), Greta Christina (2), Daylight Atheism (2), and Boing Boing (2), JT Eberhard (2), and "feminist blogs" (2).
Other interesting ways people found my blog:
  • Webcomics - Something Positive (5), Girls with Slingshots (2), Wapsi Square (1)
  • The Bloggies (5)
  • Flyers for my speaking events (3)
  • Met at convention or group (9)
  • "Your landlord" (...This is kind of scary)
  • OkCupid (Nope, this is scarier, haha)
  • "Jesus made it come to me in a dream" (Oddly less scary)
I still haven't even attempted to look at how location or past religious beliefs correlates with anything... If you have something you'd like to investigate, let me know. But before that, I'll look at some of the comments you guys left in the free response, since even I can get sick of making graphs.

Like always, feel free to discuss in the comments.

Blag Hag 2011 Census Results Pt. 1

A big thanks to everyone who participated in the Blag Hag 2011 Census - a whopping 2167 readers filled out the survey! That's almost 5 times as much as last year, and means the data will be even more robust. But remember - this data doesn't necessarily represent atheists as a whole, but rather people who like reading this particular blog and taking surveys.

Like last year, here's how I indicated statistical significance on graphs:
* P-value less than 0.05
** P-value less than 0.01
*** P-value less than 0.001
**** P-value less than 0.0001

Part 1 will focus on demographics. As always, click the image for a bigger version:The following is the break down of how people identified:
  • 1309 Male
  • 822 Female
  • 9 Transgender
  • 8 Transgender Male
  • 10 Transgender Female
  • 2 Transgender Male & Female
  • 7 Female & Male
I was planning on having an "Other" option, but totally forgot to click the box allowing that - my apologies to everyone who felt pigeonholed into any of these options.

While my readership is still significantly male biased, there has been a huge improvement since last year (72% Male and 27% Female).

Last year I pondered why a blog by a woman that frequently talks about feminism would still be male biased. Did male atheists really outnumber women? Were the ladies just not into blogs? Had they not found mine yet since it was so new? Was I still doing better than other atheist blogs? I'm not sure if I can narrow it down yet, but I did see some interesting gender differences in my other questions, so maybe those will help guide us to an answer.The overall age distribution is very similar to last year, with the most common age group being the one I fall into (I'm 23). Though a new interesting trend emerged this year - there is a 1:1 ratio of men to women in all the age groups under 30. In the other age groups, men significantly outnumber women.

What does this mean? There are a couple potential explanations:
  • Older women don't like my blog, for whatever reason
  • Older men really like my blog (I should check if they're the same ones who asked for more photos in the comment section...)
  • Younger atheists and skeptics are doing a much better job at being inclusive toward women
I personally hope the last one is true. It's certainly supported by my personal experience. Student groups seem to be much more diverse than older organizations. Maybe this is more evidence for a trend in the right direction?Again, sexual orientation is almost identical to last year, and not surprising. Women tend to have more bisexual tendencies, which holds for the general public. I'm disappointed, though. My readership hasn't become any gayer than last year! I'm failing at spreading Teh Gay as per the Evil Homosexual Agenda. Sigh.

Well, maybe. When you break age down by sexual orientation, you get this nifty graph:
It's busy, but the take away point is that the younger you are, the more likely you are to use gayer labels. This is obviously because of Goal 1 of the Gay Agenda: Corrupt the youth. Not because of cultural differences in the acceptance of various terminology. I mean, just look at the under 15 age bracket. They're certainly not trying to figure out their sexualities still - no, they just haven't been completely brainwashed yet. Onward, gay minions!

But honestly, the number one thing these responses confirmed? It's really hard to squeeze sexuality into neat little categories, even if it makes the stats easier. Many people listed themselves as pansexuals, biromantics, and questioning individuals.

Favorite open responses:
  • "try" sexual
  • Probably hetero, but as I'm extra virgin olive oil I don't think I can make a definitive statement
  • Pansexual, leaning more towards hetero for companionship and homo for OOHBOOBIES

Last bit of demographic information: Education level.Wow, my readers are really well educated compared to the general public. I know not all of my readers are from the US, but just for a general comparison:

Education: General Public , Blag Hag Readers
High school grad: 86.68% , 98.06%
Some college: 55.60% , 93.17%
Assoc's and/or Bachelor's: 38.54% , 66.82%
Some grad school: ??? , 14.26%
Master's degree: 7.62% , 10.80%
Doctorate or prof degree: 2.94% , 5.81%

Now I know why I'm constantly corrected for my typos and poor survey making procedures, haha.

Stay tuned for Part 2, which will actually look at blog related questions. Feel free to discuss these interesting trends in the comments!

Another quarter has started

Which means I'll be geeking away with new classes!

Proteomics - This will be interesting, mainly because I know nothing about it. Well, I mean, I know what proteins are, but I'm not familiar studying them in a large-scale way. We'll see how it goes.

Introduction to Statistical Genomics - Just an introductory statistics course, so it shouldn't be too bad. I heard it's pretty similar to what I took in undergrad, so it'll mostly help me actually remember what I once learned.

Science Communication - I'm really excited about this class! It's about communicating science to the general public through science journalism, blogging, and public speaking - could I have found a better class for me? I'm taking it as an elective since it's offered through the Communication Department instead of Genome Sciences. It should be a blast, and hopefully improve my science blogging abilities!

I also have our "Journal Club" training class - basically prepares us to give a less sucky presentation to the department later in the quarter. I'm not too worried since I'm a sick, twisted person who does public speaking for fun, so it should be alright.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

This is what an atheist looks like

This week was "A Week" on Facebook - a campaign for atheists to make their profile picture an A to show that we do, in fact, exist. Except that...well, no one except atheists know what the "A" symbol means - heck, many atheists don't even know what it is.

The UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers have a much better idea, in my opinion:
No one outside of our movement knows what the "A" means. Yes, some people will look up what's going on. Most won't.

Want to actually help help with the movement? Grab a sheet of paper, write that you're an atheist, and make that your profile picture. Hell, give us a link to it. Lets put these pictures around campus! Lets make a video! Lets actually out ourselves and show this campus how many atheists they know. A symbol is nice. A face is better.
Why is this so important? A recent study showed that anti-atheist prejudice decreases not only when our numbers go up, but also when our perceived numbers go up. Coming out is good for all atheists. And linking a smiling face to "atheist" is much more helpful than a cryptic scarlet A.

I have an awesome new shirt

My speaking event with the University of Minnesota Morris Freethinkers was part of their Pride Week programming. It was great to be a part of that, and being part of the schedule brought in a good amount of new people to the meeting - and over half of the audience were women. If you want to increase the diversity of your atheist group, always consider partnering with other minority organizations.

There's some overlap between the officers of the Freethinkers and their GLBT group, so they gave me their awesome shirt as a gift:Definitely fine by me! Thanks, UMM Freethinkers - and good luck with your godless homosexual takeover of the student government.

This makes me happy

As anyone who's gone on a road trip with me knows, I have a penchant for Disney music. Which is why this video makes me all sorts of happy, and I command you to watch it:

That guy has talent.

I'm Richard Dawkin's #1 female fan

Because I'm his only female fan, at least according to our favorite Jen-hater, Jill at I Blame the Patriarchy:
Liberal dudes (and that boobquake chick) just love celebrity biologist Richard Dawkins. Even some Internet feminists may be said not to vomit blood at the mention of his name.
This premise is based on the fact that Dawkins happened to leave a single positive comment about a video promoting some potentially anti-feminists ideas.

Meanwhile, upon reading the Sommers speech, Dawkins was moved to comment: “Thank you for this. I have now read the lecture you recommend, and it is indeed excellent.”

The anointed one has spoken.
One passing comment is enough to damn The Anointed One - er, I mean, Dawkins - even though she spends the rest of her post addressing the video in question. And by addressing, I mean calling "funfeminists" who don't necessarily agree with her particular view of feminists brainwashed.


I certainly don't agree with many of the things in the speech in question - and I even think Jill makes some halfway decent counter arguments. But calling Dawkins a "intellectual Western motherfucker who is enamored of the glorious myth that he and his ilk, in their educated and progressive magnanimity, have liberated their women" for that single comment? Or worse, thinking people who enjoy and respect Dawkins must slavishly agree with him lest they be kicked out of the atheist hivemind?

You know, enjoying Dawkins doesn't mean I have to agree with everything he says. Despite claims of my brainwashing, I can think for myself and have my own opinions - Jill is the one who seems to think the opposite. While I highly respect Dawkins in regards to atheism and biology, I wouldn't be shocked to disagree with a 70 year old white British academic on the details of feminist theory.

But you know what's really demeaning to women? Starting off a post reducing me to my boobs, and disregarding other women of the atheist movement. Abbie Smith at ERV has already torn this to pieces:
Um, 'that boobquake chick' is Jen McCreight. Shes a graduate student in biology. 'Boobquake' was a really cool counter-attack to Muslims attack on womens personal rights and freedoms.

Jen, who brought attention to that very serious topic in a lighthearted, non-intimidating way, is just 'that boobquake chick'.

A 'feminist' thinks its appropriate to dismiss (thus discourage) the positive actions of a young, intelligent activist female, with decades of activism ahead of her.

Of course, at least Jen gets to exist, even if she is unworthy of a name (or a link, very bad blog manners, 'feminist').

This 'feminist' is also a supporter of the sexist notion that religion is gender appropriate for females, while atheism is gender appropriate for males. Dawkins millions of female fans don't exist-- his fans are a bunch of 'liberal dudes (and that boobquake chick)'. This 'feminist' might have marginalized Jens actions, but they marginalized the very existence of other women (or if they do exist, they must be indistinguishable from 'dudes', degrading their 'femaleness' by taking it away. When they're religious like good girls they can have their gender back?).

The irony doesn't escape me that I just spent the last week speaking to student groups about the convergence of atheism and feminism, why women should leave religion, and diversity within the atheist movement. Or that these talks went overwhelmingly well. Or that I was invited to speak about women in atheism at many national conferences over the next couple months. Or that the Executive Director, Trustee, and Store manager of the Richard Dawkins Foundation are strong, outspoken women. None of that matters, because Overlord Dawkins hath spoken (though not really), and thus the atheist movement is sexist.

Yep. Sound logic.

Off my ASS for ...myself - Week 12

Starting weight: 186.4 lbs
Last week's weight: 170.8 lbs
Current weight: 170.6
Weight loss this week: 0.2 lbs
Total weight loss: 15.8 lbs

How in the world did my weight basically stay the same while traveling? I eat horrible food when I'm on an adventure! Fast food in the airports, bar food after the talks, free meals, free alcohol... I think the only healthy choice I made all week was getting brown rice instead of white when PZ and I got Chinese food. I guess all the running around and stressing about my talk balanced it out.

The new quarter starts Monday, and oddly that will make me get back on track. Only being able to eat what you bring to work and eating it on a strict schedule is oddly helpful for weight loss.

Two weeks until AHA in Boston... and I will be in the 160s!

Friday, March 25, 2011

I survived Minnesota! ...barely

Man, do those Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists know how to party. My talk went really well and had around 80-90 people show up - and about 30 of those joined us for the pub. Then, proving that CASH knows their guest speaker very well, we headed to The Gay 90s in downtown Minneapolis for a drag show and dancing.

The upside of being the guest speaker is that alcohol continuously appears in front of you out of nowhere. Unfortunately, that's also the downside. Sweet Jesus, I haven't had that much to drink since my 21st birthday. I also haven't been that sick since my 21st birthday. Augh, my liver. Why did someone bring me tequila shots? Why?!?

Even though the night didn't end well for me, it still was a good time. I got to meet a bunch of my "internet friends" (Hi, Biodork, Ruby Leigh, and Jafsica!) and hang out with student leaders I hadn't seen since the last SSA conference. Oh, and throw dollar bills at CASH officers as they pole danced.

...Again, they know how to party.

Oh, and JT? I am so not getting drunk with you at AHA in a couple of weeks. ...At least that's what I'm saying right now, while I'm still in "I'm never drinking again" mode. Give me a couple of days. Though after you speak there next week, you may be feeling the same way.

Alright, time to go be comatose for a while.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Uh oh

This is what happens when you spend the night at PZ Myer's house.

The transformation is complete.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The perfect opening act for my talk

This was the room schedule from my talk in St. Cloud. Anyone who accidentally stuck around likely would have been very, very confused.

Of course, prior to my talk I received the most convincing argument for the existence of God, so many I would have been a little more gentle than usual.

I mean, what are the odds of getting a tract about the banana being an atheist's worst nightmare while I was eating a banana?!? I'm convinced. Cancel the rest of my visit.

...I'm just kidding, of course. I hear CASH and UM is looking forward to destroying my liver. Will convert after that.

For the skeptical animal lovers

My friend Julie, who's been very active in the atheist and skeptical movements, just started vet school this fall. She's documenting her journey in the best way possible - blogging. I highly suggest you guys go check it out, as she talks about skepticism applied to animal health behavior a lot. I particular like her post on diets, and how vets benefit from skepticism:
I admit, raw was something that sucked me in hard and fast and I was teetering on the edge of true believer status for awhile. I had to reel it in, evaluate the evidence objectively and admit that if I held alternative medicine, faith- and prayer-based medicine, etc. to one standard but not raw diets, I was guilty of biased reasoning and cherry-picking. It's not something that I tolerate in my colleagues and it's not something I'll allow myself to get away with, either.
Check the rest of the post out here.

And if my recommendation isn't enough for you, Julie is fostering a cat that's about to give birth. Dozens of kitten photos are imminent. Go, go follow her now!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Is religion heading toward extinction?

Some researchers think so - at least in some countries. And they even have a mathematical model that explains their data.

The title of this blog post is in the form of a question, however, because I haven't read their paper yet and I'm a bit skeptical - even if I'd really like their result to be true. If there's anyone who's knowledgeable about statistics and isn't on a bus to an airport, please enlighten us in the comments.

Everyone else can continue to speculate wildly and come up with flashy headlines like the rest of the media.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Apologetics pick up lines

Is that a banana in your pocket, or have you also been designed especially for me?

You must be God, because I want you to fill my gaps.

My eyes are too complex to have evolved, but they still naturally selected you.

...That's all I got. Feel free to be wittier than me in the comments.

So, tell me again why I'm going to Minnesota?

Well, drat.
You know, there's a reason why I moved out of the Midwest. And no, it's not so I would miss the snow and cold even more when I returned. Oh well. All these times I've watched PZ tweet about getting stuck driving in blizzards... it's only appropriate that I get to experience it myself. At least this was a good reminder that yes, I should actually pack a winter coat, and gloves, and a scarf, and layers...

...I'm still banking on a group from Hawaii inviting me for next spring break. Anyone down there listening?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Upcoming Minnesota speaking schedule

If you're near Minnesota, make sure to check my talk God's Lady Problem: Breaking up with abusive supernatural beings next week!

Tuesday, 3/22
St. Cloud, MN
7:00pm in Atwood, Cascade Room
720 Fourth Ave South
Host: Secular Student Alliance at St. Cloud State University
Facebook event

Wednesday, 3/23
Morris, MN
Host: UM Morris Freethinkers
Part of Pride Week programming, woo!
6:30pm in HFA 6

Thursday, 3/24
Minneapolis, MN
7pm in Murphy Hall 130
206 Church Street SE
Host: Campus Ath
eists, Skeptics and Humanists (CASH) at UM
Facebook event

Unofficial pub nights will likely follow (at least Thursday for sure). Nothing is set in stone, but I'll let people at the event know and I'll tweet where we're going.

I hope PZ's ready for our slumber party. I'm sooooo excited to paint each other's nails while plotting atheist world domination.

Haha, I'm just kidding. Like I paint my nails, pfft.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Godless Seattlites - want to learn more about Christian apologetics?

Bob Seidensticker will be speaking at the Seattle Atheists meeting tomorrow about common Christian apologetics. He'll be examining common arguments so we can learn their strengths and weaknesses, and be better prepared to respond in the future. It starts at 1pm and is at 2100 24th Ave. S. in Seattle, WA.

I've met Bob a couple times now, and he's wonderfully eloquent - I highly recommend his talk to anyone who has the time to go. I'll be there for sure!

Off my ASS for ...myself - Week 11

Aka, the week of Fail.

Starting weight: 186.4 lbs
Last week's weight: 169.4 lbs
Current weight: 170.8
Weight loss this week: -1.4 lbs
Total weight loss: 15.6 lbs


Yeah, it wasn't a good week for weight loss. I ate out and drank way too much - and while I thought I was staying under my calorie restrictions, it's very easy to underestimate restaurant foods. Not to mention I've been waking up at 11am every day - woo vacation. I'm sure if I was weighing myself at 8am like usual, I'd be a little bit lower.

Oh well.

The extra fail was that I told myself I'd try out the gym now that I'm on break...and I totally spent the whole time playing Pokemon instead. And next week I'll be speaking in Minnesota, which means eating a lot of food while traveling.


And I so wanted to be in the mid 160s for the AHA conference... Well, I have 3 weeks. Maybe I can still do it!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Homeopathy in Pokemon?!

Super Potions: Heals 50 HP, costs 700 PokeDollars
Fresh Water: Heals 50 HP, costs 200 PokeDollars

Why...Super Potions are just fresh water that have been marked up because of the fancy label! I'm sure if you read the fine print there's something about "parts per million" or "Not approved by the PokeFood and Drug Administration."

Where are all the skeptics in the Pokemon universe to out this scam? Maybe they're too busy fighting off swarms of Woobats.
...Don't worry, I'm about the beat the Elite Four, so Pokemon talk will die down soon.

(Via reddit)

I fully intended to speak at Rock Beyond Belief

Duh, right? You'd think that would be obvious because I had it listed on my speaking schedule, blogged about it four different times, and even turned down other speaking events that conflicted with it.

But Fort Bragg doesn't believe me, or any of the speakers. They're telling reporters it's okay that they refused to fund the event, because no one really intended to come. No one filed a "Statement of Intent" - a document that wasn't required of the evangelical Christian Rock the Fort event, nor was it ever mentioned to organizer Justin Griffith until after the fact.

Richard Dawkins and other speakers have now openly given their "Statement of Intent," so consider this mine. I was one of the first speakers approached to participate in Rock Beyond Belief, along with Hemant Mehta. I agreed wholeheartedly, because the separation of church and state is supremely important to me, and I wanted to help respond to that evangelical festival in any way I could. As I saw more and more speakers and performers added to the schedule, my excitement grew. I couldn't wait for April 2nd! I was doing this without honorarium even though grad students aren't exactly made of money, and I would miss at least a day of work for travel.

I fully intended to speak. But now I can't, because Fort Bragg is apparently run by a bunch of hypocrites.

If you want to respond to the shameful action Fort Bragg is taking, at least sign the petition here. That link also lists contact information if you want to express your outrage, and specific instructions for what you can do if you're part of the military and don't want to face potential consequences.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Take the Blag Hag 2011 Census!

It's that time of the year again: Time for you guys to give me data so I can drool over correlations and make pretty graphs! Yes, it's time for the Blag Hag 2011 census!

The survey is only 13 questions, so it shouldn't take very long. And if you fill it out, I'll be able to better understand what my readership looks like, what they enjoy about my blog, and how that changes over time. I'm really curious to see if we find any interesting correlations, or how things have changed since last year's census.

Fill out the Blag Hag 2011 census here!

Last year 467 people took the survey, so hopefully we can crush that number. I'll leave it up for a couple of days so enough people have the chance to take it. Though knowing last year, I'll get antsy and want to crunch some numbers, so take it sooner rather than later!

And as a disclaimer, I promise I'm not selling this information to anyone or using it to stalk you. At most, you'll be part of a pretty graph or some interesting comments will be posted here anonymously.

Now, go take it!

Happy Saint Patricks Day!

Technically the McCreights (rhymes with "right") are Scotch-Irish, but feel free to send kisses and green beer my way anyway. ...Even though I'm actually more Greek than I am Irish or Scottish. Whatever, let me embrace my Irish-sounding surname!

Anyone celebrating today?

Monday, March 14, 2011

I'm going to Vegas, baby

...because I'll be speaking at The Amaz!ng Meeting 9!

I've been dying to announce this since I found out, since it's an honor to be invited to speak at such a large and truly amazing skeptical event. And it's even more of an honor now that the speaker's list has been announced, and I see what awesome people I'm listed with (and I made it in before the "And many more" cut!):
Elyse Anders
Greta Christina
Rachel Dunlop
Pamela Gay
DJ Grothe
Harriet Hall
Jennifer Michael Hecht
PZ Myers
Steve Novella
Bill Nye
Jennifer Ouellette
Penn & Teller
Phil Plait
James Randi
Adam Savage
Eugenie Scott
Michael Shermer
Karen Stollznow
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Rebecca Watson
...Just to name a few. Go check out the whole list here. The weird thing about my life is that I've actually met or even befriended most of that list already - I'm mostly excited because I know it means it'll be an excellent conference. ...Well, and I'm still flailing about meeting Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye. BILL NYE! *swoon*

Oh, and I should add that 24 out of 49 speakers are women. Way to go, TAM! See, who says these amazing skeptical women don't exist? And no, I'm not just going to be speaking on the panel on diversity (though it's great they're having that discussion). Isn't that awesome?! EDIT: Sadie Crabtree, Communications Director of the JREF, just informed me that the women actually outnumber the men as solo presenters this year. I think that's a first for a skeptical conference! Go TAM9!

TAM9 Goal: Get Phil in the hot tub again, along with as many other speakers as possible.

I hope I'll see you there this summer!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Interview with Atheists Talk

In case you missed it, you can listen to my interview here. It's mostly about women and atheism, and I think it went really well! Well, except for the moments where my phone would cut out and I wouldn't hear part of the question. You can tell when that happened by the occasional nonsensical replies I give.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Off my ASS for ...myself - Week 10

Starting weight: 186.4 lbs
Last week's weight: 171.6 lbs
Current weight: 169.4
Weight loss this week: 2.2 lbs
Total weight loss: 17.0 lbs

I finally got sick of putting up with my increasingly baggy size 12 pants, so I went shopping with a friend today. Size 10 was actually a little too big, and size 8 (which I haven't worn since high school) was a *little* too tight...but I went with the 8 since I plan on losing more weight and pants always get loose once you wear them a bit. So fuck yeah, back to a size 8. Feeling pretty awesome about that.

The quarter is over, so after I do a bunch of housekeeping things (Yes, Dad, that includes taxes and getting new tires!), I'm going to check out UW's gym. I hear it's really nice, and I'm technically paying for it anyway, so might as well go. Someone told me some machines allow you to hook up your iPod to watch videos from a personal TV screen. Guess who's going to burn calories while watching House and America's Next Top Model!

Wait, screw that. I can totally manage to play Pokemon while on an elliptical machine.

For the early birds

I'll be on Atheists Talk, a radio show produced by the Minnesota Atheists, tomorrow morning. I'll be discussing my upcoming speaking tour in MN, and give a preview of my talk about feminism and atheism. Here's the information for listening:
Listen to AM 950 KTNF on Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio 952-946-6205 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 952-946-6205 end_of_the_skype_highlighting, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it during the live show.
Remember it's daylights savings tonight! ...Because I totally forgot. Good thing I was reminded before the show's calling me when I'm still asleep.

...Though I'm not going to lie, I'm probably going back to sleep after the interview.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Well, this is new

My mom texted me at 7:15am to let me know the Washington coast had a tsunami advisory. Apparently my groggy reply that I was fine didn't make her feel better, because she then called me since she and my grandparents were convinced I was going to drown in my basement apartment. Oddly me saying "I live on top of a hill" was more comforting to her than the fact that Seattle isn't on the Washington coast - it's on the Puget Sound.

Haha, love you, Mom.

Though it is odd how differently we react to natural disasters we're not used to. Massive thunderstorm? Go watch the lightning on the deck. Tornado? Stare at the cool green sky before running to the basement. Tsunami? HOLY FUCKBALLS! I'm going to pee my pants if/when an earthquake hits nearby.

Anyway, I don't know if I have any readers who live in Japan or have family there, but best wishes to Japan. I hope everything there is okay. Same goes to anyone who actually is getting hit by a tsunami.

And you can all stop telling me it was my fault - I swear I was wearing modest pajamas.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Happy 2nd Birthday, Blag Hag!

Awwww, my little blog is growing up! It came into the world exactly two years ago, after I was extremely bored. I guess that reason can apply to many humans as well.Does this mean this is the start of my blog's Terrible Twos? I apologize ahead of time if I start making crankier posts than usual, waking readers up in the middle of the night, and leaving my stuff scattered across the living room floor. ...Wait, I do that last one already.

I'm celebrating my finishing my research presentation and studying for/taking my Statistical and Computational Genomics final exam. Oh yeah, I know you're jealous. But if you want to have a celebration on your own, feel free to party in the comments. And if you want to give my blog a present... I heard she really likes it when people share posts they liked with their friends.

Oh, and do you know what the most exciting part is? It's time for another Blag Hag Census! I'll get a survey up when this quarter is done so I can crunch the numbers over spring break. And now I know enough Python that I can actually write code to analyze the data instead of slaving away in Excel! I'm almost as excited for that as I am for playing Pokemon.

...What, doesn't everyone like data like I do?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Yes, I know

My boobs are stock footage for Fox News (0:16). You can all stop sending me the video now.

Maybe that's why we kept having earthquakes since boobquake. Maybe my cleavage keeps appearing on television! God, could Fox News get any more evil? Stop causing natural disasters!

Happy Belated International Women's Day!

Man, do I fail at feminist blogging or what, missing this holiday? Oh well, such are the consequences of slaving away in the laboratory. I have absolutely no idea what has happened in the world in the last week or so. Wars could have started for all I know. I mean, I don't even understand all of these Charlie Sheen memes!

Anyway, let's have a belated celebration with an open thread. Discuss what women you look up to and have been most influential in your life. They can be famous, friends, family - but explain why they mean so much to you.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dear Everyone Who's Buying Pokemon Black/White Today

I hate you.


A certain blogger who is working in the lab and doing exams constantly and can't play until Friday and wonders how she's supposed to be the very best like no one ever was if she starts a week late, goddamnit


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Off my ASS for ...myself - Week 9

So, I decided I'd still keep updating you guys about my weight loss journey. Why? Because it's my blog and I can do whatever I want. And because publicly stating my progress helps keep me on track, and I've been getting messages from people saying I helped encourage them to eat better/exercise too. So yay!

Starting weight: 186.4 lbs
Two weeks ago's weight: 173.8 lbs
Current weight: 171.6 lbs
Weight loss these past two weeks: 2.2 lbs
Total weight loss: 14.8 lbs

Not bad, considering two weekends ago I was stuffing my face at the SSA SoCal summit, and last weekend I was stuffing my face with free food for grad student recruitment. But I've been exercising and eating well on all the other days, so I'm still making progress! So close to the 15 pound mark!

After the end of the quarter craziness is over, I definitely have to go clothes shopping. My pants have become unacceptably baggy. I'm almost another belt loop smaller - to a loop I've never used since I bought the belt in college.

If I keep up this rate, I should be really close to my high school weight by the AHA conference in April. In which case I'm totally buying a cute outfit, which I can justify because Chris Stedman wants to find an awesome Boston gay bar for his birthday. If you don't dress up for the gays, who do you dress up for?

Friday, March 4, 2011

How do I hate thee, apartment? Let me count the ways

I live in a basement apartment. My landlord and his wife live upstairs in the main part of the house. I do like some things about it. It's a great layout, more than enough space for me, and in a great location. But I'm starting to hate it so much that it's driving me mad, and I need to rant.
  • Infested with spiders. Including fucking hobo spiders (Google it, if you're brave - I'm not finding a link). I'm an arachnophobe. This is not good.
  • My landlord pops in constantly, and will even unlock my door and come in. I know this because he's come by when I'm in the bathroom or getting out of the shower and not able to answer the door, and suddenly he's coming in my apartment. What the fuck. I basically haven't been able to watch porn since I moved here because I don't want my landlord randomly popping in. Do you know how serious this is? I can't watch porn!
  • Something was fucked up with our water, and he said he'd warn me when the repair people were coming later in the week. Instead he starts banging on my door at 7am to shut off my water. Guess who didn't get to shower before work?
  • He and his wife apparently leave for California for 3 months out of the year, and they didn't warn me at all. What do I do if something breaks?
  • I can't reset my internet when it's down (which is frequently, fuck you, Comcast) because the router is upstairs in his house.
  • And on that note, I have no control over the heat. I've been freezing my ass off all winter, even with a space heater. And when I told him that, he laughed and commented on how is female tennents are always cold.
  • I discovered I have a "No Parties" clause in my lease (my fault - didn't notice it until I had already driven 2,000 miles to Seattle and was committed to the place). But his son or grandchildren who occasionally housesit for him play music loudly and dance and have parties until 3am on school nights.
  • He and his wife pay for 2/3 of the utilities, while I pay for 1/3, even though they use much more heat and electricity because they have a much bigger house.
  • He and his wife only pay for 1/2 of the internet/cable. "Why not 1/3...?" "Oh, it doesn't depend on usage." I'm sorry, but if we're splitting things like roommates, it's per person, not per household. Everyone uses it, everyone pays for it.
  • And now that he's been away for a month, he says he and his wife are only paying 1/2 the utilities instead of 2/3 since they haven't been using them. What the fuck? Do I get to log every day I'm out of town and not pay for those? How about the fact that I'm not here from 9am to 6pm, but he is and is using the heat and electricity then? Again, I'm fucked and it's my fault - the lease just says we'll split the utilities, but doesn't specify how. Fuck.
  • Cherry on top: He's a creationist, and he found out I'm an evolutionary biologist, and proceeded to awkwardly try to debate me for 20 minutes after giving me the Comcast bill. I can only imagine what he thinks when sorting our mail and seeing all my stuff from the Secular Student Alliance and Secular Coalition for America.
My landlord is nice and grandfatherly, which sort of makes it worse because I can't just channel all of my rage at him. He brought me oranges and invited me to Christmas - rage deflected!

But I'm not even sure I can wait until the end of August to move out. Technically I can get out of here if I can find someone to sublease it... Guess who needs to find some unwitting summer intern?

Lesson of the day: Don't lease from something you randomly saw on Craigslist even if you're moving across the country, and read your lease carefully.

Thanks, US Military: Rock Beyond Belief Canceled

Well, fuck. I'd like to say this is unbelievable, but unfortunately it's not. Let me lay this one out for you:

1. Fort Bragg hosts Rock the Fort, an Evangelical Christian event meant to convert people. This includes spending $54,490 of government controlled funds on the event.

2. People point out this is a violation of the separation of church and state. Fort Bragg responds that if any other group wants to host a similar event, they'd support it too.

3. Sgt. Justin Griffith and other volunteers decide to put that statement to the test. They organize Rock Beyond Belief, a secular event open to everyone featuring great music and big name speakers (Richard Dawkins, anyone)?

4. Fort Bragg's Legal Department okays the event and encourages the Garrison Commander to sign off on the event.

5. The Garrison Commander approves the event...but refuses to give it any money, and says all advertisements much include disclaimers that Fort Bragg is not associated with the event. Aka, he's a lying hypocrite who has no intention of supporting anyone other than Evangelical Christians.

6. Rock Beyond Belief is forced to cancel due to a lack of funds.

I'm obviously disappointed. On a personal note, I was looking forward to speaking, rocking out to the music, and being able to say I was on the same speaking lineup as Richard Dawkins. But I'm mostly disappointed in how dishonest, and not to mention fucking stupid, US military officials are. Don't they know the shitstorm this is going to cause?

Justin, even though the event is no more, you've done so much for this movement. Exposing the hypocrisy and favoritism of US military officials toward Christianity will have a long lasting, significant effect - more so than enjoying some godless talks and music. Though that would have been pretty fabulous, too.

EDIT: The Freedom From Religion Foundation has contact information for various military officials and local newspapers. If you want to help out, voice your disapproval.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I may be busy...

...but you can still get your fix of godlessness if you're near Seattle!

The Secular Student Union at the University of Washington will be hosting Dr. Valerie Tarico this coming Monday, March 7th in Smith 115 at 5:30pm. Dr. Tarico writes about atheism and religion for the Washington Post and is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light. She'll talk for approximately a half hour on Recovering from Religion (getting rid of old embedded messages; dealing with family and friends who believe) and then guide a group discussion.

Everyone is welcome! If I'm going while still losing my mind preparing for my research reports and studying for two exams, you better be there too!

And if you know any UW students who may be interested...especially tell them. We're trying to get our membership up, and I think this would be a great first meeting.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I've found my religion

The Manifesto of Mother Monster:

I love Lady Gaga so much. One, I was raised on Madonna and disco, so I love me some dance music. Two, she's fucking insane. It's awesome. I have no idea what I just watched or what sort of drugs went into the creation of it, but I love it.

Though I have to admit...I realized the new video was released because PZ posted about it. I'm lapsing in my haggery! How was I not alerted to this sooner?!

...Alright, time to take a research break to dance around to this song a couple more times.