Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Welcome, Savage Lovecast listeners!

As a longtime fan of the Savage Lovecast, I had an absolute blast recording the podcast with Dan. If you found my blog through it, I assume you came here because you found me vaguely interesting.* I talk about a little bit of everything here - mostly atheism, feminism, science, and sex - but here are some posts you'll probably enjoy:
If you want a more in depth analysis on how crappy current G-spot research is, check out my recent post. And if you want more information on the survey by Dr. Darrel Ray that showed atheists feel less guilty about their sex lives, Greta Christina has a wonderful summary article here.

Thanks for stopping by my little corner of the internet!


*Though it's entirely possible you came here to tell me to stfu and not infringe on your Dan Savage time, which is totally fine since I feel that way about some guests too.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Why is the G-spot still such a mystery?

A couple of weeks ago I called out a woman on Dan Savage's podcast who asserted that we know exactly what the structure of the G-spot is, that all women have it, and that every woman can ejaculate. I called her out because scientists haven't reached a consensus on the G-spot. They're not sure what the heck it is, how variable it is in women, or if it even exists at all.

But calling her out made me wonder: Why is the G-spot still such a mystery?

To put it simply? The current research sucks.

And that's not just my personal opinion. The Journal of Sexual Medicine did a big review of G-spot research at the end of 2010 (1). Their conclusion?
Although a huge amount of data (not always of good quality) have been accumulated in the last 60 years, we still need more research on one of the most challenging aspects of female sexuality.
For those of you who don't speak science-ese, allow me to translate: A lot of this data is crap, and therefore we don't know what's going on.

After even the briefest overview of the literature, you start to understand why we're so confused. For example, let's look at two very popular G-spot papers from very different camps.

First, the "It's all in your head!" camp. This is the less popular view, but there are some researchers who think the G-spot is nothing more than the placebo effect. The main study they have supporting this was done by Andrea Burri in 2010 (2). They did a twin study and claimed to find no genetic correlation for the G-spot - that is, if a woman had a G-spot, her twin was not more likely to also have a G-spot. It spread like wildfire in the media, and was even picked up by xkcd:
Except this study was a piece of crap.

For one, they did absolutely no physiological studies. How did they know if a woman had a G-spot, then? Why, they simply asked them! In the most leading, biased way possible (emphasis mine):

“Do you believe you have a so called G spot, a small areas the size of a 20p coin on the front wall of your vagina that is sensitive to deep pressure?”

If we ignore how poorly worded that question was, it still is not going to test genetic correlation of having a G-spot. Relying on personal opinion for physiological data is frankly ridiculous - would we determine how many lobes a liver has by asking people what they believe to be true? What they're actually testing is if someone's personal opinion about G-spots is genetic! Someone could think she doesn't have a G-spot, but still have the exact same physiological reactions as her sister.

The other huge flaw of the study was that it didn't take into account sexual practices. What if one twin only has sex in the missionary position, while the other is purposefully trying out stuff to reach her "so-called" G-spot? It's wrong to assume that all types of sex produce the same time of stimulation. The researchers seemed somewhat aware of this, because they excluded bisexuals and lesbians...because they tend to have more digital sex.

Wait, what? So you have a group of people having the type of sex that, from conventional wisdom, is more likely to stimulate the "G-spot" - and you leave them out? Why not test to see if that conventional wisdom is actually right?

Well, maybe because the lead researcher is "anxious to remove feelings of "inadequacy or underachievement" that might affect women who fear they lacked a G-spot." That's certainly a noble cause, since women shouldn't feel inadequate if they lack a G-spot...but it also certainly biases your research if you're searching for a particular answer to support your world-view. Not to mention just swaps the stigma onto women who are told they're being delusional based on crappy data.

I've been harping on the G-spot deniers, but the research on the other side is just as bad. I looked up the paper by Florian Wimpissinger that's often cited as showing that female ejaculation is way more similar to semen than urine (3).

Yes, I had a good giggle that his name was Wimpissinger.

Anyway, this study looks very impressive on the surface. They did ultrasounds that found prostate-like structures in women! And urethroscopy that found a duct-like thingy! And biochemical analysis that showed it wasn't urine! Doesn't that sound fancy and
scientific?

Except they did a crappy job at those things.

Their ultrasound was so blurry and inconclusive that the article is immediately followed by a letter from concerned researchers saying "Dude, you totally misread that ultrasound. That's a smudge, not prostate tissue." And their response is basically "No, we're right!" Not the best sign.
Maybe a prostate-like thingy.

But you know what's a bigger problem then their possibly blurry ultrasound?

They had a sample size of two women who could ejaculate, and no control women.

Sample size of two.

No controls.

So while you can say some women may have a prostate-like structure (assuming their ultrasound doesn't suck), you can't say they all do. Because you tested two women out of 3 billion. What do the non-ejaculators look like? What do the women who think they don't have G-spots look like? Humans are highly variable - height, skin color, breast size - the same could definitely apply to G-spots.

This is especially important in their biochemical study. They took ejaculate and urine samples from both women and compared them to the ejaculate from men using biochemical assays. They didn't have a urine sample from men or non-ejaculating women to compare it to as a control. And for the second woman, they didn't even do 5/9 of the tests! So basically they have a couple tests that vaguely show female ejaculate is more ejaculate-like than urine-like. I say vaguely because they didn't do any sort of statistical analysis to see if this is significant or due to random chance - probably because they have a freaking sample size of two.

So from looking at these two important studies, it's crystal clear why we don't know what's going on yet. The research just isn't high quality.

But why haven't scientists figured this out by now? How is it that we can track every individual cell in a developing worm, but we can't tell if a structure is there or not in women? How is it that we know genetic variation at millions of sites in the genome across human populations, but we don't know structural or physiological variation of an often discussed phenomena?

For one thing, the G-Spot is probably complicated. If I had to put my money on a hypothesis, I'd guess the G-spot is actually a combination of structures - maybe the Skene's glands, the internal part of the clitoris, prostate-like tissue, or vaginal thickness. And I'd guess that it's variable across women - either due to genetics or hormonal context during development. And when something is complicated, it's a bit harder to figure out.

Part of the problem of getting a really good study is that sexual science is somewhat of an echo chamber. Almost all of the research is published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, and almost all of the reviewers of papers are part of the same little group. They don't have random molecular biologists reviewing their papers and weeping at their sample size, or screaming "Why didn't you just do a mass spec run?!" There's a reason why this stuff isn't getting published in PNAS, Science, or Nature - maybe partly due to blushing editors, but mainly due to quality.

Another problem is that a good study of something complicated calls for thousands of samples - and it's not easy to find thousands of women willing to participate in such a study. That's not just because of puritanical views, though that's definitely a contributing factor. Women have been historically mistreated under the guise of medicine, especially within the realm of sexual medicine. Treatments for hysteria, forced sterilization - those things may be in the past, but they still linger in people's memories.

But even if you had the best scientists and a thousand volunteers, a lot of it boils down to the politics of science - especially the politics of the science of sex. In the US, the type of research that's being done is the type of research that's being funded - mostly from the government. And when you look at these studies, almost none of them are coming from the US - the two I mentioned were from the UK and Austria. Our puritanical views make it less likely that a massive G-spot study is going to be funded to put this question to rest.

I'm not trying to be overly patriotic, but the US produces some of the highest quality scientific research in the world. And when it's too scared to finance the investigation of women's sexuality, it's no wonder we're left in the dark.

Yet somehow there's no shortage of money so men can keep having erections. Funny how that works.

So the next time someone claims to know exactly what a G-spot is - especially when they're trying to sell you something - think of the science behind it. And remember, it's okay for science to say "I don't know - yet."

1. Jannini, EA et al. (2010) Who's Afraid of the G-spot? Journal of Sexual Medicine. 7:25-34.
2. Burri, AV et al. (2010) Genetic and Environmental Influences on self-reported G-Spots in Women: A Twin Study. Journal of Sexual Medicine. 7:1842-1852.
3. Wimpissinger, F et al. (2007) The female prostate revisited: perineal ultrasound and biochemical studies of female ejaculate. Journal of Sexual Medicine. 4:1388-1393.

I'm a sucker for terrible Christian movies

I want to see this so badly:


From the video description:
"The Waiting Game is about a guy who saves himself for marriage only to have his fiance leave him on their wedding day. He must now decide if it's worth it to wait again."
What the movie is really about: only getting married because you want to bang someone. Lovely Christian ethics at work!

Horrible morals aside, this film looks unintentionally hilarious - almost like an atheist parody of waiting for marriage. I'm not going to lie - I lol'd at the Ted Haggard cameo and "You need Jesus! With Jesus comes the wisdom of how to drive!" But it's real, and they're looking for people to fund the movie.

I'm torn. Is it okay to want 2 million dollars to go to a pro-abstinence movie if it will inspire ironic godless viewing parties?

Omfg Tim Minchin!

Yesterday I went to the Sasquatch music festival out in Eastern Washington. It's held at the Gorge Amphitheater, which is a ridiculously beautiful venue.

Photo of concert stage in front of mountains
Though I shortly nicknamed it "The Gouge." Seriously, $5.25 for a coke? $10.00 for a beer?! The worst part was you were stuck buying bottled water even if you brought a water bottle, because the only drinking water station constantly had a line of 100 people. And there were no signs indicating the hand washing water was actually recycled water, so tons of people were unwittingly drinking water people had rinsed their peed-on hands in. Ewwww.

I'm not going to lie - while I also wanted to see Flogging Molly, The Flaming Lips, and Modest Mouse, the thing that really motivated me to go was Tim Minchin. And I was in the front row!

Tim Minchin playing the piano He was absolutely hilarious and charming, like always. He played a mindblowingly witty new song, but I don't want to ruin it for any of you who are going to see him play live when he's touring the US next month. Speaking of which, I have tickets to see him in June, and I don't regret buying them at all. Especially since he only played for 45 minutes, which is not enough Minchin for me.

Close up of Tim MinchinThis photo is just to rub in how close I was.

The rest of Sasquatch was hit or miss. I had never seen Reggie Watts or Mad Rad before, but they were both very entertaining. The Flaming Lips were fucking horrible. I was so disappointed, since they're one of my favorite bands. They picked one of their most subdued old albums to played from, had way too much dialog and set up between (or even during) songs, and had to resort to constant begging to get the audience to cheer. Everyone was falling asleep, and you could watch hundreds of people leaving. The lead singer couldn't even hold a note that night. Eventually we left too - it wasn't worth sitting through that horrible show to make it to Modest Mouse.

To make matters worse, apparently The Flaming Lips inspires everyone to light up a joint, so I was sitting downwind of a nasty stream of marijuana smoke. Ugh.

And good god, THE HIPSTERS! I don't think I saw anyone who wasn't a white 18 - 25 year old dressed in ironic 80s clothing with neon Native American facepaint and feathers in their hair. Are you kidding me? Though I quickly learned the only thing worse than hipsters are drunk and high hipsters, which was pretty much everyone at Sasquatch except me. Thank you, drunk hipster chick who elbowed me in the face during Mad Rad. Maybe it would have been more enjoyable if I was willing to blow a day's paycheck on beer.

...I've officially become an adult, haven't I?*

Oh well. Tim Minchin! Squeeeeeeeeee!

*Not true. I would have found all of this annoying even at age 18.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011

I have one last bribe

The fundraiser for Camp Quest ends on May 31st, and Team Awesome is still behind PZ by about $1,800 dollars. But I think we can do it, especially since many of us are resorting to bribery if we win:
* Since PZ Myers has offered to shave his beard into a hideous '80s mustache if he wins -- and really, you should donate to our side for that reason alone -- Adam Lee at Daylight Atheism has agreed to grow a beard if Team Awesome wins. Thus preserving Atheist Blogger Beard Homeostasis, and preventing the world as we know it from collapsing into some sort of hideous beardly space-time nexus.

* Matt Dillahunty at The Atheist Experience TV program will do one episode of the show in drag.

* JT Eberhard of WWJTD? will shave his head... and wax his legs.

And what will Greta Christina do? I hear you cry.

* Greta Christina -- she said, with a quiver of dread in her voice -- will do karaoke.

Let me be very clear about this: I have never done karaoke. I have never wanted to do karaoke. I am a karaoke virgin. But if Team Awesome wins the Camp Quest fundraising challenge, I will pop my karaoke cherry. And I will get it on video, and post the video to this blog and to my Facebook page.

I'm throwing my own embarrassing bribe into the ring, though preventing PZ from performing beardocide should be motivation enough to donate to Team Awesome.

If Team Awesome raises more money than PZ by June 1st, I will attempt to learn how to ride a bicycle, and videotape the whole inevitably hilarious experience.

Yes, I never learned how to ride a bike. Yes, people (especially my family) like to tease me about this all the time. Yes, I feel ashamed when a 4 year old zips past me on the sidewalk without training wheels. No, you're not the first person who came up with the joke "It's just like riding a bike! ...Oh."

I say attempt in my statement because I can't assure you that I will succeed. A boyfriend tried to teach me how to ride a couple of years ago, and I failed miserably. Partially because he gave up on me - yes, I was that bad. But I will attempt, and either way I promise you will get hilarious footage.

But only if you donate to Camp Quest. I'd say so children can learn to be skeptical and ride bikes, but I have no idea if they ride bikes at camp.

And if you don't donate before May 31st? You will have to suffer through a 80's porno mustache on PZ. Not to mention an even bigger ego - who knew that was possible?

So do it! Donate!


This certainly isn't comforting

I don't usually like bringing up especially personal stuff here, but I just couldn't resist blogging this. For reasons I don't care to explain at the moment, I made an appointment with UW's mental health clinic. While you can request a referral online, you still need to do a phone screening before you can go in. Basically they need to know what you need help with (eating disorder? depression? substance abuse?) and how severe your problem is (stressed out graduate student, or ready to jump off the George Washington Memorial Bridge?).

Don't worry, I'm not in the latter.

I decided to Google the name of my screener before calling. I'm not sure why - maybe I thought seeing a smiling photo attached to a name would calm some of my nerves. But the opposite happened when I read her bio:
[Screener]*, M.Ac. has worked in the field of crisis intervention, with a specialization in suicide prevention, since 1993. She earned her master's degree in acupuncture from Northwest Institute of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in 2002, and has completed her certification as a yoga instructor (RYT ® Yoga Alliance, 200 hours). Integrating an understanding of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Yoga with training in mental health issues, [Screener] offers a holistic and culturally sensitive approach to crisis intervention. [Screener] is a certified counselor in the state of Washington.
My reaction was pretty much exactly this:
Are you fucking kidding me?
I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I was well aware that the graduate student appointee insurance covers acupuncture. It's just a little unsettling when you're trying to cure your own crazy, and you find out you're going to be talking to someone who graduated from woo-woo university. Maybe this is culturally insensitive of me, but I don't want Traditional Chinese Medicine - I want Proven Scientifically to Work Medicine.

After a little more digging, I realized 5 out of 14 of the clinic's staff mention using spirituality or Buddhist teachings in their therapy. I'm not sure if this ratio is good or bad for a public university. I understand that there are religious students on this campus who could benefit from this...but it makes me a little unnerved. I was already uncomfortable about going in - I don't want someone who's not going to understand where I'm coming from.

I wonder how I can say "I am a raging atheist, please give me someone whose treatments are based on rationality" without getting that marked down as a symptom.

*Yes, I realize it's very easy to figure out who this person is. I just don't want people to find this post when searching for her name...or for her to get a Google Alert when I'm going to have to deal with her. I will remove comments that post her name.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Know any student atheist activists?

I'd also ask if they want to win some money, but hey, what student doesn't?

The Secular Student Alliance is giving a bunch of awards this year, with some nice cash prizes to go along with them. There are both individual and group awards. Have you done something awesome? Has your club? Then you should apply! Though hurry up, because the deadline is May 31st.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Unbelievers: New Atheism and the Old Boy's Club

I highly recommend this article by Victoria Bekiempis at Bitch Media. It's one of the most well-rounded, unbiased, well-researched article about the gender problem in the atheist movement that I've seen written by an outsider. And it has a fabulous graphic:
An evil looking robot with three heads, of Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett, towering in front of an exasperated tiny female atheist with a picket sign
I particularly like the closing paragraph:
So let’s reframe. For every mention of Hitchens, counter with a mention of Hecht. For every theory that male atheists are purer or more confrontational, let’s ask why we gender the philosophy of nonbelief to begin with. The ranks of atheists who don’t fit the popular profile are increasing, and with more attention paid to who isn’t a white male author with a fancy-pants book contract, the public face of nonbelief may begin to look as diverse as atheism’s adherents actually are. And if the work of women like Hecht, Jacoby, McCreight, and Gaylor indicates anything, it’s that there’s a need for atheist voices from all genders and sexes to—very rationally—make themselves heard.
And no, I don't just like it because my name somehow got squished between fantastic women I admire. I like it because it reiterates a point I've always made: The awesome female atheists are out there and doing things deserving just as much attention as Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett. We just need to start mentioning them more.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Oopsie! The rapture is actually in October!

Says Harold Camping, the man behind the May 21st rapture nonsense. I wish I were joking:
But Camping said that he's now realized the apocalypse will come five months after May 21, the original date he predicted. He had earlier said Oct. 21 was when the globe would be consumed by a fireball.

Saturday was "an invisible judgment day" in which a spiritual judgment took place, he said. But the timing and the structure is the same as it has always been, he said.

"We've always said May 21 was the day, but we didn't understand altogether the spiritual meaning," he said. "May 21 is the day that Christ came and put the world under judgment."
Isn't that just so convenient? It's lovely when you make a testable claim, and then do a whole lot of hand waiving and goal post moving to explain why you were wrong.

I had a great time poking fun at the Rapture - it was basically an atheist holiday. But this just makes me sick. Why? Now Camping can keep scamming people for another five months. And this isn't just the kind of "lol, gullible people" scamming. People have given away all of their money. People have attempted to kill themselves and their children to avoid post-rapture suffering. This man has ruined lives, and now he gets the chance to do it again.

And on a related note...why do equivalent loonies get quoted as experts, but not rational critics?
Tim LaHaye, co-author of the best-selling "Left Behind" novels about the end times, recently called Camping's prediction "not only bizarre but 100 percent wrong!" He cited the Bible verse Matthew 24:36, "but about that day or hour no one knows" except God."

While it may be in the near future, many signs of our times certainly indicate so, but anyone who thinks they `know' the day and the hour is flat out wrong," LaHaye wrote on his website, leftbehind.com.
This isn't an alternative viewpoint journalists can use in an article. LaHaye and Christians who regurgitate that Bible verse believe the same crazy crap, they just don't put a date on it. Where's the quote from a skeptic or atheist?

An important rule to remember

My friend Jaki just sent me this shirt as a surprise gift:
Jen wearing a shirt that reads 'Don't drink and blog' while holding a bottle of wine
Though she didn't send me the wine. That was a gift from the Imagine No Religion conference. And an aptly named on, too - Big Bang wine from Blasted Church winery.

Guess I'll have to refrain from blogging for the next hour or so...

Eller offers an apology

A genuine one, this time.

Dr. Eller has offered an apology in the comments, so I wanted to share it:
This is David Eller. I realized soon after the incident that I had violated one of my own most valued principles: just as I ask atheists to stop "speaking Christian," so I realized that I had as a male unreflectively "spoken male." It is exceptionally difficult, as anyone will admit, to see one's own prejudices and failings. I recognize the male privilege on which my reference was founded, and I learned something from the occasion. Actually, I learned two things during the weekend: a Jewish man reminded me that "Judeo-Christian" is a Christian-privileged way of speaking about religion, since Judaism and Christianity are really quite different. So I am more aware now of both the Christian privilege and the male privilege in my speech and thought, and I will try to overcome and eject both.
Thank you. I think he really "gets it" this time, unlike the immediate reaction after the talk. I understand that people can instinctively act defensive when called out, so I'm glad he recognized the problem after having some time to think about it, instead of getting more defensive.

I also want to say thank you to the commenters. I noticed the ratio of Understanding Support to Clueless Sexism was much better than in the past. There were only a couple "You're just mad because you're ugly"s and "You're a frigid bitch who's trying to suppress my evolved sexuality"s. Maybe I'm scaring the more sexist commenters away, but I like to think that more and more people are "getting it."

What Greta said

Greta Christina points out a few more problematic elements of David Eller's talk. I didn't talk about them because I only half-heard them - I was distracted from carefully crafting my comment during the Q&A. Let's just say when I heard "Jen" and "boobs," I was kind of glad I didn't hear the rest of the statement.

And I'd like to make a quick clarification. When I said "I had three very inappropriate remarks made during the conference about my chest"? That wasn't the total amount of remarks about my chest - those were just the "very inappropriate" ones that crossed the line. I lost track of the number of boob jokes I received this weekend, thanks to mentioning boobquake on my talk on edginess (at the request of the event organizer).

Which is why I'm done speaking about boobquake at conferences. I've already said no to groups who wanted me to talk about it, and suggested another topic. I think we can learn interesting things from what happened, but I'm just sick of how people see it as a green light for sexual harassment. I can only tolerate so much.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

We're not here for eye candy

I'm sitting in the Oakland airport, about to head home from the American Atheist Rapture RAM. Overall, I had a great time. I really enjoyed the talks by Rebecca Watson, Greta Christina, and Matt Dillahunty - who I finally got to meet in person, and who was promptly added to my List of Awesome People. And like always, I enjoyed meeting a bunch of the attendees and some of my blog readers. Kudos to the organizers for a great conference.

But (from the title you knew there had to be a "but") there was one incident that served as such a good example of the subtle sexism that's common in the atheist movement, I have to bring it up.

During a talk on how we need to make the atheist movement less about arguing and more of a community, David Eller brought up bloggers and videobloggers as an example of a good aspect of community. With photos of popular atheist videobloggers Laci Green and Cristina Rad (ZOMGitsCriss) on the screen, he quipped that it was so helpful that they're "pretty" and that we have a "pretty blonde Romanian" on our side. Without any mention of their intellect, wit, or content.

My patience was gone. I had three very inappropriate remarks made during the conference about my chest, and another woman confided in me that a male attendee made an astoundingly inappropriate remark about her appearance. When there was time for Q&A, I purposefully raised my hand. Eventually the mic made it back to me, and I said (paraphrased to the best of my ability):

"I have a brief comment. If you want to make the atheist movement more social, we have to be aware of the concerns of minorities, not insinuating they're only helpful because they're pretty and blonde. There are plenty of pretty blondes people can watch - these people are popular because they're intelligent and witty."

I barely got the whole statement out because people started applauding and cries of "Thank you!" sprung up across the audience.

Eller then offered a not-pology - saying he obviously knew how witty and intelligent Criss was, but being pretty doesn't hurt because it can still attract more guys to the movement.

...

One, when someone calls you out on something stupid you said that obviously upset the majority of the audience, stop at "but" before embarrassing yourself further.

Two, if you are using popular videobloggers as examples because you think they're intelligent, don't reduce them to their looks. It blows my mind people need this spelled out for them. It perpetuates the idea that we're just keeping atheist women around as trophies or booth babes, not because we appreciate their input. Sure, Criss is attractive - but that is irrelevant and inappropriate for a talk on community building at a conference.

Three, the atheist community doesn't exactly have a problem recruiting men. Nor would I stoop to suggesting we need to recruit hot guys to lure in the ladies to solve our gender problem. It's insulting, and not to mention heteronormative.

Yep, someone giving a talk on how to improve our community was horrendously out of touch with one of the most important and commonly discussed issues in said community. The irony has not escaped me.

Part of me hates blogging about stuff like this, because I don't want to promote in-fighting or tarnish an otherwise successful conference with this issue. But the more we let crap like this slide, the more it's going to get perpetuated. And I don't want the atheist movement of 2021 to be a room full of white men scratching their heads, wondering what went wrong.

EDIT: Eller has offered an apology. More here.

EDIT 2: For people wondering about tone and exact wording, audio clips of Eller's statement, my comment, and his reply are up here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Well, I've converted

There was just a minor earthquake during Mr. Deity's talk. THEY WERE RIIIGGGHHHTTTT!

EDIT: It was a 3.6. This is a big deal for a midwesterner!

THEY WERE RIGHT!

Raptured: Mr. Deity, Rebecca Watson, Greta Christina, Ashley Paramore, David Byars, and me. Who would have thought.

Another rage-filled Damon update

From the Support Damon facebook group (which Damon's brother is updating):
"This may sound like a petty update but Damon's parent's (my parents as well, obviously) threw his possessions outside on their front porch and they have left town on "vacation." They won't answer our calls. Currently the only thing missing is his Playstation 3 (that he bought with his own money). I hope that it will turn up. We're still trying to contact the parents about it."
Such Christian love. Thank goodness Damon has his siblings (he's moving in with his brother in Texas) and the outpouring of the atheist community (which has already raised over $9000 in scholarships for him).

Disgusting when someone's imaginary friend is more important than their own child.

Damon Fowler's graduation

It didn't go well. There was prayer, there was mockery, there was biased reporting by the media. Shocking.

Hemant has a detailed post. I'm busy with this conference, so I command you to go read it. Well, not if you have any blood pressure problems, because you will rage.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

The Rapture is here!!!!

I HAVE PROOF! Look, Jesus himself!
I don't think any of us atheists are getting raptured, but it was pretty awesome for Jesus to at least stop by and say hello. What a nice guy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

How are you celebrating the rapture?

I'll be in Oakland, California at the American Atheist Rapture Regional Atheist Meet! I can think of no better way to herald in the end of the world than blaspheming with Rebecca Watson, Greta Christina, Matt Dillahunty, and Mr. Deity. If any of you are coming, make sure to say hello!

Not gonna lie...I think I'm most excited about my slumber party at Greta Christina's house. My new goal in life is to sleep at a bunch of atheist blogger's houses, apparently.

If you're in the Seattle area and looking for something to do before the earthquakes and brimstone strike, I highly suggest you check out the Countdown to Backpedaling: The End is Nah! party in Tacoma.
It's at Dorky's Arcade (754 Pacific Avenue) from 8pm to 1:30am, featuring a bunch of musical guests, including my awesome nerd-core skeptical rapping friend Three Ninjas. It's $10, which is totally worth hanging out with godless people listening to nerdy music in an arcade. I know a lot of people from the Seattle Atheists, Seattle Skeptics, and Tacoma Atheists are going, so it should be a blast. I'm pretty sad I can't go, so go for me!

Want to help Damon Fowler?

Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist is living up to his name - he's started a scholarship fund for Damon Fowler, and it's already raised $3,000 overnight! This isn't just a fund to commend Damon for his bravery and support of the separation of church and state, or some sort of band-aid for the ostracism and death threats. Damon is leaving to live with his brother because of this, and his parents are likely to remove all financial aid for college. The Chip-In widget is at the very bottom of that post.

If you want to help in other ways, I encourage you to write an email to the school board and administration patiently explaining why this is illegal. Or for more long term help, join a local or national secular organization like the Freedom from Religion Foundation (which is on this case and also offered Damon a $1,000 scholarship) or the Secular Student Alliance (which support high school and college secular student organizations). Cases like Damon's are going to be popping up more and more throughout the country, and we need to be able to support these students.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Despicable

An update on Damon Fowler's struggles getting prayer removed from his graduation. Tonight was his school's "Class Night," which is apparently a tradition in the south. From what I can get from Googling, it's partially a rehearsal for graduation, in addition to being a night where they announce senior awards.

Here's the new "moment of silent" went in the graduation rehearsal:


This makes my blood fucking boil.

This is exactly why the separation of church and state is so important. This is why something so seemingly trivial to some - school led prayer - is so fucking important. They've proved our point. This girl used prayer as a weapon to separate the Good Christians from The Others. To alienate. To shun. To mock. And even more disgustingly, the community cheers along like a pack of warriors who have defeated their enemy, and laugh condescendingly at the mention of a moment of silence.

Bastrop High School, prepare to get the living fuck sued out of you. This may not be graduation, but it's still a school function. It doesn't matter if you told this girl not to say a prayer - the fact that you let it go on for three minutes is a crime. You should have turned off the mic and pulled her from the stage the moment "but" left her lips.

Despicable.

Atheist high schooler receives death threats for protesting graduation prayer

It's bad enough we have a gay bullying epidemic going on in this country. It looks like life isn't much easier for atheist students.

Damon Fowler is a high school student in Bastrop, Louisiana. I'll let him tell his story (emphasis mine):
My graduation from high school is this Friday. I live in the Bible Belt of the United States. The school was going to perform a prayer at graduation, but due to me sending the superintendent an email stating it was against Louisiana state law and that I would be forced to contact the ACLU if they ignored me, they ceased it. The school backed down, but that's when the shitstorm rolled in. Everyone is trying to get it back in the ceremony now. I'm not worried about it, but everyone hates me... kind of worried about attending graduation now. It's attracted more hostility than I thought.

My reasoning behind it is that it's emotionally stressing on anyone who isn't Christian. No one else wanted to stand up for their constitutional right of having freedom of and FROM religion. I was also hoping to encourage other atheists to come out and be heard. I'm one of maybe three atheists in this town that I currently know of. One of the others is afraid to come out of the (atheist) closet.

Though I've caused my classmates to hate me, I feel like I've done the right thing. Regardless of their thoughts on it, basically saying I am ruining their fun and their lives, I feel like I've helped someone out there. I didn't do this for me or just atheists, but anyone who doesn't believe in their god that prayer to Yahweh may affect.

Moral of the story: though the opposition may be great, majority doesn't necessarily mean right. Thank you for reading. Wish me luck at graduation.

EDIT: Well, it hit the fan a couple hours ago. They've already assembled a group of supporters at a local church and called in the newspaper. I've had to deactivate my Facebook account and I can't reason with any of them. They refuse to listen. The whole town hates me, aside from a few closet atheists that are silently supporting, which I don't blame them looking at what I've incited here. Thanks for the support though.

My brother has been cut off from all communication by my mother. He is not allowed to speak to me and I live 6 hours drive away from him. There's nothing I can do. My sister is supposed to go pick him up tomorrow and he will no longer be living in that town or with my parents. He's coming to Texas with me.

[...]My sister called my brother and was able to conference me in without my mother knowing. My brother is overwhelmed by all the support that I told him about. He literally didn't know what to say and was not expecting this to happen. He is extremely grateful for all your support and he says "Thank you." He will be on the internet tonight to respond personally.

As far as his spirits are concerned, he sounded scared. Really scared, actually. He sounded as if he was about to cry on the phone with me, although I'm not sure if it was because of all the support here or because he's scared. He has gotten death threats already and threats of bodily harm if he shows up to graduation. We're still assessing if it is safe enough for him to be there.
Because a student tried to make his school enforce the law, he is getting death threats. Death threats because one less sentence will be said at a high school graduation. Death threats because some people can't pray to their imaginary friend on their own, and feel compelled to force everyone to. Wow.

As a personal note, I have disowned my family over this. No one will ever keep me from my brother, not even my mother. The moment any family starts acting like this, they aren't any family of mine.

If I told you the story of how this all started, you'd think it was something out of fiction. I think it's a story that my brother needs to tell, though. This is his time.

Sadly, because of this, my brother is probably going to be cut off financially from my parents and I will be taking up the slack of making sure he gets through college. I don't mind this, it's just a matter of fact. We've got a long hard road, yet.
Want an example of this community's ignorance about the law and bias against atheists? Just look at what one of the teachers had to say:
“[In the past, non-religious students] respected the majority of their classmates and didn’t say anything,” [Bastrop High School staff member Mitzi] Quinn said. “We’ve never had this come up before. Never…And what’s even more sad is this is a student who really hasn’t contributed anything to graduation or to their classmates.”
Hopefully the rest of the administration isn't as ignorant about the law as Mitzi Quinn (who, I should add, has a perfect storybook villainess name). This has nothing to do with who's in the majority. Non-Christians shouldn't have to sit down and shut up in a public school. And regardless of your opinion, it is against the law the have school sponsored prayer at high school graduations.

Not to mention snide remarks about a student's contribution is completely unprofessional, and frankly, immature. You're supposed to be teaching children, not acting like one.

To make sure the administration realizes what the law is, you can find a list of their emails here and here. And spread the news - wouldn't it be nice if the nation saw this is how this community treats it's non-Christians?

(Via WWJTD?)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Squeeeee

I gave Dan a chance to recover from my skeptical evisceration before taking this photo:
You can hardly see the tears!

Joking aside, I had a fantastic time. I'm so happy that I got to be a part of one of my favorite shows! Though I think that's all I can say without spoiling the magic of the Savage Lovecast - or before a Tech Savvy At Risk Youth assassinates me for spilling secrets.

The episode with me will be out May 31st - yes, you have to wait a little over a week, sorry. But it will be worth it - we talk about a lot of cool stuff. I was a bit nervous in the beginning and I think it shows, but overall I think it went really well. I'll remind you guys when it's out!

Until then I will agonize over all the things I wish I said. Or more realistically, get so distracted by the end of the semester that I'll forget about the podcast. Eek.

While I'm recording one podcast...

Here's another to tide you over. While I was at the Imagine No Religion Conference in Kamloops BC, I was interviewed again by Radio Freethinker. Again we talked about women in skepticism, and Ethan threw a couple controversial topics at me. Listen to me react awkwardly and unprepared here!

I'm not sure what in means when I'm more prepared for a conversation on the science of G-spots. Hmm...

Gays to blame for the rapture

I know everyone is probably sick of hearing about the May 21st rapture. It's obviously ludicrously false, and it's getting to the point where we're beating a dead horse making fun of it. But I couldn't pass up a quote from this fact sheet at the San Francisco Chronicle:
Q: Why May 21?
A: Camping calculates May 21 is exactly 7,000 years from the date of the Noah's Ark flood. In his book "Time Has an End," Camping writes. "The year 391 B.C. is the year
when the Old Testament was finished, and 2,011 + 391 - 1 = 2,401, or 7 x 7 x 7 x 7." There you have it.

Q: Any other reason?
A: Yes. Gay Pride and same-sex marriage. Camping says God will punish America and the rest of the world for Gay Pride and same-sex marriages, just as Sodom and Gomorrah were punished with fire and brimstone in the Old Testament.
...This isn't even internally logically consistent! Which is it, Camping? Did you calculate a very specific date based on the word of God, or has God decided now's the time because we reached Maximum Gayness? Or did God know that May 21 would be when he got sick of pride parades, in which case, free will...?

And before anyone tries to point out that this is just some fringe loonie... I think this comic from reddit sums up how I feel pretty well:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Want to have breakfast with me on Sunday?

A more appropriate title is probably "Want to eat breakfast while watching Jen act sleep deprived and delirious Sunday morning?"

Either way, it should be fun, and it's for a good cause! It's Sunday, May 22nd at 7:30 AM in Oakland, CA, right across from the hotel that's hosted the American Atheists Rapture RAM. You can buy tickets here - it's a fundraiser for Camp Quest West, so yes, it's a little more expensive than your average breakfast. Especially if you're like me and your average breakfast is a cup of yogurt.

I'm not the only person you'll get to chow down with! Matt Dillahunty, David Byars, Brian Keith Dalton (Mr. Deity), Rebecca Watson, Greta Christina and more will be there. And if I'm getting up early enough to go there, you should too.

And for those concerned about if the event will continue on the off chance that the rapture does happen... not like we're going anywhere! Hmmm, but I don't know about all the chefs and waiters...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dan Savage invited me to slap him in person

Verbally, of course.

I'll be recording an interview for the podcast with him on Wednesday, where we'll talk about what went horribly wrong in the previous interview. Hooray for getting to geek out about skepticism on the Savage Lovecast! To say I'm excited is a vast understatement.

I have to give it to Dan - he does a good job at admitting when something has gone wrong. A lot of people would just sweep a bad interview under the rug, instead of having someone come on and tsk-tsk at them.

If you hear an annoying high pitched sound, that would be me perpetually squeeing. Sorry about that.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hey Dan Savage: Did you turn your skepticism off?

Everyone here probably knows that I'm a huge fan of Dan Savage - but this week's Savage Lovecast was a massive failure.

A guest on the show was Heike Rodriguez, who "teaches Female Ejaculation in West Seattle." Not exactly sure what that entails, but that's not the problem. When she wasn't spewing woo-woo unscientific bullshit, she was claiming women who can't ejaculate have some sort of emotional issues, and maybe were even raped and don't remember it.

One of the very first things she says about female ejaculation is "That's actually a myth. Every woman can do it. Everybody has a G-spot. There's no argument about that. The anatomy is there for pretty much everybody."

Uh, false. Researchers still have no freaking clue what's going on down there. Some think it's the Skene's gland. Some think it's the urethral sponge. Some think it's the thickness of the vaginal wall. Some think it's the internal parts of the clitoris. If scientists in 2011 are still arguing over a bit of human anatomy, it's not as cut and dry as you think.

There's also the fallacy of "Well I've experienced it, therefore it must be there for everyone." Let's assume the G-spot does exist in some women, and it's not just psychological. That doesn't mean it has to exist in everyone. A lot of human traits are variable - height, weight, breast size. And some people completely lack certain structures - for example, people who are born without wisdom teeth.

Now, you're not going to be missing something like a heart or a stomach, but the G-spot isn't exactly necessary for survival. More likely it's the evolutionary side effect of certain male structures, in which case it would be completely plausible that it's variable in women.

But to say all women have it, and as definitively as she did? Outright lie.

To illustrate how little Heike knows about sexual physiology, Dan asks her if female ejaculate is urine, and her response is "It's impossible to pee while you're aroused. It's really simple. You can't pee."

Again, untrue. Both men and women can pee while aroused. Men can't pee when they're close to ejaculating (not the same as arousal) or soon after ejaculation because the bladder neck closes so semen won't go into the bladder. Totally not the same as "You can't pee while aroused."

At this point Dan was tries to call her out on the idea that all women can ejaculate...and that's where it gets even worse. "It has a lot to do with emotions. [...] It has a lot to do with connecting intimacy with sex. It has a lot to do with letting your emotions flow, with being willing to cry when you feel something intensely. And that's not something thats really out there as part of sex. And I think that's why a lot of women can't do it. Because they haven't connected their heart with their vaginas."

Oh bugger off with the new-age hippy bullshit. You have absolutely no evidence to support anything you're saying, and it's insulting to say that women who can't ejaculate are somehow just not being intimate enough.

And when Dan gently calls her out on that, saying that some women are just anorgasmic, she responds that she was anorgasmic because she was raped. And then implies that emotional or sexual trauma are the real reasons why women can't orgasm or ejaculate.

Again, not an ounce of evidence, and perpetuating the mindset that women are somehow damaged if they don't react in a certain way. Sorry, but saying "I don't think women should feel bad" over and over doesn't make them not feel bad when you say the only reason they don't squirt is because they aren't intimate enough or are traumatized.

Even though Dan tried to (too politely) question her claims, I wonder why he even had her on the show to begin with. I thought something smelled fishy when she said "If it's really painful, then maybe some emotional pain needs to be released." Yes, "energy." It must be "released," or something. A quick glance at her group's website doesn't list any sort of credentials for her. The only "credentials" she mentions on the show is being able to ejaculate (good for you) and being a partner of her "co-facilitator." And the credentials for her "co-facilitator"? He's a former minister with a Masters in Divinity in degree, and "facilitates" stuff like "dreamwork."

If that doesn't set off skeptical red flags, I don't know what will.

So massive fail, Dan. How are you so skeptical about religion, but invited someone like this on your show? Did no one call in that week and you were desperate to fill the air time? I have a feeling there are at least a couple people in Seattle with actual credentials to back up their sexual information that you could have turned to. Hell, people who can use Google are more informed than she was.

I have a feeling you got a lot of angry calls because of her. I hope we get to hear some of them in the next podcast.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I want to be Neil deGrasse Tyson when I grow up

I have a horrible confession to make.

...I had never heard Neil deGrasse Tyson speak until this Thursday.

I know, I know - I am a horrible skeptic and scientist. I pretty much assumed he was awesome, since everyone I think is awesome thinks he's awesome. But I hate watching YouTube videos, and I don't watch TV much. I much prefer to read things, and usually that's in the form of blogs since I'm so busy. And since he's not really a blogger...

...Excuses aside, I have a new hero.

Tyson's talk was absolutely fabulous. There was no set topic - it was basically his musings on everything from black holes, Pluto, how much American science education sucks, the mathematically illiterate, religion - but it was all so extremely interesting. He ended up speaking for about two and a half hours total, but I could have listened to him for five more. It went so quickly.

But he inspired me. If I can be half as good of a speaker as he is when I'm his age, I'll feel like I accomplished something. He oozed with passion. He interacted with the audience. He joked and laughed and spoke in a way that didn't put him up on some academic pedestal. He started his talk by slipping off his shoes, and would literally dance around the stage with excitement. He kept asking for more questions during the Q&A, despite a flight he needed to catch and an organizer that was trying to close the show.

He cared about what he was doing, and he made you care too.
For one thing, he made me remember why I used to love the universe so much. Astronomy was my first scientific love. I was in our elementary school's astronomy club, I memorized all of the constellations, and I dreamed about going to Space Camp. When I was older I gobbled up popular science books like the Elegant Universe by Brian Greene. Unfortunately, between horrendous math classes and Purdue's soul-suckingly bad physics courses, I drifted away from the field, convinced it was all boring number crunching.

After having my mind blown throughout the night, thinking about diverting murderous astroids, multiple universes, dark matter, and our mindbogglingly tiny existence, I remembered why I loved this stuff.

But he also inspired me to be a better speaker. I know I've only really been doing "professional" speaking for about a year, so I shouldn't be too hard on myself. But I'm so motivated to be just as energetic and compelling as him. People like Tyson get people to fall in love with science more than a boring lecturer that churns out homework assignments. And I've seen far too many boring lectures, even from some writers and skeptics I admire. Not everyone has the talent, but I feel like I have a little spark within me - I can't wait to nurture it until I'm an inferno of passion like Tyson.

Before the talk I quipped to my friend that I hoped Tyson wasn't giving this same talk at TAM. At the end, I turned back to my friend and corrected myself. I would be happy to sit through that exact same talk again - that's just how good it was.

...The fact that I'm going to be speaking at the event he's keynoting makes me feel a little unworthy. But I can't wait to meet him in person.

For those of you who aren't youtubephobic like I am, feel free to share you favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson clips in the comments. More people need to be initiated into his awesomeness!

...Unless I'm the last person on the planet to do so, in which case, feel free to make fun of me.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Heterosexual marriage is like gravity!

In case you weren't aware of the parallels, here's a Focus on the Family affiliate to clear things up:



...Because arbitrary, constantly evolving, man-made social customs are exactly the same as physical laws of the universe that have been empirically tested.

......And because gravity works by making things go downward.

.........And planes fly by...no, I can't even keep thinking about it. I need these brain cells for school.

Thank you, FotF, for adding "fucking scientifically illiterate" to your resume. I'm sure it looks nice below "hateful stone-aged thinking bigots."

Indiana: Police can now enter your home whenever they want

What. The. Fuck.
INDIANAPOLIS | Overturning a common law dating back to the English Magna Carta of 1215, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Hoosiers have no right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes.

In a 3-2 decision, Justice Steven David writing for the court said if a police officer wants to enter a home for any reason or no reason at all, a homeowner cannot do anything to block the officer's entry.
Seriously, were my family's votes the only thing keeping this state from going totally insane? Did three liberal people moving plunge the state into complete madness? Aaauuuggghhhhh!!

If that article isn't upsetting enough to you, you should check out Feministe's summary of the effects of Indiana's new abortion laws and defunding of Planned Parenthood.

You're welcome.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Atheists to the rescue post-rapture!

By now you certainly know the Rapture is scheduled for May 21st. I hope all of you godless heathens have found a bomb shelter and stored some bottles of water in preparation for the destruction that's about to wrack the earth - because let's face us, none of us are getting into heaven.

But if you're unprepared, Seattle Atheists are here to help with their Rapture Relief program!
(Is that not the best logo ever? Seriously, I'm proud of my group's design skills)
"While the world is tortured in this terrible Apocalypse, who better to help the world than atheists? Elite squads of godless heathens, who already live all over the Puget Sound, will help bring people out of the rubble and rebuild their lives. The Post-Apocalyptic Pony Express will help restore communication service by carrying letters across the tattered remains of civilization, giving humanity hope with the sight of the cutest ponies money can buy.

Of course, it's always possible that these religious zealots are wasting enormous amounts of money, time and life with a gigantic fearmongering campaign. It's happened before. On the off chance that they are completely wrong, Jesus doesn't come back, and life continues as normal, we will do our part to help the next generation avoid getting i
nto this heartbreaking situation themselves.

If there is a universe left after all this, Camp Quest West, which teaches children critical thinking and science, will receive a check. Why, you ask? Because when children know how to think for themselves, they don't get taken in by every terrible idea that comes across their desk."
Isn't this a fabulous idea? Though I have to admit, now I'm kind of hoping the Rapture does happen, if it means getting my own pony.

You can donate here. Buy Jen a pony if the rapture happens, help freethinking children if it doesn't. It's a win-win situation!

Monday, May 9, 2011

When religion protects sexism

For those of you who have seem my talk on the intersection of atheism and feminism, one of my key points is that religion doesn't necessarily create sexist ideas, but it does make them untouchable. We unfortunately live in a society where criticizing religious belief is viewed with contempt. We can't question something because it's protected by the bubble of "Respect my beliefs!" And then you get bad ideas - sexism, racism, homophobia, incorrect science - piggybacking on the theology and persisting through time.

My previous post is a perfect example of this. A Hasidic Jewish newspaper photoshopped Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Director for Counterterrorism Audrey Tomason - the only women - out of the White House Situation Room in what is now an iconic photo. I didn't comment much on my previous post because I was busy at work. But I need to say more now that the newspaper has responded to the widespread fury over their photoshopping:
The allegations that religious Jews denigrate women or do not respect women in public office, is a malicious slander and libel.
Except that you are denigrating women, soooooo... yeah, not slander and libel.
The current Secretary of State, the Honorable Hillary R. Clinton, was a Senator representing New York State with great distinction 8 years. She won overwhelming majorities in the Orthodox Jewish communities in her initial campaign in '00, and when she was re-elected in '06, because the religious community appreciated her unique capabilities and compassion to all communities. The Jewish religion does not allow for discrimination based on gender, race, etc.
Except that you do discrimination based on gender, since that's kind of what you did. Not that hard to wrap your head around. You do not post photos of women. You happily post photos of men. Discrimination.
We respect all government officials. We even have special prayers for the welfare of our Government and the government leaders, and there is no mention of gender in such prayers.

In accord with our religious beliefs, we do not publish photos of women, which in no way relegates them to a lower status. Publishing a newspaper is a big responsibility, and our policies are guided by a Rabbinical Board. Because of laws of modesty, we are not allowed to publish pictures of women, and we regret if this gives an impression of disparaging to women, which is certainly never our intention. We apologize if this was seen as offensive.
Except it does relegate them to lower status, because your religion is saying the mere existence of women is somehow immodest. You're not giving an impression - you are being disparaging to women. You have a special rule that women can't be seen and men can. That is sexist, no matter how much you scream "We're not sexist!"

And people complain about Islamic extremists who keep their women covered in burkas? At least they can be seen covered up. Heaven forbid if a man knows women actually exist in the world!

Sometimes I think men should be the ones getting most upset about these ridiculous "modesty" laws you see in almost all religions to some extent. They're all based on the idea that men are brutish pigs who can't control themselves and will fall to sin and temptation at the mere idea of something with a vagina being in a ten mile radius of them. Isn't it convenient how the solution to that problem is the oppression of women, and not self control and accountability of the men?

Commenter Chris Lawson had an additional good point that needs to be made:
You know, I might take them seriously if they put a black rectangle over the image of Clinton and labelled it with her name -- it would still be sexist and objectionable, but at least it would be honest and it would let their readers know that she had participated. By photoshopping her out, they are lying to their readers and pretending she is a nobody. That is not respectful.
Exactly. This isn't just about women not being able to be seen. What they've done is rewritten history to remove these women entirely.

Hasidic Judaism is an extremist sect, and obviously not all Jews or all religious people agree with these sort of actions. But this sort of defense of sexism in the name of religion is seen over and over again, and is why it's so important that we speak out. You certainly have the right to practice your religious belief - but I also have the right to say you're wrong and your actions are harmful.

Spot the differences

The original photo:
The photo printed in a Hasidic newspaper:
If we can't keep women out of men's jobs, we'll just photoshop them out!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

This is going in my cubicle

Today's xkcd:

Unfortunately "doing it so hard" often means "doing it twice as hard as the guys just to prove you deserve to be there and you're not just filling a quota." But us lady scientists can do it, and it's getting better and better.

The Empire Hearts Moms

Seattle sure knows how to welcome people back from trips (click for larger):
This comic shop is right by my apartment and across from the bus stop I stand at every day - but it usually doesn't look this lively.
Hopefully the Force reminded you to call your mom today.

Save PZ's beard!

My smacktalking at the Imagine No Religion conference must have really rattled PZ - the man has lost his mind! He's saying he'll shave his beard into a Hulk Hogan replica that should never be seen outside of photographs from the 80s if he raises more money for Camp Quest by the end of June.

PZ, I know you're scared of the godless blogging army facing you. It's now me, Hemant, Greta, JT, Adam from Daylight Atheism, and you were even betrayed by Digital Cuttlefish. But this is rash. Isn't the beard the source of all your power?

The man knows not what he does. Save PZ's beard by donating to the opposition's fundraiser for Camp Quest. I hear you'll help kids learn to be critical thinkers too.

I love Canada

I had a blast at the Imagine No Religion conference in Kamloops, BC. The organizers did a fabulous job, especially considering it was the first time this area tried to organize a conference. There were over a hundred attendees and the talks were very high quality. I was particularly moved by Nate Phelps's talk about what it was like growing up in the Westboro Baptist Church, how hard it was to leave, and how it affected the rest of his life. Absolutely stunning - you could have heard a pin drop.

Thankfully there were some funny talks in the afternoon, since the WBC is alwa
ys a bit of a downer. Brian Dalton (aka, Mr. Deity) had a fun presentation about his show (which I love) and being a Formon (Former Mormon), and PZ Myers gave a great talk about the benefits of laughing off religious craziness. More impressively, he didn't get lynched for starting his talk near the end of the Canucks hockey game. Though not everyone was totally attentive...It's still a little surreal being a speaker at these conferences. It's odd having people want to get a photo with me or have them sign their shirt, when I'm still squeeing over getting to have dinner with PZ and Mr. Deity. You're fangirling over a fangirl!
But it's still pretty awesome, and I'm so thankful for all the people who approached me after my talk to share some kind words. I had a hard time even refilling my coffee or going to the bathroom because I was stopped so much, haha.

Thanks for the great conference!

Friday, May 6, 2011

I have a proposition

All atheist conferences should start with Ceremonial Disemboweling of Deranged Creationist Ideas.

At least, that's how the Kamloop's Imagine No Religion Conference started. After PZ Myer's talk on evolution, one person asking a "question" that managed to combine "tolerance means accepting my wrong beliefs," "if you don't believe in god why do you keep living because then life is pointless," and Pascal's wager into one statement (because it wasn't really a question). Another creationist crank then persisted to the post-talk mingling, and spent hours debating PZ. And by debating, I mean repeating tired and refuted arguments ad infinitum and changing the subject whenever someone tried to answer his questions.

Poor PZ. Can't even drink his beer in peace.

But seriously, can all atheist conferences start this way? I'm feeling positively invigorated. It's a great reminder of why we're doing what we're doing - because people are still spewing these noxious ideas into the atmosphere.

Apparently even in Canada. Is there nowhere I can escape to?!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I am a masochist

Tonight I watched the Republican debate on Fox News with three of my other liberal minded friends. Pretty much all I got out of it was:

Ron Paul: Completely off his rocker fiscally (durrr, isolationism, that worked in the past amirite?!?!), but oddly says very sane things about most social issues. Maybe not all of the policies I'd implement, but lots of things I could live with. This made me feel oddly dirty while watching a Republican debate.

Herman Cain: Makes all of his points while counting on his fingers (though usually doesn't keep track properly). His credentials are being the head of a pizza chain I've never heard of. Apparently there's one in Tacoma, and we're tempted to make a trip to try it out. Because seriously, if the man can't even make a good pizza, can he run the country?

Tim Pawlenty: Bland and unmemorable, which means he probably has the best shot at the nomination amongst the crazies. Oh, and apparently he comes from a working class family, which he reminded us about ten billion times. We dubbed him the Republican John Edwards.

Rick Santorum: Scares the fucking shit out of me. He is my nightmare. Can't...can't even summarize. By far produced the most screaming at the television.

Gary Johnson: Again, didn't agree with everything, but was scared when I did find myself occasionally noting that he had a sane stance on something. Refreshing in the "I know I don't have a chance so I'm speaking my mind" way. Oddly reminded me of a muppet.

And overall impressions? I learned it's super important that we list the religion, marital status, and number of children of each candidate lest we vote for the wrong type of Christian. And that all of these Republican candidates are fucking jokes.

Brain cells died, but the liberal in me rejoiced. Obama isn't my dream candidate, but he's better than the alternatives.

A warm welcome to Canada

Hey, remember how I just said I'd be going to Canada for a lovely godless conference? Well, the same atheist group sponsoring the event had some bus ads in the area - evil, evil signs saying stuff like "There's probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." Bus drivers refused to drive the buses featuring the ads, and the spokeswoman for the organization announced that any vandalized ads would be removed and not replaced. You know, just so everyone knows that. Wink nudge.

Unsurprisingly, the bus ads are now down - but not because someone took a magic marker to them. They mysteriously disappeared from all of the buses while locked in a guarded area, and look to have been removed professionally rather than ripped off. And of course, the bus company refuses to replace them.

Man, if religious people are that afraid of atheists saying "There's probably no god," we better bring the smelling salts for this conference. I'm sure they'll love my talk about how "God" is a misogynistic, abusive asshole. Hopefully I don't disappear in the middle of the night too.

Back to Canada!

Tomorrow I'll be leaving for Kamloops, British Columbia to speak at the Imagine No Religion Conference. It should be a lot of fun! It's a smaller group than a big national conference, but still has awesome speakers like PZ, Mr. Deity, and Nate Phelps. And some blogger chick who's going to rant about misogyny in religion, or something like that.

I'm not sure if I have any Canadian tradition I forgot to check out when I spoke in Vancouver. I mean, I ate poutine and learned about Canadian politics - what more is there do to? Though I hear I probably shouldn't bring up Canadian politics right now, ahem... Hey, at least your conservatives aren't as bad as ours, right?

Anyway, I apologize that I haven't been producing as many substantial posts lately. The end of the quarter is approaching, which means things are a little crazy on my end. Have a presentation next week, need to finish my research, then make a presentation for that, then choose a lab that I'll be in for the next four years... Just a tad bit busy. But fear not, my real posts will return soon!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The US House wants to kill women

If you have no idea what's going on in this country, you better go read this.

I wish I could contain the stupid to Indiana.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

This video just made me cry

The good kind of tears.



I was holding it together until Woody appeared. Is that silly?

This commercial about the It Gets Better Project just aired as a commercial during Glee. I can only imagine how many kids it reached. Saving even just one life makes it worth it.

Dan Savage, you've done an amazing thing.

(Via Friendly Atheist)

Monday, May 2, 2011

My diversity panel from AHA

I'm currently in Going Insane with Grad School Work mode, so here's something to tide you over until I have time to write real posts. It's long, but what's better than listening to me, Debbie Goddard, and Greta Christina talk about diversity within the atheist movement?



It's long, but I think the panel went really well, so it's worth the watch. I certainly learned new things!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Osama Bin Laden Dead

Also:

I am such a hermit

"Hmmm, I should really go buy some groceries today. *walks outside* Oh wow, it's beautiful out! I don't even need a jacket. Holy crap, a blue sky! Mountains! *reads car thermometer* 67 degrees?! This is a great day. Man, I should really do something outside to enjoy it, since it'll probably rain for a month straight again. Hmmm... ... ...what do people do outside for fun? It's too late to go hiking somewhere. I don't really feel like walking around alone... ...If only my laptop got here, then I could at least sit outside on the internet. ...Meh, back to the basement. I wish it was this nice the only time I do go outside.*"

*That would be traveling to and from work. Yes, I am a pathetic nerd.