TAM Sunday: I give a presentation to a zillion people

I got up early to get ready to see the papers, and to make sure I was there to watch everyone else’s papers because they usually aren’t crowded.  TAMmers leave in droves on Sunday before the event is over and the papers were really poorly advertised this year.  There was no program, there was no schedule that anyone had access to, our names weren’t printed anywhere, certainly our subjects weren’t printed anywhere.  It was poorly done, I have to say — we’re not headliners, but we are people who still had to pay despite the fact that we’re talking.  The least they could have done is put our names somewhere so people would know what they were listening to.

Anyway, I went to the papers.  I was fairly nervous, but it was OK, I was the last to go, so I had to sit through 6 other papers before it was my turn and, unfortunately, the paper before me ate into my time a little, so I had to shorten mine up on the fly.  Which was also fine, because I could see anything thanks to the lights reflecting off of my glasses, so I couldn’t really read my notes anyway.

It went over very well.  The presentation was about the importance of using emotion and recognizing emotion in discussions, using the failure of the LGBT side in the Prop 8 campaign as an example of how emotional messanging works.  There’s a huge tone debate in the movement at the moment, for those of you who don’t remember DBAD, because some people think that other people are too mean or confrontational.  The point of my speech was to say that emotional content is one of our most useful tools, and being a dick creates an emotional response.  It’s a useful tool in the tool box.  But most importantly, just because the movement is about logic and rationality that doesn’t mean that ignoring emotion is the right way to go about convincing others — ignoring human emotion is irrational.  Including within the movement — skeptics are not immune from being human, we should start taking that into account better when we argue.

I got a large applause when I was done, and after I left the stage a little crowd of people came over to thank me or talk with me about the issues.  It was very cool.  I was expecting some backlash — perhaps from being on the internet for too long — I thought some people would tell me that emotions have no place in rational debates or that they didn’t appreciate my assumption that everyone in the room was pro-gay rights, but the responses were great.

I was too keyed up to sit through the next presentation, especially as the World Cup Final was about to take place, so I just went into the hallway and talked to people who came up to me to say thanks about my presentation.  To pat myself on the back a little, I’m going to write some of the Twitter responses:

kefox: Great talk this morning on communicating w/emotion. Our side is smarter & really ought to be the Jedi masters of this.

Tasutari: Ashley could easily have given a full talk – good slides, good content, well presented.  Plus, there was a Joss Whedon quote.

charlesj: Ashley tells us what we need to hear, continuing from Tavris’ talk yesterday

jennifurret: Ashley nailed it on using emotions when arguing skepticism.  Sometimes you need to be a dick!

TCTheater: Ashley is kicking ass and taking names.  Excellent capstone to papers segment.

SkeptiCareBear: Propaganda bad, but lack of all emotion worse.  Good talk by Ashley.

StevenTheWonky: Ashley is kicking ass.

ArcheoWebby: A presenter that knows how to use a computer.  Nice.  Good Job Ashley.

So that was awesome.  Then I went to watch the soccer game and it was so depressing, partially because there was no food at the bar and I was starving to death while also watching the US kill themselves — I’m happy for Japan, but we lost that game because we made a lot of stupid, careless mistakes and couldn’t get shots on Target.  My heart goes out to Abby Wambach.

Then I heard the end of the diversity in skepticism panel, which I sort of lost interest in thanks to DJ seeming to think that getting conservatives and religious people in the movement should be some sort of a priority.  I’m with Jamila on the whole getting active about causes that skeptic people should be able to see are ridiculous — the war on drugs, the prison policy.

Sean Faircloth gave essentially the same speech he’d given at the SCA Summit and it went over very well.  He’s a very good cheerleader.

Then there was the closing remarks from Randi and we were done.  I ran into Randi in the hallway and thanked him for letting me speak and he said he’d heard I’d done very well.  I’m sure he was just saying that, but it was still awesome.  I went down to the Del Mar and hung out with a lot of people who were still there and then went to Penn and Teller over at the Rio.  Boy are Las Vegas cabs expensive, by the way.  We were in the first seat in the Mezzanine, which was actually excellent because it was easier to see how they were doing the tricks.  A lot of their tricks have been on their show or on other shows, but it was still a lot of fun.  And then someone in the line for cabs recognized me and thanked me for my talk, so people at the Rio cab line probably thought I was some important person.  Buahaha.

Then I packed and went to bed.

Monday, I got on the airplane and swallowed my crown.  And I’m freaking out about it.  Yep.

The Glorious Beauty of People Being Dicks

I give you the 100 Greatest Movie Insults of All Time:

There’s a name for you ladies, but it isn’t used in high society… outside of a kennel.

11-15 75 Book Challenge – Lemony Snicket and Werleman

11. God Hates You, Hate Him Back – CJ Werleman

There’s a lot of interesting stuff in this book, but I can’t say that I really enjoyed it that mut tch.  I’m a big fan of snark and well-worded contempt — I’m pretty sure that’s generally considered a failing, particularly by the DBAD crowd, but I found myself really turned off by the tone of this book.  I suppose I should have known based on the title, buhe lack of restraint or particular cleverness in some of the commentary just bored me.  Perhaps because I was reading Jason Long’s book at the same time or perhaps because I had read most of the other sources he uses.  It does a very thorough job, chapter by chapter through the Bible, which is its greatest strength, and I certainly learned some interesting things, particularly about the New Testament, which I’ve never managed to absorb very thoroughly.  Werleman leans very heavily on Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris in this book, which I found tedious at times.  There were also some fairly basic grammatical and spelling errors.  It does heartily support my opinion that the judeochristianislamomormon god is a huge asshole.  If hell is the absence of that god’s capricious loathsome presence, sign me up.  C

12. The Vile Village – Lemony Snicket

Back in the dark days of thesis pre-pro at film school, a traumatic time I’ve almost succeeded in erasing from my memory, I started listening to the Lemony Snicket books on tape because I’d really enjoyed the film.  I only got through the sixth in the 13 book long series before film school ate my brains.  I never went back to finish them, but I found the kindle copies for free, so I thought I’d pick them back up and hopefully I remembered what I’d listened to three years ago.  Surprisingly, I remembered it like I’d just finished the books yesterday, which makes me worry about my actual ability to scrub the horrors of film school from my brain.  If you’ve been under a rock, the series follows the Baudelaire orphans who stand to inherit a large fortune but are constantly hunted by the evil Count Olaf, who wants to steal it.  They have a lot of dark adventures which inevitably lead to tragedy and loss.  They also slowly uncover evidence of a massive conspiracy that they are somehow at the center of.  In The Vile Village they’ve escaped from Olaf at a horrible boarding school, but he’s kidnamed their only friends, the Quagmire triplets, two welathy orphans who lost their parents and third triplet in a mysterious fire.  The Baudelaire’s are adopted by an entire village which is filled with crows and which proceeds to turn them into chore slaves.  They get messages from the triplets and proceed to rescue them and nearly escape on a balloon — the Quagmire’s make it to freedom, but the Baudelaire’s do not, and are forced to run across a great nothingness to escape Olaf and the village.  These books are hard to review — they’re gothic mystery books for kids, fast-paced, full of adventure, and very dark — if that sounds appealing then you’ll love them.  A

A cloud of dust is not a beautiful thing to look at. Very few painters have done portraits of huge clouds of dust or included them in their landscapes or still lifes. Film directors rarely choose huge clouds of dust to play the lead roles in romantic comedies, and as far as my research has shown, a huge cloud of dust has never placed higher than twenty-fifth in a beauty pageant.

13. The Hostile Hospital – Lemony Snicket

In this episode, the orphans end up at a hospital trying to learn more about VFD, the mysterious organization it seems both Olaf and their parents were a part of.  Olaf finds them and tries to cut off Violet’s head, but the orphans discover that someone survived the fire and end up escaping by getting into the trunk of Olaf’s car.  THis isn’t quite as riveting and the extras not as colorful or lovable as in the other books.  B+

There are many things in this world I do not know. I do not know how butterflies get out of their cocoons without damaging their wings. I do not know why anyone would boil vegetables when roasting them is much tastier. I do not know how to make olive oil, and I do not know why dogs bark before an earthquake, and I do not know why some people voluntarily choose to climb mountains where it is freezing and difficult to breathe, or live in the suburbs, where the coffee is watery and all of the houses look alike.

14. The Carnivorous Carnival – Lemony Snicket

The kids end up at a carnival with freaks and a fortune teller.  They disguise themselves as freaks and find an alley who ends up turning on them and then getting eaten by lions.  They are kidnapped by Olaf and stolen away after being forced to set fire to the carnival and to a room which may have answers to many of their questions.  THis book introduces some moral ambiguity, which becomes a key theme for the rest of the series, and the characters in the books therefore become a lot more interesting, complex and confusing.  A

The sad truth is that the truth is sad.

Miracles are like meatballs because nobody knows what they are made of, where they came from or how often they should appear.

15. The Slippery Slope – Lemony Snicket

This is my favorite of the series.  It introduces Quigley, the previously thought dead Quagmire triplet and survivor of the fire, and the kids learn a lot about the VFD organization.  There’s a little young romance, plenty of adventure and mystery, and more moral questions about the backgrounds and fates of the characters.  The kids escape Olaf, but get separated from Quigley at the end.  A

Having an aura of menace is like having a pet weasel, because you rarely meet someone who has one, and when you do it makes you want to hide under the coffee table.

In support of hate

I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it. - Roger Ebert

The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity - George Bernard Shaw

Anyone who hates children and animals can’t be all bad. – WC Fields

He has all the virtues I dislike, and none of the vices I admire. – Winston Churchill

We’re dicks! We’re reckless, arrogant, stupid dicks. And the Film Actors Guild are pussies. And Kim Jong Il is an asshole. Pussies don’t like dicks, because pussies get fucked by dicks. But dicks also fuck assholes: assholes that just want to shit on everything. Pussies may think they can deal with assholes their way. But the only thing that can fuck an asshole is a dick, with some balls. The problem with dicks is: they fuck too much or fuck when it isn’t appropriate – and it takes a pussy to show them that. But sometimes, pussies can be so full of shit that they become assholes themselves… because pussies are an inch and half away from ass holes. I don’t know much about this crazy, crazy world, but I do know this: If you don’t let us fuck this asshole, we’re going to have our dicks and pussies all covered in shit! – Team America

DBAD Follow Up

Why do I suddenly have the urge to build a giant phallus out of straw? - Tracy

I am getting a fair amount of attention from the skeptic community for my post about Phil Plait’s Don’t Be A Dick Speech.  I don’t really have much more to say than what I said originally.

The really funny thing about this debate is that I suspect the only thing anyone actually disagrees on is whether Phil Plait was clear enough in his definition of dick.  Everyone thinks that being nice to people when you’re trying to change their minds is appropriate, and everyone thinks that being a funny asshole about ideas and to Kent Hovind is appropriate.  It’s just that the Dick Proponents, where I’ve found myself along with PZ and Dawkins, think that Phil should have been clearer about what he thought was appropriate or not, and the Dick Haters think Phil’s point was self-evident and everyone should be able to intuit his exact meaning.

Basically the Dick Proponents would like some evidence, examples and clarifications, and the Dick Haters take it on faith that Phil meant what they think he meant.  Hmm.

;D

I agree with Greta Christina, let firebrands be firebrands, let the diplomats be diplomats.

Phil Plait Says Don’t Be A Dick

OK, so, Mr. Plait, who I am told is normally super super awesome and does genuinely seem like a nice guy, really irritated the shit out of me during TAM. And I say this with as much respect as possible and I acknowledge that this is my first exposure to him, and that people who know him and his work took what he was saying a bit differently than did I. He was basically saying that skeptics have a tone problem and more flies with honey and stop being assholes.

My level of being incredibly irritated with him for trying to be the Skeptic Tone Police has subsided a bit, partially because I think he didn’t mean it the way he said it. I think he was using general language because his argument was a little sloppy, not because he genuinely thinks no one should ever raise their voice in angry disagreement. To me, however, it sounded like he was saying “Christopher Hitchens, PZed and Dawkins have all got to stop being so strident and angry and dickish. Why can’t we all just get along?” But, apparently he was saying “The JREF forums are fucking hellish”. But I don’t read the JREF forums, so I wouldn’t know.

I agree that, generally speaking, you should be nice to someone you’re trying to convince if you’re having an argument with them to convince them. But, and this is important, that’s not the only reason you have arguments. Sometimes it’s to convince everyone else that you’re right, regardless of what the other person thinks. The internet is an amazing place where your arguments are all public. Sometimes humiliating someone who has a stupid point of view has the effect of convincing everyone else that you are right. Particularly if you can do it in a hilarious way. Hitchens made me OK with self-identifying atheist simply because he was such a hilariously snobby jerkface.

The entire speech was somewhat patronizing — here’s daddy figure Phil Plait telling us all to mind our Ps and Qs and not be so abrasive because daddy doesn’t like that. Pissed me off something hardcore having to sit through him lecturing me about being too mean to people. I felt the same way in a thread over on Pharyngula where people were saying women didn’t like how abrasive the skeptics/atheists are. It’s not true, I love it, it’s entertaining, it’s informative, it’s fun. I’m not a weak little girl, daddy doesn’t get to tell me to play nice with others.

And the fact is most of the people he’s talking about are people who are incredibly nice, polite and respectful in person. He’s got a problem with their online behavior. And frankly, it’s the fucking internet, that’s how people are and to fucking yell at a bunch of people who are really into the same thing you are because you don’t like the tone they take is a bit much.

AND I take issue with him treating skepticism as something we should be in charge of proselytizing. If I want to have an angry discussion about people hacking off little girls privates and be a complete dick to anyone who disagrees with me, I get to do that. Will that change people’s minds, I dunno, but it’s my way of dealing with the information and skepticism isn’t some fucking religion that has rules. His speech, more than anything, makes me a bit reticent to call myself a skeptic rather than an atheist because it makes me think he wants it to be treated as a religion, and that makes me very squeamish.

I know that this wasn’t the first skeptic event for most of the people in the crowd, but it basically was for me… and now I’m quite skeptical of this whole “Skeptic Movement”. I’m an uppity ginger, and I’m not joining any “movement” that tells me that who I am is not OK.

And, as I said, I don’t think that that was what he intended, I suspect it was at least partially him venting about behavior he witnesses online, and, as he doesn’t know me, I’m 80% sure it was not intended as a personal affront. Which is good, because then he’d be guilty of the behavior he’s denouncing. And probably he didn’t mean it was never OK to raise your voice in a crowded room, but that’s sure what it sounded like to me.

What’s wrong with guys?

I hate to ask that question because, generally speaking, I get along pretty well with dudes.

There isn’t a general parking lot where I work, just one for the higher ups.  Because of that, I have to park a couple blocks away wherever I can find street parking.  This is not a great situation, not because I mind the walk, but for whatever reason this particular neighborhood, which is quite nice, has some very not nice traffic in the form of guys who like to harass women.

Up to now, this has only really been a problem in the evenings, after dark, and if I leave particularly late or am parked particularly far away, I can usually get someone to walk with me.  Which I never do because that seems pathetic.  I have been followed by cars, honked at, and screamed at.  It’s usually just a brief scare and it passes.

Not that it matters, and it certainly shouldn’t matter, but I don’t dress provocatively.  80% of the time I’m wearing some variation of jeans, t-shirt, ponytail and glasses.

Anyway, the point is that the summer has been a welcome respite because it stays light longer, so I walk to my car from work in the daylight and it’s all good.  I haven’t been bothered in ages.

This morning, I parked not terribly far away, and someone in a gold forerunner not in very good shape honked at me and waved like crazy as I was walking through a crosswalk.  I looked at them, it was some guy I didn’t recognize and who, even at a distance, looked skeezy.  To be fair, honking at a girl automatically puts you in the skeez camp, even if it is 10AM.

I crossed over another street and saw that the forerunner was driving too fast up that street and quickened my pace a little to be well out of the way.  The guy had driven around like 5 blocks to get back to me.  The guy started screaming at me, but I just ignored him since he was behind me, hoping that he’d go away.

The guy swearved around traffic and pulled into someone’s driveway to cut me off.  He very nearly ran me over.

Creep: Hey, I’m the guy who honked at you.
Me: Yeah, I got that.
C: Do you have a boyfriend?
M: Yes.
(The inflection here has to imply the imaginary boyfriend is a linebacker, very violent, and the jealous type)
C: Does he make you happy?
M: Yes.
C: That’s too bad, I was hoping I could take you out some time.
M: Sorry, you can’t.
C: You could still go out though, right? I mean —
M: Really I couldn’t
C: Do you have a sister?
M: No, I have a brother, I doubt you’d be interested.

Do you have a sister? WTF SERIOUSLY?! Who goes around picking up women on the side of the road?

The Imaginary Boyfriend

The Imaginary Boyfriend

Anyway, this all reminds me of a post on Pharyngula yesterday, about why there aren’t more women who go to conventions. It’s because women deal with shit like that on a regular basis and walking into a room dominated by strange guys by yourself isn’t fun. It’s not fair to the vast majority of guys who aren’t super creepy, but it’s true. Even if only one guy in the room is super creepy, if none of the other people have your back, many girls decide that it’s not worth it.

And if one person comments that I’m lucky to have the attention, I will find you and bring a baseball bat.  I don’t own a baseball bat, but I’m seriously reconsidering my position on that.