SkepTech is This Weekend!

The past month has been super busy, but this week I’ve been even more blog-lax than my usual – my mom had to remind me that I hadn’t posted our Cross-Country Connections! I’ve been obsessed with reading and preparing for my talk at the community’s newest skeptical conference:

SkepTech Banner reads "SkepTech"

It’s being held at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and is sponsored by the peeps at Campus Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists (CASH) and the Secular Student Alliance Affiliate at St. Cloud State University (SSA@SCSU).

I’m giving a talk on the Food and Drug Administration. When I started thinking about topics to present I found myself gravitating toward my favorite skeptical topic: alternative medicine. I wanted to understand WHY, when I walk into Walgreens, do I see homeopathic preparations in the same aisle as cold medicine – you know, things that (for the most part) do what they claim they can do? Why hasn’t the FDA – a regulatory agency charged with making sure our food and drug supply is safe and efficacious – done anything about these “natural remedies”? Thanks to groups like Science-Based Medicine and CFI articles like this, I had a casual understanding of the FDA and why things like alternative medicine and dodgy “healing devices” like this are on the market, but I wanted to know more!

The title of my talk is FDA – Where Are You? and I’m scheduled for the the bright and early Sunday 9:30am time slot. But the fun actually starts on Friday evening at 5pm: There’s going to be a gaming fundraiser, some mind-reading by David Gamut, and two talks that night – Jesse Galef and Zach Weinersmith. Speaking on Saturday and Sunday is this rockstar lineup: Ben Blanchard, Greta Christina, JT Eberhard, Tim Farley, Geeks Without God, Maggie Koerth-Baker, Scott Lohman, Hemant Mehta, Brendan Murphy, PZ Myers, and Stephanie Zvan.

You can view the entire schedule and get descriptions of the panels on the SkepTech website’s schedule page.

EDIT: I’m also participating on two panels on Sunday! I’m a panelist for “Real World vs. Cyberspace Activism” and I’m moderating “The Implications of Brain Tech”.

So that’s where I’ve been. Oh, and Cross-Country Connections will be up in just a few minutes :)

1000 Posts

This is the 1000th post for Biodork. Some of those 1000 were contributed by others. Some pieces were bigger, more meaningful and thought out than others. But by hook or crook, here we are at one thousand! So:

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank 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One thousand thanks to all of you who have made 1000 blog posts such an enjoyable milestone.

Here’s to 1000 more.

Bits and Pieces

First – whadaya think of the new theme? After spending a few days with it, I have to say that it’s growing on me. I think it looks more sleek and modern than the old primary blue and yellow that this replaced. If you haven’t had a chance to report bugs on other FtB blogs, put ‘em in the comments and I’ll pass them up the chain.

Second – the radio show I work with, Atheists Talk, recently put up a new Facebook page and Twitter account. Pretty please consider liking us on FB and following us on Twitter because more numbers help make us look awesome to potential sponsors and guests. Oh yeah – and because you’ll get the occasional sweet update about show guests and photos from the studio and stuff like that :D

Third – Someone wrote an article that I really disagree with on western attitudes about female genital mutilation. I really, really disagree with it. Really. A lot. Essentially it’s a cultural relativism argument, and all I’m hearing is “cutting up girl parts isn’t really so bad because they want to do it so quit being all judgmental ” But the early comments on the article give me hope for the human race (if you get over there quickly you might get to read them before the ZOMGWhatAboutMaleCircumcision!? derailing starts!) and Zinnia Jones has done an analysis of the article here that picks apart why the author’s arguments fall short.

FourthProlife advertisements on coat hangers. Oh hell no.

FifthAnti-abortion Christian reality TV show featuring women who regret their abortions. Repeat: Oh hell no.

Sixth – Kitty is back from dental surgery. Poor thing had to have three teeth extracted. It’s my own damn fault for not bringing her in more often, and I feel really shitty about it. I have to force feed her painkiller drops for the next three days, and what appears from her reaction to be nasty-tasting antibiotics for the next 10 days. She’s a little dizzy and confused right now, but she’s managed to eat some soft food and use the litter box, so there’s that.

Chasing the dragon – kitty in a buprenorphine daze.

Prada is 13 years old and I had somehow worked myself into a tizzy that she was going to die in surgery because surely she’s too old to survive general anesthesia!!! Thanks, asshole brain. Way to put that non-existent veterinary license to good use. At some point I caught myself thinking about how it sucks that I don’t believe in an afterlife, how I don’t have the comfort of thinking that she might die but-at-least-she’ll-be-in-a-better-place. Actually, that was a turning point in the emotional roller coaster that was my morning while I waited for the vet to call with an update on the surgery. The fact that there is only this one life, that there is no better place that she’ll go when she dies, that I won’t get to see her again in heaven, that there are no do-overs…those thoughts made me more determined that I would do what I could to get her home and healthy again. Even the life of a little cat seems more significant when I remember that this is the only one she gets, and the only one I get to share with her.

New Faces

Three things this today:

Minnesota State Primaries

If you live in Minnesota you have an opportunity to participate in the State Primary. The biggies on the ballot are US Representative and US Senator. There were also school board and judicial nominations on my particular ballot.

Another Thank You

Thank you to a new Kiva lending buddy. Since I posted my initial challenge there have been three people who have been willing, able and wanting to participate. And in even more exciting Kiva-related news, I’m going to start lending money as part of the Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious lending team. As part of a lending team I lend money as an individual, but I can count each loan towards the impact of one team. So, this is an atheism visibility project. Right now the atheist team is ranked 2nd of all teams on Kiva. Guess who just slightly ahead of us? Yup – Kiva Christians.

Anyway, our latest loan was made to Rose from Murang’a, Kenya. Rose is a mom, with one of her three children still in school. She is a tailor and farmer, growing produce and raising dairy animals. She wants use this loan to buy a chuff cutter, which is used to cut feed into smaller pieces for the animals she raises, and I guess makes life way easier. You can read her full story here.

A New Face At Biodork

I am very excited to announce that a new regular column will be appearing on Biodork twice a week. Meet Ellen Bulger!

Ellen is a life-long atheist – well, since the age of 11 – and a regular Freethought Blogs reader and commenter. She describes herself as a naturalist and appreciator of entomology and mollusks. She is a freelance writer and prolific photographer; you can browser her collection of over 22,000 photos over at Flickr. Ellen wants to show the world that we can find joy and beauty in this world without believing in superstition or gods.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Ellen will be guest blogging her photographs and writings. Her first piece will go up later this afternoon. – Welcome, Ellen!

Now where were we?

It started two weeks ago when Mom came to visit. I decided that I wouldn’t be spending a lot of time online while she was here. I already had to sacrifice 10 hours of the day to work, plus another 4-6 hours to sleep, and I wanted to spend every last second with Mom in between those mandatory work and sleep times.

Then Mom went home and … I didn’t feel like blogging. Not that there wasn’t a ton of stuff to write about – there’s always something to write about, and usually always waaay to many things to write about – but I just didn’t feel like writing. And I didn’t just stop writing; I pretty much went off the net (don’t worry – I brought smelling salts – just take a whiff of these – it’s going to be alright). I lost track of my google reader (thanks for mocking me “1000+” new posts to read, Google. Thanks for that. I see a “Mark All As Read” in your future, buddy.), I cut way back on Twitter and Facebook, and I spent time doing non-computer things. I think those 4-6 hours of sleep I was getting every night for a week may have caught up to me. And  just falling out of the pattern of sitting down, reading the interwebs and writing made it hard to get enthusiastic about picking it up again.

While I was away I had a chance to read Hank Fox’s Red Neck Blue Collar Atheist, Jenny Lawson’s (The Bloggess), Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, and Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos (thanks to the commenter who suggested – nay insisted – that I read this book. It was very thought-provoking and I’m still processing it all. I need to Book Club this thing). I put in a few hours on the Wii, finished the first season of Torchwood, did a few radio shows for Atheists Talk. And I caught up on my sleep.

An aside – I’ve heard that parenting is very rewarding for those of you who want to be parents, but having free time to watch John Barrowman and James Marsters simultaneously make out, flirt and beat the crap out of each other is way more entertaining to me than  cleaning up baby diapers. Yeah, yeah, yeah…rewarding, raising the next generation, imparting values, continuing your family line…I see and raise you JOHN BARROWMAN SNOGGING JAMES MARSTERS. I rest my case.

Now where were we?

Ah yes, writing hiatus. I was starting to get worried that I wasn’t wanting to write, but today I felt the sparkle. My carpool mate didn’t ride with me today, so I able listen to NPR and a few podcasts, and on some level my brain started writing posts and I had to get to a computer. HOLY CRAP THERE’S SO MUCH TO WRITE ABOUT!!!!

But then, before my head exploded from information overload and a backlog of news stories and not knowing where to begin, I decided to write a “dip my toe back in the water” post.

This is that.

This weekend I’m going to the Midwest Freethought Conference. I’m driving down tonight and tomorrow there’s an awesome lineup of AWESOME. I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences and impressions of the weekend. If you’re attending the Midwest Freethought Conference, I’d love to meet you. And if you’re a conference twitter fiend, the hashtag is #MWFT2012.

Chillin’ and Mille Laxin’

I’ve been enjoying an week with Mom, so it’s been a bit slow around here. She drove up from Carbondale, Illinois and has been staying with me and the Hubby in Minneapolis. During the day while I’m at work she hangs out at the house and works on her computer or runs around the neighborhood. As soon as I get home we go out on the town. So far we’ve been pretty laid-back. It’s been all:

and

Lookin’ at flowers and chasing bees.

and

Look – y0u can see Mom’s face in the glass stem below the cherry! 

and

Legoland at the Mall of America

Tonight we’re planning on going star-gazing at  Dodge Nature Center in St. Paul. The Weather Channel currently has this evening looking clear (no clouds), so it should be a good night for it. This weekend we’re going to drive up to Mille Lacs, although we don’t have much in the way of plans for that. We’re going to drive up and around the lake, chat, take photos, eat food at a local Mom-and-Pop restaurant, maybe try to rent a boat for a half day, and pretty much do whatever comes our way. 

I’ll be getting back to being all social justicey and atheisty and snarky and growly next week. Right now I’m in the grips of a lovely, lazy Minnesota summer.

Apologies…

Apparently I committed a No-No this past weekend. When I offered to give away cuddly knit creature to anyone who donated to the SSA, I was running what could be construed as a raffle, and raffles are subject to a crazy number of rules, regulations and even taxes that no one wants to get into. So sadly, I cannot draw names from you wonderful, generous people who donated during my blogathon. I offer my sincere apologies to anyone who donated to the SSA in hopes of getting one of these little guys, and if you have questions, concerns, suggestions or want to shoot me a nastygram or Howler I can be reached at bio_dork@hotmail.com.

So what to do with the cuddlies? I could put them on ebay and sell them there as a fundraiser for SSA, but that feels a little like potentially making double money on them. Erin has already knit them and I feel like they belong to the Biodork readers, so I’m going to give them away to you guys completely independent of the blogathon that took place this weekend. Just post a comment in the section below and I will throw your name in a hat. On Thursday morning I will draw three names and each of those people will get one of the following creatures:

One of the microbes pictured above.

One trilobite

Neuron

Thank you for your understanding!

Removed from Jesus

Hey – I’ve made it as an atheist writer! You know how I know? Because someone signed me up for six different Christian mailing lists! Big time, baby. I’m not sure how to best deal with them (especially if I find myself getting signed up for more along the way), but for now I just unsubscribed.

This was my favorite subscription update page of all of them:

On internet you don’t remove Jesus – Jesus removes you.

Hank Fox Departs FtBs To Be Home Home On The Range

When I joined Freethought Blogs, I was contacted by one of the other bloggers, Hank Fox. He sent me a very nice email welcoming me to FtBs, and he sent me a copy of his book, Red Neck Blue Collar Atheist. He even signed it! Isn’t that awesome?

The wise man with his Good Book at the manger.

Last weekend I was pretty stoked because Hank and I were both going to be at the Reason Rally, so we made plans to meet in person.

I don’t want what I’m going to say next to sound jerkish, but I need to give you a little background.

[Read more...]

I Can Haz Archives!

Whew! That Lousy Canuck guy is pretty awesome. He did some magical tech stuff in the background and now the entirety of my old WordPress blog is accessible from here. It’s kind of amazing – all of the comments, the pages, the catergories and tags – they’re all here.

Thanks, Jason!

So if you have any interest in my past writings, might I suggest the archives or the Tag Cloud in the right sidebar?

Also, there are some really, really great bloggers out there that I enjoy reading. They’re in my blogroll on the right. Go. Click on the links. Maybe add a few to your RSS feeds. You’ll love it. Mmmm…links.