A preemptive blog apology

Hey everyone. This is just a bit of a warning that I’m going to be busier than usual during the next couple of weeks, and thus posting may temporarily slow down. How busy? I’ll be out of the state on graduate school visits approximately 40% of the time during the next four weeks. Here’s my slightly insane schedule:

2/16 – 2/18: Cambridge, MA
2/20 – 2/23: Seattle, WA
3/3 – 3/7: Stanford, CA

Yeah, at this point I’m glad I decided to only apply to my top three schools. Can’t imagine having to do more than this, like some of my friends.

Problem is that not only am I out of the state and busy interviewing, but I also don’t have a lap top. That means I probably won’t be able to make any significant posts even if I get a minute to breathe. So consider this a preemptive apology for my likely absence. Sorry guys, my future is just a tad more important than blogging at the moment.

On a related note, a couple of people have asked me if I’ll have time to grab a coffee or something. I won’t at Harvard, I probably won’t at Stanford, but I will definitely be available in Seattle. I have all of Saturday the 20th to explore and goof off. I already know a couple of my readers (hopefully not axe murderers) are keen to hang out; so if you’re in the area and interested in an informal meet up, let me know. I’ve already seen the touristy stuff in Seattle, so it would be nice to do something different.

Alright, back to work!

10 Most Sexist Super Bowl Ads

EDIT: I’ll put this disclaimer up top, since I think no one is actually reading my comments. I realize that sexist advertising does work, but I’m disappointed that it does. These ads stereotype men just as badly, if not worse than they stereotype women. I’m not sure why all you guys are raging at me so much since I’m on your side. Now if you’ll excuse me, apparently I have to go prepare to tear off some testicles and shave my head or something (thank you, commenters, for proving my point).

There was so much buzz about the Tim Tebow/Focus on the Family Super Bowl ad that it ended up being kind of anticlimactic. I’m fairly apathetic about football; I’m one of those people who dutifully watches all of the commercials and then leaves the room when the actual game is on. But Jesus Christ – are Super Bowl ads always this sexist or have I just not been paying attention?

This year was so bad that it was hard to narrow them down to ten. But here’s a showcase of what I consider the 10 most sexist ads from the 2010 Super Bowl:

10.

Motorola – Megan Fox | Viral/Other | SPIKE.com
Hurrrrr Megan Fox in a bubble bath. Everyone ogles her and/or frantically masturbates. That has everything to do with a cell phone.

9.

Bridgestone – Wife or Life? | Viral/Other | SPIKE.com
Ha. He loves the tires on his car more than his wife. That’s funny, right? …Right?

8.

Bud Light – Lost Parody | Viral/Other | SPIKE.com
You know, I think this commercial is actually meta-sexist. It’s actually showing how fucking annoying it is to have men totally disregard your opinions because you’re a woman. Too bad Budweiser fails to recognize this in nearly all of their other commercials.

7.

E*TRADE – Babies and the Ladies | Viral/Other | SPIKE.com
Apparently even babies have stereotypical hyper-jealous girlfriends.

6.

Dove – Life Cycle Song | Viral/Other | SPIKE.com
Men are the ones who are strong and brave and have to do random silly crap for their obligatory wife, right? I didn’t realize Dove was originally just for women, but apparently I’m just not manly enough to recognize that.

5.

GoDaddy.com – Danica Patrick at Spa | Viral/Other | SPIKE.com
Yep, because two stereotypically hot women talking to each other sexily while one rips her clothes off has everything to do with web hosting. Not to mention it totally reduced Danica Patrick to nothing but a hot babe. I’m not a NASCAR fan, but it’s quite an accomplishment to be the first woman to win an Indy car race. Apparently that doesn’t matter when you have boobs.

4.

GoDaddy.com – News | Viral/Other | SPIKE.com
…Ditto.

3.

Dodge – Promise to my Wife | Viral/Other | SPIKE.com
God, women. They’re just so bitchy and demanding. They all make men do such tedious things like basic hygiene, and never, ever, ever have to do what her partner wants. I mean, psshhh, what relationships feature compromise? Instead you must assert that you want a fancy, manly car that obviously no woman would also want!

2.

FloTV – Spine Removal | Viral/Other | SPIKE.com
All men like sports. All women like shopping. Men who do not conform to these strict gender roles are whipped, spineless, and girly, therefor buy our product. …Uh, what?

1.

Bud Light – Book Club | Viral/Other | SPIKE.com
You know, I don’t know if women or men should be more annoyed by these commercials. At least my gender is being portrayed as the one who is trying to engage in thoughtful intellectual conversation. Men? Yep, you’re just all beer, sexually innuendo, and douche baggery. The problem is we’re supposed to see this sort of behavior as humorous – I mean, who would want to go to a book club?! Anyone with a Y chromosome must sympathize with that dude, and run out and buy some Bud Light. Oh, and women? Eh, they’re probably too busy drinking wine coolers or something, no need to advertise toward them.

I know there are probably going to be people who will say I’m taking this far too seriously. But you know what? These types of commercials are fucking annoying. It has become the norm to make fun of women as jealous, domineering, wet blankets whose goal in life is to whip men into submission and ensure they never ever have fun. We’re supposed to laugh at these and go, “Ha, his girlfriend is a bitch. Amen brother.” Why do people want to condone this?

Not only does it stereotype both men and women, but it effectively ignores women as consumers. These are targeted towards men, because obviously the Super Bowl is so pumped full of testosterone that anyone with a uterus runs away from all TVs screaming in fear. If it’s not a joke about a stupid girlfriend, it’s something pink and flowery that somehow assumes I want to lose weight.* Can’t we just…I don’t know, have gender neutral ads when gender neutral products are being advertised?

Sigh, I give up for now. I guess I’ll go paint my toenails and emotionally manipulate some men before I go to bed.

*If you haven’t done so already, you must go watch Sarah Haskins’ Target Women series on advertisement towards women. She’s hilarious, but the commercials are kind of depressing.

Greta Christina on Atheism & Sexuality (with video)

Greta Christina‘s talk at Purdue last night was awesome! We had about 80 people in attendance, which I consider a great success, especially because 1) it was snowing pretty good and 2) that’s more than IU had even with good weather (neener neener, insert silly disparaging remarks about our rival here). Thankfully you don’t have to take my word for it, because we have it on video*.

My favorite bits:

– Her Broccoli Analogy against emotivism
- Sex connecting us to our tetrapod cousins
- Her closing remarks about porn and other media

Yeah, now you have to watch it, don’t you? It’s long but worth it. (podcast?)

I actually think one of the best parts was the Q&A at the end, because it really showcased Greta’s talents. She’s prepared to answer pretty much any question about atheism, and she can do so in a concise, punchy, memorable matter. This was especially important for the couple “questions” that were really people (probably philosophy students) pontificating for 20 minutes about some theological concept against atheism that didn’t relate to the topic at all. While my response probably would have been a short “Irrelevant, moving on,” Greta replied intelligently just as quickly.

The drive home was probably the most interesting part of the night for me. The weather was pretty crummy, so a two hour drive to Chicago took three, and I think I counted 5 cars in ditches along I-65. Hooray for snow! But talking with Greta for three hours was a special pleasure – I should have been taping that, since it was effectively the Extended Edition of her lecture (featuring Jen McCreight). We discussed everything from our annoyance of feminists who reject science, to why she totally needs to get a Twitter account, to why the hell there are so many billboards for adult stores and strip clubs in conservative Indiana (backlash? truckers? Illinois laws? Anyone have a better hypothesis?)

I’ve heard nothing but happy reviews from other Purdue students – thank you so much for coming, Greta!
Secretary, Treasurer, Greta, and President. Who says there aren’t any female atheists?!

*Yes, I know the audio has some annoying background hum. If anyone out there is savvy with audio editing, let me know and I can send you the mp3 file.

1,000 Rabbis blame natural disasters on gays

Apparently it’s not just Christians like Pat Robertson who like to blame gays for natural disasters. The Rabbinical Alliance of America issued the following statement about the profound effects of allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military:

“When Americans are suffering economically and millions need jobs, it’s shocking that the Administration is focused on its ultra-liberal militantly homosexualist agenda forcing the highlighting of homosexuals and homosexuality on an unwilling military. This is the equivalent of the spiritual rape of our military to satisfy the most extreme and selfish cadre of President Obama’s kooky coalition.

We agree with Eileen Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness that this will hurt the cohesiveness of the military, cause many to leave the army, and dramatically lower the number of recruits, perhaps leading to the reinstatement of a compulsory draft.

“Thirteen months before 9/11, on the day New York City passed homosexual domestic partnership regulations, I joined a group of Rabbis at a City Hall prayer service, pleading with G-d not to visit disaster on the city of N.Y. We have seen the underground earthquake, tsunami, Katrina, and now Haiti. All this is in sync with a two thousand year old teaching in the Talmud that the practice of homosexuality is a spiritual cause of earthquakes. Once a disaster is unleashed, innocents are also victims just like in Chernobyl.

“We plead with saner heads in Congress and the Pentagon to stop sodomization of our military and our society. Enough is enough.”

Little did the Rabbi mention, 9 months before 9/11 I bought an mp3 player. I think I have a new theory to propose – iPods are the cause of all of these disasters. It makes so much sense! Haven’t they been rising in popularity as all these natural disaster have been taking place? Good god, what’s going to happen when the iPad is officially released? It must be a sign of the apocalypse!

Wait, natural disasters have been occurring since the dawn of mankind? …Since before mankind was even around? …They don’t have a causal or correlational relationship to human behavior, least of all how people listen to music or where they stick their genitalia?

Oh yeah, that’s called reality. I forgot how the natural world functions for a moment, silly me.

Seriously though, people like this infuriate me. He says the mere existence of homosexuals rapes the spirit of the military. You know what? Why don’t we worry about all the women serving our country who are being raped and sexually assaulted by their fellow servicemen before we start worry about any spirit rapage. Since you know, women actually exist.

(Via Unreasonable Faith)

Don’t forget: Greta Christina at Purdue tomorrow!

If you’re anywhere near West Lafayette, IN, you should totally come to Greta Christina‘s talk tomorrow!More information is available at the Facebook event. It should be a lot of fun. Greta is one of my favorite bloggers, so I’m personally pretty excited to meet her. And seriously, what’s more interesting than religion and sex?! I need to think of some questions to ask her. Maybe we’ll even solve the age old conundrum of what atheists cry out during sex.
I’m lucky enough to get Greta to myself for a couple of hours as I drive her to Chicago after the event. Of course, apparently there’s going to be a snow storm tomorrow, complete with sleet and icy rain. Sheesh, can’t I drive atheist bloggers around without some sort of drama? God must be smiting us.

Don't forget: Greta Christina at Purdue tomorrow!

If you’re anywhere near West Lafayette, IN, you should totally come to Greta Christina‘s talk tomorrow!More information is available at the Facebook event. It should be a lot of fun. Greta is one of my favorite bloggers, so I’m personally pretty excited to meet her. And seriously, what’s more interesting than religion and sex?! I need to think of some questions to ask her. Maybe we’ll even solve the age old conundrum of what atheists cry out during sex.
I’m lucky enough to get Greta to myself for a couple of hours as I drive her to Chicago after the event. Of course, apparently there’s going to be a snow storm tomorrow, complete with sleet and icy rain. Sheesh, can’t I drive atheist bloggers around without some sort of drama? God must be smiting us.

How this kid became a scientist – Part 1: Books

As graduation approaches, I find myself reflecting more and more about the past and the future. It seems somewhat unbelievable that in less than four months I’ll be graduating with degrees in Genetics and Evolution (with a minor in Psychology!). That surreal feeling is even stronger when I tell people that I’ll soon be striving towards my PhD studying Human Genetics & Evolution at…well, university soon to be decided.

I’ll be the first Dr. McCreight in my family, and the only scientist. That makes me wonder how I ended up this way. How did a daughter of an art teacher and history teacher become such a big science geek? And more importantly, what can I learn from my upbringing to better encourage kids to be interested in science?

Books

The importance of reading is so well known, but I need to mention it. I never was given explicitly pro-science books that are targeted towards kids. In fact, the only real nonfiction science book I enjoyed was the first book I ever read, in preschool, and was about dinosaurs. I’m still baffled how you can have a book with complex dinosaur names that a 3 year old can understand, but I loved that thing.

That’s the one exception, because it was fiction books that really got me pumped about science. They sort of tricked me into thinking like a scientist, rather than ramming it down my throat. For example, I still vividly remember reading a passage from A Wrinkle in Time where a character is explaining the different dimensions, and they accidentally travel through a 2-D world and experience what it would be like to be squished flat:

She tried to gasp, but a paper doll can’t gasp. She thought she was trying to think, but her flattened-out mind was as unable to function as her lungs; her thoughts were squashed along with the rest of her. Her heart tried to beat; it gave a knifelike, sidewise movement, but it could not expand.

But then she seemed to hear a voice, or if not a voice, at least words, words flattened out like printed words on paper, “Oh, no! We can’t stop here! This is a two-dimensional planet and the children can’t manage here!”

I read that book over a decade ago, but that passage still stuck with me – in fact, it’s one of two scenes I remember from the entire book. I understood the concept of dimensions because it was humanized, regardless if we could really do the magical sort of traveling they do in the book. If someone had tried to my ten year old self down and explain dimensions scientifically, I’m not sure if I would have understood it or wanted to pay attention, no matter how passionate the teacher was.

But books don’t just have to teach scientific concepts. In 5th grade we read The Westing Game, a Clue-like murder mystery. It was full of puzzles and red herrings, and trying to solve them was pretty much the most amazing thing ever. We were living the Da Vinci Code (well, it wasn’t written yet, but you know what I mean). Every time we’d read a new chapter as a class, we would collect all of our new clues, add them to a giant bulletin board, and try to figure it out. We weren’t just reading a story – we were actively participating, gathering evidence, working as detectives, forming hypotheses, and using logic to solve the problem. It was teaching us to think like scientists and have fun while doing so.

Sci-fi and murder mysteries are all well in good, but it was naturalistic books that really got me interested in biology. I was a shy, indoors sort of kid; I loved painting, drawing, reading, and playing videogames. My parents aren’t outdoors people, so we never went hiking or camping – the only time we spent with nature involved sitting on a golf cart.

So when I was assigned books like Where the Red Fern Grows and My Side of the Mountain, it was a type of escapism. The idea of interacting with animals and living off the land was as spectacular and amazing as zipping through dimensions and traveling through space. It wasn’t just novel – the books were great, and I started to eat that genre up. I looked for more books by Jean Craighead George, and found Julie of the Wolves. I absolutely loved it, and it was the first time I ever thought about animal behavior and ecosystems. I wanted to gobble up anything about wolves, so my dad bought me The Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London.

But again, things don’t necessarily need to be realistic fiction. My sudden curiosity for animals was also filled by Animorphs – and aliens giving people abilities to turn into animals isn’t exactly scientific. But it made me think about what it would be like to be certain animals – how their behaviors differ, how they’re similar, how they’re like us. I even loved the evolution-like covers, long before I had ever learned what evolution was. Aliens giving people abilities to turn into animals isn’t exactly scientific, but it ultimately increased my interest in nature, and that’s what matters.

This isn’t just an exercise in nostalgia – trust me, it makes me feel suddenly old, not a feeling I enjoy. But reading matters when it comes to getting kids interested in science. The books don’t need to be non-fiction or have the goal of teaching science in mind – they just need to inspire. They need to plant that spark of interest that kids can choose to follow if they wish. This is especially important for kids like me who didn’t get any real life experience with nature – sometimes a book is all we have, and sometimes a book is all it takes.

Actually getting a child to read is a totally different problem, one I don’t have a good answer to. I was a little bookworm, so you never had to encourage me. But one thing to notice is that nearly all of these books were assigned to me in school. Left to my own devices, I would probably still be rereading Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein to this day, and never have picked up something new. Did I love every book I was assigned in elementary school? God no. I didn’t even get halfway through the Secret Garden (still got a B on the essay – developed my BSing skills early). Not everyone is going to love everything, but inspiring some children down the road to science is worth it.

More parts to How this kid became a scientist will be forthcoming soonish. Hey, scientists are busy people!

Chemical Party

Chemists don’t get enough love around here, probably because organic chemistry broke my soul two years ago. But here’s a fun nerdy chemistry video for all of you:

It’s a tad old, but I hadn’t seen it, so maybe it’s new to some of you too. Enjoy!

Tell me something happy!

I’m having a long day. Week. Semester. Between the club, grad school preparations, class, and work, I’m pretty much ready to crack. If you’re subscribed to comments and have been watching me pour fire on the flame war, I’m sorry – I usually ignore annoying comments, but it’s just one of those days.

So here’s a random fun post to get my mind off things. Tell me something happy for a change! All I usually get from you guys are links about people doing/saying painfully stupid things. What random cool, upbeat thing happened to you today, this week, or whenever?

My happy moment of the day: I got my genotyping results back, and they worked! Woo! Science, it works…sometimes.

If you could have the answer to any question in science, what would you ask?

This morning I received an email from a professor at Harvard (who’s currently one of my top grad school choices) that she would like to talk to me over the phone sometime this week. After much flailing of happiness, I also had to answer one preliminary question that I enjoyed so much that I had to share it with all of you:

If you could have the answer to any question in biology, what would you ask?

I would have to ask “How did life originate?” It’s probably not particularly original, but it’s simply too fascinating to ignore. We have plenty of hypotheses about the origin of life, but I would love to know exactly which one is correct. What was the biochemical process that slowly took inorganic molecules to the first cell? Are our hypotheses about an RNA world correct? Were there other “life-like” systems totally different than the cells we know today that didn’t withstand the test of time? Could this same process conceivably take place on other planets?

I guess I’m cheating a bit by asking a question that ultimately leads to many more questions, but such is the nature of science, right?

This question isn’t exactly something I would want to personally research – I’m good at chemistry, but not passionate enough about it to devote my whole life to organic and biochem. I still find it very interesting, probably because it’s human nature to wonder “why are we here?” And as an atheist, I’m always looking for the scientific explanation for things. Is there a naturalistic way that life came about on its own? Or are more “creative” ideas involving aliens or gods really true? I doubt the latter, but heck, if that really did happen, I’d want to know!

I suppose in a way it’s tangentially related to my interests in evolution. I often hear people (falsely) claiming that since scientists can’t explain the origin of life, evolution must be false. It would be nice to be able to go, “Um, actually, here’s the natural way life did come to be” and whip out a flowchart from hammerspace. Though I doubt that would convince everyone – we all know how much scientific facts affect most creationists – but at least I’d feel a bit more intellectually fulfilled.

I know everyone here isn’t a biologist, so I’ll propose the question to you a little more vaguely: If you could have the answer to any question in science, what would you ask?