I get e-mail: Ben Stein didn’t actually write this edition

Good old forwards from the family — without them, how would Snopes survive?  This particular one is, of course, on Snopes for us.  Snopes kindly explains that no, Ben Stein didn’t write the vast majority of it.  Unfortunately, the message is sent around because people agree with the message, not because they love Ben Stein.  Without further ado, here you go:

Only  hope we find GOD again before it is too late ! !

The  following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday  Morning  Commentary.

My confession:

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a  Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for  being Christians.  I think people who believe in God are  sick and tired of getting pushed around, period.  I have no  idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly  atheist country.  I can’t find it in the Constitution and I  don’t like it being shoved down my throat…

Or maybe I  can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we  should worship celebrities and we aren’t allowed to worship God  as we understand Him?  I guess that’s a sign that I’m  getting old, too.  But there are a lot of us who are  wondering where these celebrities came from and where the   America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we  send to one another for a laugh, this is a little  different:  This is not intended to be a joke; it’s not  funny, it’s intended to get you thinking.
   In  light of recent events… terrorists attack, school shootings,  etc..  I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she  was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she  didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.  Then  someone said you better not read the Bible in school…   The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and  love your neighbor as yourself.  And we said  OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our  children when they misbehave, because their little personalities  would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr.  Spock’s son committed suicide).  We said an expert should  know what he’s talking about..  And we said  okay..

Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have  no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it  doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and  themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard  enough, we can figure it out.  I think it has a great deal  to do with ‘WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.’

Funny how simple it is  for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to  hell.  Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but  question what the Bible says.  Funny how you can send  ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when  you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think  twice about sharing.  Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and  obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public  discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing yet?

Funny how when you forward  this message, you will not send it to many on your address list  because you’re not sure what they believe, or what they will  think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more  worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks  of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit.

If not, then just discard it… no one will know you  did.  But, if you discard this thought process, don’t sit  back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My Best Regards,  Honestly and  respectfully,

Ben  Stein

Love you too, fam.

Zombies in Pop Culture: The 2 books that started it — Bite Club

Many people think of the zombie as a cinematic invention, but the zombie story has a long tradition in literature as well. Most of the greatest films about zombies were either based upon or inspired by novels. All of these films depend heavily on the influence of just two books.

Shockingly, neither of these books presents zombies exactly as we are used to them. The first introduces the term and the spelling of the word with an (e) as opposed to just an (i). The second book introduces the apocalyptic nature of the zombie plague.

So begins my first blog post on Bite Club — the blog from Shit Zombies Say.  Go over and read the rest.

Tonight at 7PM EST – The Ashley F Miller Show Episode 3

Join me, Kate Donovan, and Adam Lee of Daylight Atheism as we talk:

Politics: Sterilization of Prisoners in California

Media: The Lone Ranger and the representation of Native Americans in film

Guest choice: The stigma of mental illness

You can RSVP to the “event” here and, when the hangout is on-air, it should send you a link of the YouTube page, or just come back here at 7 and the YouTube link will be up.

This is filmed in front of a live internet audience — if you’ve got input feel free to get in touch before or during the show by commenting here, on youtube, or on the event page.

It will also be edited and released as a podcast.

Podcast website: http://ashleyfmiller.libsyn.com/webpage

Podcast RSS: http://ashleyfmiller.libsyn.com/rss

Podcast on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-ashley-f-miller-show/id666564480

A List of Arbitrary Length: True Brain Facts

Arbitrary and in no particular order!

1. Left-brain, Right brain?

No. Staaaaaaaaaahp
While it is true that in most adults language is localized in the left hemisphere of the brain, (but not for 40% of left handed people! About 20% have right-side localization and another 20% have bilateral language) and it appears that the right side of the brain handles processing new situations….that’s a far cry from being “left-brained” or “right-brained”. Wanna learn actual really cool stuff about brain hemispheres? Go look at the case of split-brain patients.

2. Your brain is not mostly made up of neurons.

Neurons are really neat, and they obviously have an impact on your thoughts. But have you heard of neuroglia? They outnumber neurons 10 to 1. That’s right, for every neuron, you have ten glia. Their functions aren’t quite so earth shaking, but they’re the streetsweepers and maids and mechanics, keeping the whole system running smoothly. Wikipedia does a nice summary.

3. Hot water, cold water? Your brain is not so good at this.

Sometimes when you run your hand under very hot water, it seems almost cold for a split second. If you’re like me, you shiver when you step into a hot bath or jacuzzi. When researchers had two unlabeled pipes, one with hot water and one with cold water running through them, patients who briefly held one couldn’t say which it was. Why?

The surface area problem: hot and cold nerve receptors are located in too close proximity, and will sometimes fire incorrectly if overstimulated. Known as paradoxical cold (when a cold receptor fires at high heat) and paradoxical warmth (when a warm receptor fires at cold temperatures), your brain can override with other knowledge. For instance, I am quite sure that my bath is steaming and the rest of my body is perceiving the heat rising off of it. So, I scrap the notion that I could be stepping into an icebath and feel warmth. Here’s a good summary at Mental Floss.

4. Neurons migrate.

After they’re created, neurons have to move in the right direction and make the right connections. It’s possible that they make the journey by following radial glia (Oh, the undervalued glial cells). When incorrect migration occurs, you get all sorts of severe disorders.

SKEPCHICKCON TOMORROW OMG

convergence2013logoOn a scale of stoked, I’m like a 9.  All of the bestest people in the world are going to be at CONvergence.  I, of course, still need to pack.  I’ve spent all day editing my Podcast instead — it’s on iTunes now, which I think makes it official.

Goals for SkepchickCON:

1. Look professional on the panels

2. Convince awesome people to come on my podcast/show

3. Look fancy

4. Hang out with the awesomest people.

I have also found a new apartment in the DC area, so hopefully I will soon be back to making ukulele videos more regularly.  I am currently debating whether I should be taking my ukulele with me to Minneapolis or not.  Yeppers.

SCHEDULE:

Thursday, July 4

11:30pm

 It seems like the villain is British way too much for coincidence. What is it about being British that makes it appealing to have villains British? Panelists: Emma Newman, Ashley Miller, Lee Harris, Emma Bull, Derek Mahr

Friday, July 5

9:30am

It’s a fantasy novel for atheists! How does that work? Panelists: Ashley Miller, Ruth Berman, Heina Dadabhoy, Sasha Katz, Chris Stenzel

2:00pm

Although much YA literature with female main characters has become best-selling in the last few years, the portrayal of the heroines of these stories is problematic. What are examples of good portrayals, both recent and old. Panelists: Michael Levy, Kathy Sullivan, Joan Sullivan, Jody Wurl, Ashley Miller

Sunday, July 7

11:00am

 Stigma of Mental Illness 

 Many of the people you know (and some of us!) are mentally ill by the standard medical definition. How do we cope? How can it be that people with mental illness are still happy, productive members of society? Panelists: Emma Newman, Ashley Miller, Kate Johnson, Steve Bentley, Molly Glover

Tonight at 7PM EST – The Ashley F Miller Show Episode 2

Join me, JT Eberhard of What Would JT Do?, and Nicholas Thurkettle of his eponymous blog as we talk:

Politics: Wendy Davis

Media: World War Z and the political nature of zombies

Guest choice: the surprise success of The Heat.

You can RSVP to the “event” here and it should send you a link of the YouTube page, or just come back here at 7 and the YouTube link will be up.

This is filmed in front of a live internet audience — if you’ve got input feel free to get in touch before or during the show by commenting here, on youtube, or on the event page.

It will also be edited and released as a podcast.

Podcast website: http://ashleyfmiller.libsyn.com/webpage

Podcast RSS: http://ashleyfmiller.libsyn.com/rss

Podcast on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-ashley-f-miller-show/id666564480

DNA Test Reveals I am not 100% White

Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 10.27.31 PM

I am a huge fan of the website 23andme.com, which analyses your DNA.  I’ve learned a lot of interesting things from the site in terms of what my genes say about how i look (I likely have blue eyes and reddish-blonde hair!), what diseases I am likely to face (BRCA negative, but it looks bad for Restless Leg Syndrome), but the most interesting thing I’ve learned about myself has been about my heritage.

I was unsurprised to see that I was more Neanderthal than average, as that’s fairly common when you’re European.  But I was a little surprised to discover that I am not 100% European.  In fact, if I had been living in a lot of the Americas in the last 200 years, I wouldn’t have been considered white.

Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 10.27.58 PM

In the colonial Americas — from Haiti to New Orleans to Spanish-America — race mixing was very common and, because they thought race mattered, they actually had specialized terms for those who were a certain percentage of different heritages.  I spent a lot of time researching some of the more obscure names for people of mixed-blood, to see if i could find one that got as distant as I appear to be from my nearest Sub-Saharan African ancestor (assuming it’s just one) — probably seven generations away, as I am at about 1/128th percentage.

It took a long time.  While it was easy to see that one of my great-grandparents would have had names for their percentage of African heritage, it was less clear whether I’d simply be considered fully white or just have had the one drop rule applied and been considered “Colored.”

My answer came from Haiti. In Haiti, they felt that people were made out of 128 parts, or 7 generations of heritage, and so they had the longest list of names for partial African descent.

      1. Myself 1/128 Sang-mêlé
      2. Parent 1/64 Also Sang-mêlé
      3. Grandparent 1/32 Mustefino, Quateronné, Demi-Meamolouc
      4. Great-Grandparent 1/16 Mustee, Meamolouc, Hexadecaroon, Quintroon
      5. 2x Great-Grandparent 1/8 Octoroon or Métis
      6. 3x Great Grandparent 1/4 Quadroon
      7. 4x Great Grandparent 1/2 Mulatto

harry-potter-et-le-prince-de-sang-melePer Haitian tradition, I am sang-mêlé, which literally translates as mixed blood.  The term is French and is used in the title of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”.  I assume this means I am, in some metaphysical way, Snape.

Clearly I fail the one-drop rule, but it’s interesting to note how recently my family would not have been legally considered white even in relatively lax race laws.  A 1970 law in New Orleans stated that 1/32 African was enough to make you legally considered black.  Considering that my father’s mother is from New Orleans, if the heritage is from her (which seems as likely as from anyone) she would have been considered black.  One of my parents is as black, in terms of heritage, as Walter White, the civil rights activist who ran the NAACP for 25 years.

"I am a Negro. My skin is white, my eyes are blue, my hair is blonde. The traits of my race are nowhere visible upon me." - Walter White

“I am a Negro. My skin is white, my eyes are blue, my hair is blonde. The traits of my race are nowhere visible upon me.” – Walter White

All of which is to say that my father’s disownment of me for dating outside of my race is not only absurd on the face of it, but hypocritical and inaccurate as well.

I should point out, of course, that I was raised as white as one can be, and this DNA discovery doesn’t really offer any new particular insight into other people’s experiences nor would I claim it to.  It is interesting, but I am so very privileged in terms of race that I want to make sure I am clear that this in no way erases that privilege.  I may be “sang-mêlé” and I am happy to add this information to my personal narrative of myself, but in this culture I am the beneficiary of white culture.  That same culture makes me feel like I should do something meaningful with the information rather than just use it as part of some navel-gazing exercise, but I am unsure what that something could be.

On the one hand, it seems like the racial history of one-drop rule and Walter White’s example might make it a politically meaningful statement for a ginger of small-but-measurable African heritage to claim African-Americanness or even mixed race, on the other hand I feel like that’s claiming a position of oppression that I obviously have never and will never face.  I don’t know, I’m not sure there’s a correct answer, but it is the thought puzzle I’ve been given by my DNA.