Frogs fall out of my mouth when I talk. Toads, too.
It used to be a problem.
There was an incident when I was young and cross and fed up with parental expectations. My sister, who is the Good One, has gold and gems fall from her lips, and since I could not be her, I had to go a different way.
So I got frogs. It happens.
“You’ll grow into it,” the fairy godmother said. “Some curses have cloth-of-gold linings.” She considered this, and her finger drifted to her lower lip, the way it did when she was forgetting things. “Mind you, some curses just grind you down and leave you broken. Some blessings do that too, though. Hmm. What was I saying?”
I spent a lot of time not talking. I got a slate and wrote things down. It was hard at first, but I hated to drop the frogs in the middle of the road. They got hit by cars, or dried out, miles away from their damp little homes.
Toads were easier. Toads are tough. After awhile, I learned to feel when a word was a toad and not a frog. I could roll the word around on my tongue and get the flavor before I spoke it. Toad words were drier. Desiccated is a toad word. So is crisp and crisis and obligation. So are elegant and matchstick.
Frog words were a bit more varied. Murky. Purple. Swinging. Jazz.
I practiced in the field behind the house, speaking words over and over, sending small creatures hopping into the evening. I learned to speak some words as either toads or frogs. It’s all in the delivery.
Love is a frog word, if spoken earnestly, and a toad word if spoken sarcastically. Frogs are not good at sarcasm.
Toads are masters of it.
Jun 28 2014
Jun 27 2014
How many bad arguments are there for the existence of god(s)? Well, there are probably a lot more than 39, but that’s the number that Minnesota Atheists past president August Berkshire addresses in his latest publication. Inspired by his interactions with students over the years he’s been a guest lecturer on atheism and humanism, he’s been building a list of common lay apologetics and their counters. These are just a few of the topics he covers:
- God Is Intangible, Like Love
- The Argument from Motion
- The Argument from Embarrassment
- Free Will
This Sunday, he joins us in the studio to talk about the kinds of bad arguments people make and the ways that they’re flawed.
- August Berkshire’s speaker website
- “August Berkshire’s Atheist Pamphlets” August Berkshire on Atheists Talk #222, June 9th, 2013
Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.
Jun 26 2014
I’m not sure why everyone is so excited to get their CONvergence/SkepchickCon schedules up. I mean, the con is a whole week away! (Eek, it’s only a week away!) (Yay, only one more week to CONvergence!)
All right. Here’s where I can be found over the Fourth of July weekend:
Thursday, July 3
When Science Isn’t Your Friend 8:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., Plaza 1
When has science hurt people in reality and what has that taught us about how science should be practiced? We’ll discuss everything from the Tuskegee experiments and Henrietta Lacks to continuing issues like surgery on intersex babies. Panelists: Stephanie Zvan (mod), Caleph Wilson, PZ Myers, Mary Brock, Debbie Goddard
Saberhagen’s Dracula10:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m., Atrium 3
Fred Saberhagen wrote a series of books from Dracula’s point of view, including The Dracula Tape, Old Friend of the Family, and more. We’ll discuss his work, particularly the more complicated moral portrayal of vampires. Panelists: Paul Weimer, Stephanie Zvan
Saturday, July 5
Organizing Online to Make a Better World: Do We Need to Tear the Old One Down? 8:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., Edina
Criticism and even rage blazing across social media has proven remarkably effective in getting complaints heard, but what are the downsides? How do we maintain communities when anger and volume get things done? Panelists: Miri Mogilevsky, Jason Thibeault, Beth Voigt, Stephanie Zvan, Debbie Goddard
Sunday, July 6
I’m starting Sunday morning at 9 a.m. by interviewing Dr. Rubidium for Atheists Talk radio about, among other things, using pop culture to communicate science.
Evaluating Scientific Claims 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., Plaza 1
You’ve just heard or read about an amazing scientific claim. Where do you go to start vetting the claim or the study, especially if you’re not a scientist? What are the signs that it might be hyped, misleading, or false? Panelists: Caleph Wilson (mod), Siouxsie Wiles, Stephanie Zvan, Shawn Otto, Heina Dadabhoy
Science of Group Differences 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m., Atrium 6
Men are from Sirius; women are from the Pleiades. Am I right? Let’s talk about all that research on sex and racial differences and what it means in day-to-day life. Is there any significance beyond the statistical? Panelists: Will Robertson, Stephanie Zvan, Betsy Lundsten, Desiree Schell (mod)
Science ‘Fiction’ Journalism 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., Plaza 1
When more and more news outlets are dropping their dedicated science staff, what happens to the quality of the news coverage? How much of what we read is just plain wrong, and what can we do about it? Panelists: Rob Callahan, Shawn Otto, Debbie Goddard, Stephanie Zvan
I’ll also be in the FtB party room each evening.
Then I collapse and hope I haven’t gotten con crud or can get over it before the Minnesota Atheists and Humanists of Minnesota All-Star Conference the next weekend.
Jun 26 2014
This was originally posted in June 2008. I still feel a bit of this, even though my new job is an object lesson in what a good generalist can accomplish. I can’t be the only person who feels this way, can I?
I am not a specialist. I’m a generalist and a good one. My primary skill is learning. I break unfamiliar tasks down quickly and optimize and mechanize processes. I read material aimed beyond my knowledge because I can mostly fill in background from what’s implied as well as what’s stated, and I know how to spot what I’m missing and have to look up. I synthesize and project ridiculously well. Drop me into unfamiliar chaos, and I start tidying, building a coherent whole from the scattered pieces, even while my hindbrain screams in panic that the task is impossible. It’s just what I do.
But oh, I must admit to a bit of the generalist’s envy of specialists. I sit down with someone who knows their field inside and out and I feel like an unschooled child. Following along suddenly seems like faking it. Not having that kind of command of anything, I feel just a wee bit useless.
I could make myself feel better by changing the subject, talking about things I do know, where the specialist would be the one having to follow. I don’t lack options for other topics. But I never do it. The generalist in me can’t let these opportunities pass (knowledge, resources, ooh!), no matter how uncomfortable they are.
I try to tell myself I shouldn’t be uncomfortable. I remind myself, in between moments of paying very close attention, of everything I said above. Under the envy, I do know my strengths and that they’re not inconsiderable and that they’re not really compatible with the dedication being a specialist requires. I know I’m a very good generalist.
But oh, why can’t I be a specialist too?
Jun 25 2014
In case you haven’t already seen the news, July 22 is the deadline to submit your panel proposals for FtBConscience3.
Don’t want to run a panel but you still have ideas about what you want to see? That’s okay too. While proposals that come with a moderator and participants baked in save us time and energy and are viewed with gratitude, your con runners are happy to do some recruiting for topics you particularly want to see.
Jun 25 2014
I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.
- Repeat After Me–”As I said, I’ve been listening to Christian radio. I found it offensive–not because of my atheism, but because of my aesthetic commitment to proper rhyming verse.”
- And the mansplainer brigade rushes in–”Do you think that it is inherently rude for women to point out to men that their romantic/ sexual advances are unwanted, and that it’s sexist to focus their attention to women entirely on our appearance?”
- Salon and Jezebel: Honey Boo Boo and 8 reasons you should be ashamed of yourselves–”So when I see articles posted that use the word “monster” to describe a real little kid, I find it upsetting. When those articles purport to be doing it because they care about the girl and come from sources that I generally find reasonable and feminist minded, I become slightly apoplectic.”
- ELLIOT RODGER: MADMAN vs. MISOGYNIST (a response to JaclynGlenn) (video)
- Youtube Misogyny: Glenn and Rad on “Rodger Madman or Misogynist”?–”While we are on agenda, why would it be a bad thing to draw attention to misogyny culture provided you aren’t glossing over the real motive?”
The Wider Web
- Fellow Atheists: Quit Bragging About Our Prison Underrepresentation.–”Atheism is hardly the cause of white middle-to-upper-class people’s underrepresentation in the prison population, injustice in the criminal justice system is.”
- Women Remember: A Roundtable Interview–”I guess we caused some real destruction to the male notion that SF, like a good deal else, was theirs, all theirs, and only theirs. But I wonder if that notion is in fact destructible.”
- Twitter Unblocks Blasphemous Accounts–”Twitter announced it is working with Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, which is an organization that works to protect online activity.”
- Rape victims say Bob Jones University told them to repent–”After she shared her story, she said Berg asked whether she’d been drinking or smoking pot and if she’d been ‘impure.’ When he brought up her ‘root sin,’ she said she raced out of the building.”
- Video Games Need More Than Damsels and Dames–”But to understand business survival in the face of moral decisions is not to immediately accede to the business. We are still allowed to question why businesses make decisions that appear wrong, from a moral or social perspective. “
- Vasectomies Should Not Be Used as Punishment–”While it may not seem that forcing women to have children has all that much in common with trying to force a man not to have children, both are rooted in this unsavory ideal that the basic right to bodily autonomy should be abandoned in the face of other people’s disapproval of your sexual choices.”
- Editor’s note: Michael Gerson replaces George Will–”The change has been under consideration for several months, but a column published June 5, in which Mr. Will suggested that sexual assault victims on college campuses enjoy a privileged status, made the decision easier.”
- Free speech is a bad excuse for online creeps to threaten rape and murder–”The US supreme court announced on Monday that it will hear arguments in a case – Elonis v United States – about whether threats made on social media are protected by free speech.”
- The Missionary Movement to ‘Save’ Black Babies–”Clearly, however, Griffin didn’t seek welcome from the existing infrastructure of black and women’s health organizations in the neighborhood.”
- Man who lied about Apple’s working conditions will now explain the subjugation of women–”Daisey tells The Verge his show is not ‘explaining anything,’ it’s only his own experience. He also says the show is also ‘created extemporaneously’ and ‘that’s the main reason I didn’t go into great detail’ about what the monologue is about.”
- Sri Lanka moderate monk critical of anti-Muslim violence beaten–”For the past couple of years, Sinhalese Buddhist revivalist groups have been staging demonstrations heavily laden with anti-Muslim rhetoric, usually led by monks.”
- Why You Need to Close Your Open Offices Now–”Open offices were an extreme solution to begin with, and the data is in, folks: they don’t work. So cut your losses and close your offices before your embattled employees find a company that will.”
- On Valuing Women and Others – thoughts in progress–”We may not read books or stories or watch movies or plays or view art by other women, LGBT or Q people, people of color, anyone different from ourselves. Or we may read those stories or see that art once in a blue moon but we do not celebrate those works, those voices.”
- I swear–”Those rules about who swears and when? I find them kind of weird and interesting.”
- Stop Being So Sensitive, Penn Jillette.–”It’s rare to see someone shout, “Be Civil!” at the privileged majority (and certainly not at atheist heroes that major organizations like American Atheists want to cozy up to).”
- This Ex-Muslim Started a Tumblr for Women Who Have Abandoned the Hijab–”This is probably the strongest motivator for me—it is healing to have a space where we can talk about this, where we can have fun and take joy and pride in our bodies, reclaim them as ours, ours, and only ours.”
- Coverage of Women on SFF Blogs (2013)–”Our data for this year doesn’t support our thesis quite as strongly as in previous years, but the data still shows that unfortunately, women writers are not being reviewed at the same rate as men.”
- The Gender Gap in Tech Could Shrink If Google’s “Made With Code” Initiative Has Anything to Say About It–”‘She understands technology. And she likes using technology. But, she never expressed any interest in creating it herself.’”
- Welcome to griefbeyondbelief.org…–”You may just need a resource, or something to listen to or read. Or you may want to stay a while. It’s up to you how you use this space.”
- Wis. Gov. Scott Walker Accused Of Illegal Fundraising–”‘The scope of the criminal scheme under investigation is expansive,’ lead investigator Francis Schmitz wrote in the Dec. 9 court filing. ‘It includes criminal violations of multiple elections laws’ including filing false campaign reports, he wrote, according to the AP.”
- How to Read and Understand a Scientific Paper: A Step-by-Step Guide for Non-Scientists–”Reading a single paper may take you a very long time at first, but be patient with yourself. The process will go much faster as you gain experience.”
- A Fresh Cry Of Pain: Fat-Shaming In Science–”She told me that her team did a lot of collaborative work in this lab, and she didn’t need someone who was going to ‘eat more than their fair share of the pizza, if you know what I mean.’”
- WTF *happened* to the Arab World?–”I mean, not only did she shed her hijab and transcend emboldened stigma and ostracization for it–she became a fucking *idol*.”
- State finds illegal sterilizations of female inmates–”Of the 144 tubal ligations performed on inmates from fiscal years 2005-06 to 2012-13, auditors found, more than a quarter were done without lawful consent, according to the report by State Auditor Elaine Howle.”
Jun 24 2014
Sean Carroll has a pair of posts up, one of which is aptly titled “Physicists Should Stop Saying Silly Things about Philosophy“. Both posts are concerned with the reasons physicists often give to dismiss philosophy as a discipline and why those reasons are wrong. Both are worth reading.
It is also worth pointing out that Carroll is not focusing on physicists simply because he himself is a physicist who relies on the work of philosophers. It’s a problem common to a lot of physicists and more common among physicists than it is among scientists of other disciplines. Think of three well-known physicists, then check Carroll’s list of dismissive big names. Look at the amount of overlap between the two lists. Now come up with another group of people educated in a single topic who are similarly dismissive of philosophy.
As I said elsewhere when James Croft pondered the proper response to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s comments on philosophy.
I’m not even so sure I see it as *his* failing as much as I see it as a common failing of a physics education. Modern U.S. physics education at the college level and beyond is notorious for producing scientists who can’t manage the complexities involved in biology, much less the social sciences. Bob Park once told a physics professor friend of mine that there is no pseudoscience so ridiculous you can’t find a PhD physicist who will support it. (Though in retrospect, I’m guessing he would have made an exception for the crankery that gets mailed to physics departments all the time.)
There is a simplicity to physics, in the sense of limited variables, that there isn’t in most of the rest of the world. In many places, that simplicity is embraced as scientific superiority, and that sense of superiority is passed on with the basic knowledge of physics. It is entirely unsurprising that we continue to see physicists saying silly things about philosophy.
Not that this tells me anything about how to address the problem.
Holler if you have any ideas.
Jun 24 2014
It was 2001, September. I had tickets to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the end of the month for my birthday. Then something a little bigger than a concert happened, and air traffic into the U.S. looked (rightly) like a very bad idea. The U.S. tour was postponed.
Those of us with tickets were told we could get a refund then or hold our tickets to be exchanged when the show was rescheduled. I chose to wait, though I had no idea how long it would be. As it turned out, it was a very long time indeed. Oh, it was only another six months before the rescheduled concert, but I was never notified of the new date. Being busy with my job, I didn’t stumble across the information on my own. I found out about it by reading a review in the paper the day after it occurred.
I thought about that recently, when I received the confirmation that I had press credentials to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds June 21, 2014 at the State Theater. It felt like righting an old (if petty) wrong.
I thought about it again when we stopped at the box office last night to pick up our tickets and no one could find them.
I reviewed Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds for the Twin Cities Daily Planet over the weekend. It wasn’t the easiest concert review I’ve written, though not for anything like writer’s block. You can read the review here.
Jun 23 2014
Do you live in the Los Angeles area? Are you a woman looking for for an atheist group that you don’t have to worry will be unfriendly to women or to feminist viewpoints? You only need to hang on one more week.
The Los Angeles Women’s Atheist and Agnostic Group (LAWAAG) is a group for people who primarily identify as women who live a secular lifestyle or are in the process of leaving religion. LAWAAG focuses on building community and friendship among freethinking women and organizes activist and community outreach art projects. We welcome new members at our monthly meetup.
LAWAAG was formed in 2014 by multi-media artist, Amy Davis Roth with the goal of fostering a safe and supportive space for those who primarily identify as women, who are leaving faith, or who already live as part of a secular community.
Our group meets the first Tuesday of every month at 7pm at The Center For Inquiry, Los Angeles. Along with regular monthly meetups, the group also organizes art, activism and outreach projects and works towards building community and support for women without faith.
In order to foster a safe space that acknowledges and can focus on the specific issues women encounter and deal with in a secular community, we currently only accept members who primarily identify as women. However, we often participate in and sponsor co-ed events. We welcome new members at our monthly meetup and welcome all to attend our publicized co-ed events. Please go to our events page for a list of upcoming and current events.
The group is free to members but has costs to run. Amy had a sale over the weekend to benefit the group and, being Amy, she’ll probably have another. Still, you can donate at the group’s site to help them fund their activities.
Jun 23 2014
When I told friends I was starting a new job automating data processing, they wanted to know what language I’d be using. When I told them I’d be working with Visual Basic for Excel, I received more than one funny look. When I told them what kinds of problems I’d be solving, several people told me that Access or an SQL database was designed for doing those things.
Yes, this is absolutely true. I’ve used databases extensively for just these sorts of things. However, that’s missing the point entirely.