The Weekend of Unbelievable Fun: The Second Coming

Hey…guess what’s coming up fast? It’s The Weekend of Unbelievable Fun: The Second Coming!

mna-conf-aints-1

Image is an advertisement showing the Mr. Paul Aints logo with information about the baseball game and conference (detailed in text below), and a photo of the Minneapolis Skyline.

This will be the second year that I attend. Last year’s baseball game was a blast, and the conference had inspiring speakers presenting novel and timely information about atheism and the secular movement.

This year the Mr. Paul Aints will take the field again on Friday August 9th to play the Sioux City Explorers at Midway Stadium in Saint Paul. The party starts at 5pm with tailgating in the parking lot and the game begins at 7pm. The meetup description for the event promises between-inning atheist-themed antics (hmmm…devil worshiping in the infield and baby tastings, perhaps?), and there will be an auction of Mr. Paul Aints jerseys with proceeds to go to a local charity.

The next day – Saturday – Minnesota Atheists and American Atheists will hold their second consecutive Twin Cities-based regional conference. The conference takes place at the Ramada Plaza in NE Minneapolis, and the lineup is exciting (I’ve taken out the breaks in the list below – for the full schedule, visit mnatheists.org):

9:15-10:15 Hector Avalos: “How Archaeology Killed Biblical History”
10:30-12:00pm Breakout Sessions & Workshops
1:45-2:45 Greta Christina: “Coming Out: How To Do It, How to Help Each Other Do It, And Why?”
2:45-3:45 Amanda Knief: “Ten Legal Issues Atheists Need to Know”
4:00-5:30 Annie Laurie Gaylor: “The Religious War on Women”
7:30-9:00 All-Star Panel Discussion: Atheism and Religion: Confrontation or Accommodation - Annie Laurie Gaylor, Hector Avalos, Greta Christina, Amanda Knief, PZ Myers, and Kelli Clement. Moderated by Stephanie Zvan (Author of Almost Diamonds blog on Freethought Blogs).

The conference organizers did a good job of packing in a wide variety of topics in a few short hours – one day conferences are hard! I’m especially excited by the 10:30-noon workshops, which are being led by local atheists. Topics include science, family and raising kids in atheist households, treatment of (nonhuman) animals, mental health, addiction, and shame. For descriptions of the panels press the big red button on the frontpage of the Minnesota Atheists website.

If you’re interested in joining us, the information for signing up for the baseball game and/or the conference can be found at the MN Atheists website. The cost for the game starts at $10 and the conference starts at $30 (if you’re 25 years old or younger AND a student, you can buy a discounted conference ticket for $10). These are early bird prices, and early bird sign up ends on July 31st – in just three days! After that prices for the conference goes up to $40 (student admission stays $10).

And if there is any doubt that you’re going to have a good – and occasionally goofy – time, check out these lyrics that Paul Heffron and Jerry Rauser wrote for the Mr. Paul Aints game:

To the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game

(Verse 1)
Let’s all go to the Aints game.
Let’s all show who we are.
The big red A says a lot about us.
We’re here for fun, so please don’t make a fuss.
So we’ll root for the Mister Paul Aints team.
For they accept us by name.
So it’s hip, hip, hip, hip hooray
At the Aints ball game.

(Verse 2)
Let’s have fun at the Aints game,
Tail-gate party supreme.
Hamburgers, hot dogs, and drinks for all.
Under our banner we’ll all have a ball.
We will root, root, root for the pigs’ race.
In Pig’s Eye town there’s no shame.
For it’s one, two, pick up the pace
At the Aints Ball Game!

FtBConscience TONIGHT!

It’s here! Yay!

Oh crap – it’s here!

You’ve read about it! You’ve chatted excitedly on social media about it! And now the wait is over! Tonight is the start of FtBCON

This is very exciting. I LOVE attending conferences. They’re little nuggets of energy-packed, inspiring, information-sharing. They’re like a triple shot of caffeine! A jump start to the engine of my skepticism! Okay, I may not have gotten much sleep last night. And speaking of caffeine: I’ve had a lot already this morning.

FtBConscience is FREE and ONLINE. It’s nice not having to pack an overnight bag, make hotel reservations or find couch space, take a long car ride or navigate an airport and get groped by theTSA, or budget for meals and gas and all of the little expenses that come with traveling. And FtBCon has an incredibly laid back dress code for attendees and presenters alike (PJs! PJs!)

Another really cool thing about being online: We have booked speakers from all over the world. We have booked ONE HUNDRED AND NINE panelists, according to Lanyrd! Many of our speakers are in North America, but we also have panelists from Australia, Africa, Asia and Europe. I’m not sure if we have any South American-based speakers… Hmmm… Next year we need to go for FULL world domination. We are, however, anticipating audience participants from all four corners of the globe (I love the contradictory nature of that statement. You know what I need right now? MOAR COFFEEEEEE!!!)

You can view the schedule of this weekend’s events on our Lanyrd site, the official FtBCon website, or on Google+. We have a Facebook page, and the Twitter hashtag is #FtBCon. To learn about HOW TO PARTICIPATE as an attendee, check out the front page of the FtBCon website.

I’ve listed the panels that I’m going to be on below. Hope to see you there!

Reproductive Rights

Satuday July 20th – 2pm CST – Official Google+ session page

A panel of reproductive rights activists come together to discuss access to abortion in current events, clinic escorting and some common religious and non-religious arguments against abortion. Our panel consists of clinic escorts – including one panelist who volunteered before FACE laws went into effect (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances), health care professionals, an author and several bloggers who write about reproductive rights. Our panelists hail from Minnesota, Kentucky, Virginia and Ireland.

Atheist Music

Saturday July 20th – 9pm CST – Official Google+ session page

Join us to hear a few songs and have a casual chat with ukulelist and FtB blogger Ashley Miller, classically trained singers Ania Bula and JT Eberhard, and Australian singer-songwriter Shelley Segal. At conferences you can sometimes catch JT belting out musicals or warming up a mike with a bit of opera. Shelley Segal published An Atheist Album in 2011, and she has played at the Reason Rally, the American Atheist Convention, Women In Secularism and other events. Ashley graces YouTube with her ukulele stylings and Ania will wow you with her clear, heady soprano. Seanna Watson, director of CFI-Ottowa, and Steve Watson – a former church guitarist – will also be joining us. We’ll discuss issues relating to music and religion, the role music plays in our lives as secularists and some our favorite atheist songs and artists. Panel facilitated by Brianne Bilyeu.

Video Games, Religion and Morality

Saturday July 20th – 11pm CST – Official Google+ session page

Religion and morality systems in video games are often grossly oversimplified, to the point where choices are entirely binary and you’re often forced, as a gamer, to do things that you might otherwise find appalling, like working in service of a god or gods. How are these heady topics handled in the slowly-maturing video game industry? Who’s already doing this stuff right? How can these topics’ treatment be improved?

JT and JTs Videogameathonapalooza!

The first game system I played was the Atari 2600. I have memories of playing E.T., Berzerk, Pitfall, Asteroid, Space-Invaders, Frogger and DigDug.  I still remember the pain of Atari Thumb.

Breakout was my favorite game for a long time.

Remember this bad boy? And unlike some of the other games, this one used the paddle rather than the joystick controller.

After Atari my parents picked us up a Nintendo (NES), and then we upgraded to Super Nintendo when I was in Junior High. I was a HUGE Mario fan. We conquered Super Mario Bros. 1, 2 and 3. I even got the cheat guide for Super Mario 3 so I could find all of the hidden flutes, learn the trick behind scoring five 1-ups at the end of every three levels, and memorize the grids of the memory cards bonus levels.

My other favorite game was Trog! Frickin’ green Trogs were the worst. This was the heyday of my video gaming; we played Duck Hunt, California Games, TMNT, Contra Force, Legend of Zelda, MegaMan, Kid Icarus, Paperboy, Donkey Kong, Tennis and Q*bert. My mom kicked all of our asses in Dr. Mario and Tetris, and my dad and I liked to play one of the casino games, Bases Loaded and Black Bass. The Nintendo was downstairs in our unfinished basement, so often times we would drag over the space heater and play Nintendo while we did laundry.

I completely missed Sega and didn’t pick up a console again until Thanksgiving 2011 when I bought a WII. I rock the new Mario Kart, the Hubby and I like to hunt each other down in Goldeneye 007, and I’m smitten with this one diving game called Endless Ocean. But one of the first things I did when I plugged in the system was download the old SNES Super Mario Bros and Dr. Mario.

Ah memories.

And do you know what starts in, like, NOW? Jason Thibeault and JT Eberhard’s 24 hour Gamers For Godlessness Gameathonapalooza! They’re going to be playing all sorts of retro videogames. For CHARITY.

I KNOW, RIGHT?!

GO HERE TO START WATCHING THE LIVESTREAM

What’s a gameathonapalooza? I’ll let JT explain:

Jason Thibeault from the Lousy Canuck blog and I are going to be playing retro games for 24 straight freaking hours on Saturday!  We’ll be live-streaming our lovely faces along with our games.  We’ll be talking about all kinds of interesting stuff from atheism to politics to gaming history, and we’ll be taking call-ins, email questions, etc.  We’re doing this to raise money for Camp Quest and theWomen in Secularism conference.

 They’ve got all sorts of crazy challenges, stunts and guests – including me at 10pm EST – set up for today and tomorrow.12PM EST today through 12pm EST tomorrow (Sunday). Check out this post by JT for some last minute updates. It’s also the thread for comments, questions and challenges at Chez WWJTD. Click that link/visit that blog post at lot, because JT’s donating all of the money from hits to that post to the cause.

The hashtag for the event is #GDLS

See you over there!

Weekend Report

I was hoping to get a lot of writing done this weekend because there is SO MUCH TO WRITE ABOUT! I got exactly zero writing done, but looking back on my weekend, it turns out I did some pretty cool stuff.

Friday night was supposed to be a night of relaxing and hanging out with the Virtual Drinking Skeptically (VDS) gang. Unfortunately, work setbacks trashed that idea. I didn’t have all my ducks in a row and ended up working until midnight :(  Long story short, I grabbed some material (calibrators) for a study and forgot to check the expiration date. After doing all of the set-up on Friday morning, I went to use the calibrators and discovered that they were expired. No problem, I’ll just go grab a new lot, right? Ohhhh…so sad for me: there are no unexpired lots left in the freezer. Luckily, my company makes the darned things on site, so I’ll just go over to manufacturing and pick some up. Three hours later…

At some point during the morning’s series of fiascoes I noted with that sort of inappropriate hilarity that often precludes a mental breakdown that I was going through various stages of grief as my Friday night went up in flames.

  • Shock/Denial: WHAT? How the hell are the calibrators expired? What do you mean we don’t have any extra calibrators in the building? How is that possible? I am NOT letting this get in the way of Virtual Drinking Skeptically tonight.
  • Pain/Guilt: How could I be so stupid as to not check the expiration date before I started!? How could I have everything in place and forget that? I haven’t been to a VDS in months and I feel horrible for not showing up and supporting it because it’s awesome and I can’t believe I’ve ruined my evening like this!
  • Anger/Bargaining: How did NO ONE stock calibrators? Why did this have to happen tonight!? Maybe I could use the expired cals and write some sort of justification. No? Okay, if I can just get the study started, I can sneak away and come in over the weekend to finish things up.
  • Depression/Loneliness: This sucks. I hate working late on Friday nights. Everyone goes home to relax and start their weekend and I’m going to be stuck here pipetting samples until kingdom come. Which isn’t coming, so that means FOREVER. I’m not making it to VDS.
  • Upward Turn: Okay… I have new calibrators. The instruments are all ready to go. Let’s calibrate and see if the controls pass. Samples are thawed, time to start pipetting. If I can load 20 samples per hour and I’ve got 149 samples to load… awwww, man. Wait, calm…I can do this.
  • Acceptance/Hope: Okay, there’s no way I’m getting out of here in time for VDS, but I’ll just have to plan to make the next one. And hey, everything’s running well and I’m going to make it through at least half of these samples today. I’ll come back on Sunday and finish ‘em up. And I’ll still have all of Saturday. Every little thing… is gonna be alright.

That’s a whole lot of emotion to go through over the course of a day! Like I said earlier, I left at midnight, but I did get to come home to a sympathetic partner and a whiskey nightcap. So that was nice.

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How’s this for better photos?

I’ve come home from the Mr. Paul Aints baseball game. It was a wonderful time! I had a chance to see some of my favorite local and visiting atheists, everyone was smiling, eating crappy ballpark food, and cheering on our Aints.

I had an odd moment while I was in the line for the women’s bathroom. The woman in front of me started chit-chatting, and I mentioned that this was my first time attending a Saint Paul Saints game. She asked where I was sitting, and after a quick glance at the gold cross around her neck I said “Over in the Left Field section with the Minnesota Atheists.” Her eyes widened a little and I imagined her later going back to her friends saying “Guess what – I met one of them!” But she was nice enough. She asked how big our group was (“How big is your invading army?”), what kind of activities we did and what brought me to atheism (can you tell that this was a reaaaaallly long line for the bathroom?) I gave short, simple answers that I hope reflected well on Minnesota Atheists since this was a visibility event for us, and especially since I noticed that the line had gone very quiet; the women around us were listening to our exchange.

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6 O’Clock BS: Dave Silverman Throws the First Pitch!

This evening I’m hanging out with over 170 of my fellow atheists, secularists and freethinkers at the Midway Stadium in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Tonight Minnesota Atheists and American Atheists are hosting “An Night of Unbelievable Fun” with the Saint Paul Saints. Or rather…the Mr. Paul Aints!

Here’s a really crappy, zoomed in photo of Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, leaving the mound after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch of the game:

image

I’ll have more (and better) photos of the event up later this weekend!

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.

6 O’Clock BS – SSA Week! Wait, I’m doing WHAT?

I’m off my rocker.

Today marks the start of SSA Week, which is really exciting! SSA stands for Secular Student Alliance. From their website:

The mission of the Secular Student Alliance is to organize, unite, educate, and serve students and student communities that promote the ideals of scientific and critical inquiry, democracy, secularism, and human-based ethics. We envision a future in which nontheistic students are respected voices in public discourse and vital partners in the secular movement’s charge against irrationality and dogma.

SSA = good. Fundraising for SSA = good. Therefore 24 hour blogathon for fundraising for SSA = good, right?

Wait, WHAT?

I’ve volunteered to do a blogathon. Yikes! A 24 hour blogathon. Eep! With a new post every 30 minutes during that time. WTF am I thinking?!

But it’s all good because I like blogging and being a part of crazy events like this, and fundraising for a group that supports student atheists, so it’s a big win all around. And I’m going to be in some excellent company. A large number of FtBloggers are participating sometime over the next week, as well as some awesome non-FtBlogs.

I’ll have to think of some gimmicks or contests or other special things to help me pull through. Will you keep me company? :D

10 Reasons Why Women In Secularism is Going to RAWK.

I am pretty jazzed to attend this weekend’s Women In Secularism conference in Arlington, Virginia. Here are 10 reasons why.

1.  I usually always enjoy attending live talks, and a conference is a great way to attend a lot of live talks at once. There’s something exciting about being in the same room as a speaker, seeing their facial and body expressions, watching and listening as they answer audience questions.

2.  Awesome speakers.

3.  Women in Secularism! This isn’t a general atheist conference, but an atheist conference with a concentration on women in the movement, how women are affected by various religious dogma and religious-based legislation, feminism and religion, the history of women in secularism. This is a novel focus and one that I as a woman and atheist have a certain amount of interest in.

4.  After-conference bar fun. Drinking Skeptically, anyone?

5.  Blog fodder! Oh yeah, you’ll be hearing more about this.

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