How Do You Spend Easter Weekend?

Running for your life, of course. No, not from the family. Not the priest either. Better than that.

About 700 runners registered for the 5K Zombie Survival Run on Saturday morning in Cherokee Park, where about 100 actors dressed in ghoulish face paint and bloody costumes snarled and grabbed at them — ostensibly out of the hunger for flesh.

“The zombies were fast,” said Easterling, who lives in New Albany and ran with her 11-year-old son Derek. “I didn’t think they’d be that fast. They’re not that fast in the movies.”

[...]

Runners wore belts with three red flags, like in flag football. The zombies were mostly stationed on the race course, though some ran. Each flag grabbed by a zombie represented a wound; the runner’s goal was to was complete the course through the tranquil wooded park with at least one flag — in other words, alive.

Sadly, this does not appear to have been specifically planned to fall on zombie weekend. Or maybe it was. The organizers, who set up the run to benefit a local progressive theater, are in Kentucky.

Oh, what the heck. I’ll pretend that was the case even if it wasn’t. After all, it’s that sort of day.

Oh, Look, Baby Foxes

Want to know what I think about today’s attacks on women’s reproductive freedoms? Let me put it this way. I was visiting a friend in the hospital this evening. She’s recently had a hysterectomy after radiation treatment for cancer put her into menopause several years ago. She needed some cheering up.

I told her, “Well, it’s a good day to be sterile.”

Aside from that, I’m not particularly coherent. Go read Jen or Jason or Ophelia or Crommunist if you want more. If you don’t, if you want some soothing, as Crommunist does, that I can offer. Have a handful of baby fox.

Or a sleepy kit just a bit older.

[Read more...]

But I Don’t Want to Wait

I mean, I can be an evil little thing while I’m traveling, but I’ll have to wait until I’m going to be home to receive the shirt.

Thanks to JT, his readers, and Jenn of Wholesale Fundraising Shirts, you don’t have to. Unlike me, you can click through right now to get your t-shirt or sweatshirt saying that if Jessica Ahlquist gets to have state legislators calling her an “evil little thing” for standing up for the Constitution, you want the same thing. If she’s evil, how can you not be?

Okay, so maybe you’re not sure you’re evil enough to wear the shirt. We can help with that. If you buy the shirt, all of the profits from the sale go toward Jessica’s college fund. Get yourself one of these, and you’ll be helping to educate an uppity heathen woman. How’s that for evil?

Go on. You know you want to. Won’t tell your mother.

What? I told you I was evil. Give me a little bit and I’ll have the shirt to prove it.

Have a More Colorful Friday

The Black Friday shopping ritual has always been ridiculous. People standing in the cold for hours. Fights over limited stock. People being trampled. It’s not a recipe for bringing out the best in humanity.

This year, it’s worse.

With a stagnating economy, stores started running Christmas ads before Thanksgiving, and are even pulling Black Friday openings earlier and earlier – into Thanksgiving itself – hoping to whip consumers into a spending frenzy. The LA Times reports stores like Wal-Mart, Toys R Us and Kmart will open at 10 p.m. this Thursday, while Target, Best Buy, Macy’s, and Kohl’s are opening at midnight on Friday.

The problem is, as stores push doors open, employees are pushing back. While some shoppers are excited to line up on Thanksgiving to snag deals, those having to work resent missing out on the holiday. At change.org, a petition protesting Target in particular has already gathered 198,246 out of 200,000 votes needed. Created by Target employee Anthony Hardwick, it calls out Target President and CEO Gregg Steinhafel with these words:

“A midnight opening robs the hourly and in-store salary workers of time off with their families on Thanksgiving Day.  By opening the doors at midnight, Target is requiring team members to be in the store by 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. A full holiday with family is not just for the elite of this nation – all Americans should be able to break bread with loved ones and get a good night’s rest on Thanksgiving!”

You don’t have to contribute to this disaster, and you don’t have to choose between that and contributing to the economy. If our recent crash course in practical economics has taught us anything, it should be that money that goes to big corporations doesn’t act the same way the same money would if pushed to individuals. So this year, why not do some or all of your Christmas shopping from individual artists and small family companies.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Howling Pig Ginger Lilly [Read more...]

Insomniac Games Does Social Media Right

I’ve been a fan of Insomniac Games from close to the start. When my brother asked whether we’d played a new game and I said, “Ratchet and Clank? What’s that?” I had no idea it was the new game by the people who made Spyro the Dragon, the first game I played on a modern game console.

The answer, by the way, to “Ratchet and Clank? What’s that?”: Just awesome; that’s what. And through a large number of sequels, the games have stayed awesome. Then they added the Resistance franchise, which aside from also being a shooter, was very, very different in tone and style. Still awesome.

Now I’m really looking forward to Overstrike. To the best of my knowledge, it’s the first game of its type with an even number of male and female playable characters. When you play a lot of network games with another couple, the lack of this option in most games gets pretty painful. Also, the game looks to be combining the gritty world of Resistance with the sly humor of Ratchet and Clank.

But still, well before that comes out, Resistance 3 launches the day after Labor Day. Like Resistance 2, 3 has robust online play. For the new game, the online play is currently in beta, and this is where Insomniac Games has impressed me in a way no other company has.

Betas are fun. They’re also somewhat painful. No matter how much you test a game, no matter how much load you put on your servers, it isn’t quite the same as having a bunch of people figure out your interface on their own and using it in any way they see fit. Things go wrong in beta, however well prepared you think you are.

For some companies, this could result in a lot of user frustration. For Insomniac fans who are on Twitter and Facebook, it’s been an exercise in being heard and helped in record times. When the public player-matching system went wonky, players arranged “private” games with strangers on Insomniac’s Facebook page, and Insomniac used Twitter to send players there. Insomniac broadcast questions on Twitter to collect information about how widespread bugs were. They announced the expected timing of bug fixes and server downtime and passed along workarounds. They took bug reports and customer service complaints and responded incredibly quickly.

In short, Insomniac Games took what could have been the ugliest time for their game launch and turned it into an exercise in making their customers very happy by using social media. I should be surprised, and I’m not really. This is one of the first companies to figure out what a podcast could do for them, and they’ve always been on top of figuring out what options new gaming hardware can give them.

So, no, I’m not surprised. I just hope that those behind Insomniac’s social media presence get the credit they deserve, and that some other companies pay attention to what Insomniac is doing right.

Embracing the Euphemism

I’ve long had a complicated relationship with euphemisms. On their own, I don’t like them much. I’m annoyed by people’s inability to talk about the things they clearly want or need to talk about. Many of them reflect the negative attitudes that keep us from speaking plainly in the first place. And some of them are just gallingly twee.

However, put a bunch of them together in one place, and they go from an act of denial to a demonstration of our creativity in the face of repression and a testament to the fact that we will talk about these things, no matter how much we’re told we shouldn’t. One lovely example is this song, brought to my attention by Sex, Etc., a sex education site aimed at teenagers. I don’t need to tell you this isn’t work-safe, do I?

Then there’s this classic song about penis euphemisms.

Doing a song about euphemisms for breasts would be almost pointless. There’d be no challenge in it. As a friend’s father once pointed out (in a totally non-creepy way, for the record), any plural noun can be a euphemism for breasts. “Look at the refrigerators on that one,” being the illustration.

I also love the practice of using euphemisms to riff because you’re talking about a subject in depth and are going to get bored using the same word over and over, as when Scicurious wrote about constipation–and bras:

More to the point, previous work with girdles (heh, I love that, “previous work with girdles”, I shall have to quote me) has shown that you get smaller and slower #2 when you are “under the influence of a girdle”. And well, if a girdle, could maybe the pressure exerted by a bra change your log dropping abilities?

So they took 7 female subjects, ages 11-41 years (yes, really). All of them suffered from no constipation and were under no medication at the time. The women went braless for a week, then wore the bra for a week, and spent the last week uninhibited and nippin’ out. For those three weeks, EVERY TIME they pinched a loaf, they had to record it…and WEIGH IT THEMSELVES. One wonders what scales they had to do this, and how they got the women to do it. I really hope they were paid.

Or as when Bug Girl wrote about the relationship between pubic hair removal and the prevalence of pubic lice:

Honestly? I think the only reason this paper made it past the journal editors was because it was about pubic lice, and crotch crickets are inherently interesting because of the pastures they graze in. (Which, of course, is exactly why -I- am writing about them!)

I did some investigating (in the library, pervs!) and found that there is actually data available on happy trail hair removal for women in the US and Australia. The percentage of Australian college women who shaved their pudenda was around 48% during the same time period; but that means that the majority of women still had some or all of their original carpeting, whether or not it still matched the drapes.

We also know from a very detailed study of American women in 2010 that there is no dominant pattern to hair removal in the US. Women aged 18-24 were most likely of all age groups to have naked crotches, but even then only 38% of them were hair free down there. Having a hairless muffin was actually the least common pattern of body hair in the over 2,450 women studied. Additionally, removal of one’s No-No Fro was NOT related to having experienced an STD infection in that study–which strongly suggests that the sample used for the “Brazilian hypothesis” was not representative.

Any one of these euphemisms alone would bug me. (“No-No Fro”? Really? Could we send a more sex-negative message?) All of them together, however, make me laugh more than wince, no matter how appalling they are individually.

Women in Secularism Conference

W00t! The Center for Inquiry is hosting a conference on the topic of women in the secular movement!

Here at CFI we think it’s high time—it’s past time—for these and related issues to receive serious consideration. This is why we are proud to announce a special (dare I say historic?) conference on Women in Secularism, which will take place in Washington, DC on May 18-20 of 2012. To my knowledge, this is the first major conference sponsored by a national secular or skeptic organization to focus exclusively on the role and importance of women in our movement.

This is a hugely significant event. The contributions of women to our cause will finally receive some recognition. Speakers will include (in alphabetical order) Ophelia Benson, Jamila Bey, Greta Christina, Elisabeth Cornwell, Margaret Downey, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Sikivu Hutchinson, Susan Jacoby, Jennifer McCreight, Wafa Sultan, and Rebecca Watson.

Now I just have to figure out how to manage my time off next year for that and WisCon in the same month. May is apparently for feminism.

Thanks to Ophelia for passing along the news.