Another reason I’m glad I moved

Remember how Arizona wanted to instate horribly racist anti-immigration laws, and there was national uproar, from protests to boycotts? Well, apparently Indiana didn’t want to be left out of all the fun (emphasis mine):

A state lawmaker thinks it’s time Indiana followed Arizona’s lead in cracking down on illegal immigration — and wants to go even further by barring the use of any language but English in most government transactions.[...]

Like Arizona, the bill requires a state or local law enforcement officer who stops anyone for a violation of a law or ordinance to ask for proof that the person is here legally if the officer has “reasonable suspicion” the person is not either a citizen or a legal visitor. [...]

Most government transactions, documents and meetings must be in English. That means the state would have to end the Spanish-language portal on its website, and stop issuing forms, such as voter registration or absentee ballots, in other languages. Exceptions are made for law enforcement and court proceedings; public health needs; tourism and international trade needs.[...]

The former home of the KKK just can’t be outdone in the battle for most racist state, can they? Come on, it’s a serious problem for Indiana – just look how close it is to the Mexican border. And those illegal immigrants are practically taking over. A whopping 5.5% of “Hoosiers” are Hispanic! They’re doomed!!! Better make sure even the legal immigrants can’t vote by making everything in English, or they’ll surely let all of their buddies in! And THEN where will we be?!

Though the Senator assures us it has nothing to do with race. I’m sure he’s very concerned about all the French speaking Canadians that have been dying to hide out in our corn fields.

Thanks, Indiana. This is why so many people in Seattle look at me with a mixture of horror and pity when I say where I’m from. You’re doing a great job living up to that image.

Ladies: How difficult was it leaving organized religion?

At my talk for the Seattle Atheists on Saturday (which went fabulously, thanks to those who showed up!), an audience member posed a very interesting question. Why are women more likely to be religious if the vast majority of religions are so sexist? It’s a question that’s been posed before, with some of the less satisfactory answers saying women are simply hard-wired to be superstitious (with no real evidence backs that up). I have my own hypothesis::

When you’re part of a sexist, patriarchal religion, often the only source of power you have is in raising a family or helping with social events (cooking, event planning, making sure the Church pot luck runs smoothly). You aren’t supposed to be the bread winner or waste time on other hobbies when you have children to raise. Because of this, leaving your religion makes you lose the only source of power you ever had. You no longer have the social structure of the church, and often times you are alienated from your family.

I don’t claim to be the first person to come up with this idea, but it’s very important that we talk about this. If this is correct, it illustrates the importance of having friendly godless social networks as safety nets for women leaving their religion. Groups based on debates, speakers, and intellectual sparring are awesome, but sometimes what you really just need is a friend.* And while I personally approve of pub nights, they’re not somewhere a women with children can easily visit.

But I’m basically a life long atheist, so I don’t even have personal experience to back up my claims. So I leave it to my readers:

Ladies, how difficult was it for you to leave organized religion? What helped you come out as an atheist? Or if you haven’t come out, attended meetings, etc, what would encourage you to do so? Do you think this hypothesis is the main reason why so many more women are religious, or is it something else?

*Obviously not saying that women are inherently uninterested in intellectual discourse about atheism. The women who don’t need the comfort of a social group are already leaving religion and participating in atheism – this is a step to get the other women more involved.

My new favorite song

How can I not like something with the line “When you’re swimming through your pussy vault like Scrooge Fuckin’ McDuck”? Brilliant.

Off my ASS for the SSA – Week 2

Starting weight: 186.4 lbs
Last week’s weight: 181.8 lbs
Current weight: 182.8 lbs
Weight loss this week: -1.0 lbs

Whoopsie!

But I’m not worried – so many things cause minor fluctuations in weight, and I was down to 180.2 earlier this week. Since then I started EA Sports Active (less evil now that I’m on Easy mode, but still effective) . From the level of soreness that’s producing, I’m probably gaining muscle weight, which is good!

…And I totally gorged myself on Indian food for dinner last night, so I blame that too.

So, I’m not disappointed. I’m still on a good trajectory. I’ve been eating a lot better and actually doing more than sitting in front of my computer (though I still do that a lot).

Though JT pointed out that Lyz has added a Final Weigh-In to the SSA SoCal conference schedule. What is this nonsense, Lyz?! Not all scales are calibrated the same! And people weigh more in the afternoon! And I’ll be wearing significantly more clothing than when I usually weigh myself! AND YOU PUT IT AFTER LUNCH! That’s just cruel.

Don’t make me play the “I’m technically your boss’s boss” card ;P

…Time to go eat a salad and play DDR.

The “New Astrology” explained… sort of

I used to be really into astrology. I mean really into it – I had multiple books, drew up my own charts with computer programs, and even did a speech on it for my high school speech class. Being a lifelong atheist, it was my one woo of choice, and I’ve written about this embarrassing fact before. So when this “story” broke that astrological signs have now been “updated” and everyone’s sign is different, I did a triple facepalm.

The first facepalm was shared with the rest of the skeptical community:

1. It doesn’t matter if the signs up are updated, because both new and old signs are complete and utter bullshit. (I admit, I’m a bit hurt at PZ saying “only the deeply gullible and ignorant can fall for it any more.” It’s no more crazy than religion… though I guess a lot of teenagers, including teenage Jen, are gullible and ignorant to an extent.)

The second facepalm was the old astrologist in me bubbling up:

2. This is not news. Most Western astrologers use the Tropical Zodiac. It’s not based on the position of the stars in the sky, but rather when the sun crosses the Tropic of Cancer (the summer solstice), the Tropic of Capricorn (the winter solstice), and the equator (which happens twice). These four points are used to divide the Zodiac into 12 neat little sections that are basically the same from year to year. The “new astrological signs” this press release is talking about is actually using the Sidereal Zodiac, which has been used for ages by Eastern astrologers. That uses the position of the constellations.

If you ask an astrologer why they use one and not the other, they’ll give a BS answer about how one is better for showing certain aspects of your life. I “understood” this ten years ago, so it’s annoying seeing this covered by every news outlet or having a flood of facebook friends babbling about their new sign. Old news, guys.

The third facepalm was aimed at myself:

3. I still have a visceral emotional reaction to people not “understanding” astrology even though I now logically know that it’s all horseshit. If you were formerly religious, you can probably relate to this feeling. Someone says something incorrect about Catholic doctrine, and you feel compelled to correct them even though you’re arguing about something irrelevant because you know the wine isn’t actually blood, or whatever. But you still emotionally revert back to Catholic mode for a second.

When I think “Eww, I am so not a Virgo, I’m totally a Scorpio,” I want to slap myself.

But I wondered how a Western astrologer would respond to this news. If someone who dabbled years ago was annoyed, they must be furious. I looked up my old buddy Eric Francis who drew up my chart around Boobquake (and was nice enough to not get too mad when I tore it apart). Sure enough, he has a post about this news, and it’s just too chock full of goodies to ignore.

After explaining what I went over in my second point, he states “This is not rocket science — but it is science.” Oh yeah, you know it’s going to be good.

So, hear ye, hear ye! Vedic astrologers use the the sidereal zodiac, and most Western astrologers use the tropical zodiac. They have different purposes, and different philosophies. Both zodiacs work. Most Western astrologers are familiar with their sidereal chart — it tells a different story, and can reveal deeper tendencies you may have noticed but not named. I’m a Pisces in tropical astrology but an Aquarius in sidereal astrology. If you’re curious, cast your sidereal chart and see where the planets show up.

The differences between the two or the reasons behind them are not explained here, or anywhere, but they both work! Because he said so! I mean, isn’t it proof enough that astrology can produce vague descriptions that sort of fit anyone? Oops, I meant “deeper tendencies you may have noticed.”

As for Ophiuchus. This is an old hoax. Historically, Ophiuchus has never been listed as a constellation in the sidereal zodiac. It is a constellation out there, but it’s off the ecliptic (that is, it’s not along the path of the Sun through the sky). I’ve read that Ptolemy mentions it in his literature as an off-zodiac constellation, meaning that the Sun never travels through it. In any event, there are some two dozen constellations that touch the ecliptic; but the sidereal zodiac uses just 12 of them.

The origin of the hoax is a sci-fi author named John Sladek — a satire writer who died in 2000. Sladek liked to prank astrology, and he has a whole novel about a fictitious 13th sign based on Ophiuchus he called Arachne that was “suppressed by the scientific community.” The Ophiuchus hoax first made its rounds in the late 1990s and pops up again like those emails from the guy in Nigeria who wants you to send him your bank account number so he can transfer $15 million your way.

Or like astrologers who say they can explain your personality and predict your future, except those pop up in newspapers every freaking day. Glad we cleared up that that’s legitimate, but everything else is a hoax. Thanks.

The irony. It burns like the fire of a thousand Suns conjunct Aries.

*slaps self* Whoops, sorry about that.

The "New Astrology" explained… sort of

I used to be really into astrology. I mean really into it – I had multiple books, drew up my own charts with computer programs, and even did a speech on it for my high school speech class. Being a lifelong atheist, it was my one woo of choice, and I’ve written about this embarrassing fact before. So when this “story” broke that astrological signs have now been “updated” and everyone’s sign is different, I did a triple facepalm.

The first facepalm was shared with the rest of the skeptical community:

1. It doesn’t matter if the signs up are updated, because both new and old signs are complete and utter bullshit. (I admit, I’m a bit hurt at PZ saying “only the deeply gullible and ignorant can fall for it any more.” It’s no more crazy than religion… though I guess a lot of teenagers, including teenage Jen, are gullible and ignorant to an extent.)

The second facepalm was the old astrologist in me bubbling up:

2. This is not news. Most Western astrologers use the Tropical Zodiac. It’s not based on the position of the stars in the sky, but rather when the sun crosses the Tropic of Cancer (the summer solstice), the Tropic of Capricorn (the winter solstice), and the equator (which happens twice). These four points are used to divide the Zodiac into 12 neat little sections that are basically the same from year to year. The “new astrological signs” this press release is talking about is actually using the Sidereal Zodiac, which has been used for ages by Eastern astrologers. That uses the position of the constellations.

If you ask an astrologer why they use one and not the other, they’ll give a BS answer about how one is better for showing certain aspects of your life. I “understood” this ten years ago, so it’s annoying seeing this covered by every news outlet or having a flood of facebook friends babbling about their new sign. Old news, guys.

The third facepalm was aimed at myself:

3. I still have a visceral emotional reaction to people not “understanding” astrology even though I now logically know that it’s all horseshit. If you were formerly religious, you can probably relate to this feeling. Someone says something incorrect about Catholic doctrine, and you feel compelled to correct them even though you’re arguing about something irrelevant because you know the wine isn’t actually blood, or whatever. But you still emotionally revert back to Catholic mode for a second.

When I think “Eww, I am so not a Virgo, I’m totally a Scorpio,” I want to slap myself.

But I wondered how a Western astrologer would respond to this news. If someone who dabbled years ago was annoyed, they must be furious. I looked up my old buddy Eric Francis who drew up my chart around Boobquake (and was nice enough to not get too mad when I tore it apart). Sure enough, he has a post about this news, and it’s just too chock full of goodies to ignore.

After explaining what I went over in my second point, he states “This is not rocket science — but it is science.” Oh yeah, you know it’s going to be good.

So, hear ye, hear ye! Vedic astrologers use the the sidereal zodiac, and most Western astrologers use the tropical zodiac. They have different purposes, and different philosophies. Both zodiacs work. Most Western astrologers are familiar with their sidereal chart — it tells a different story, and can reveal deeper tendencies you may have noticed but not named. I’m a Pisces in tropical astrology but an Aquarius in sidereal astrology. If you’re curious, cast your sidereal chart and see where the planets show up.

The differences between the two or the reasons behind them are not explained here, or anywhere, but they both work! Because he said so! I mean, isn’t it proof enough that astrology can produce vague descriptions that sort of fit anyone? Oops, I meant “deeper tendencies you may have noticed.”

As for Ophiuchus. This is an old hoax. Historically, Ophiuchus has never been listed as a constellation in the sidereal zodiac. It is a constellation out there, but it’s off the ecliptic (that is, it’s not along the path of the Sun through the sky). I’ve read that Ptolemy mentions it in his literature as an off-zodiac constellation, meaning that the Sun never travels through it. In any event, there are some two dozen constellations that touch the ecliptic; but the sidereal zodiac uses just 12 of them.

The origin of the hoax is a sci-fi author named John Sladek — a satire writer who died in 2000. Sladek liked to prank astrology, and he has a whole novel about a fictitious 13th sign based on Ophiuchus he called Arachne that was “suppressed by the scientific community.” The Ophiuchus hoax first made its rounds in the late 1990s and pops up again like those emails from the guy in Nigeria who wants you to send him your bank account number so he can transfer $15 million your way.

Or like astrologers who say they can explain your personality and predict your future, except those pop up in newspapers every freaking day. Glad we cleared up that that’s legitimate, but everything else is a hoax. Thanks.

The irony. It burns like the fire of a thousand Suns conjunct Aries.

*slaps self* Whoops, sorry about that.

Speaking in Seattle this week… twice!

If you Seattlites aren’t sick of seeing me yet, you should come to one of my talks this week! Or you can be an Uber Fan and come to BOTH! Crazy, I know. Here’s the info if you’re interested:

Boobquake and its Aftershocks
Saturday, January 15th at 1:00 pm
Followed by a town hall-style discussion on how atheists/freethinkers handle the holidays.
Light refreshments provided.
Greenwood Public Library
8016 Greenwood Ave N
Seattle, WA 98103
Hosted by the Seattle Atheists

My Trip to the Creation Museum
Tuesday, January 18th at 7:00pm
Eat, drink, and be entertained by the horrors of the Creation Museum!
Blue Star Cafe & Pub
4512 Stone Way N
Seattle, WA 98103
Hosted by the Seattle Skeptics

I’ve been going to the meetings of both of these groups since I moved here and enjoy them a lot! I’m honored to be presenting for them. And I’d be even happier if people showed up, so stop by!

And in case you’re not in the Seattle area, don’t worry – I have a lot of conferences planned in the next couple months. So far I’ll be in Southern California, Minnesota, North Carolina, Boston, and Kamloops BC. Check out my speaking page for all the info.

More quotes from the lab

There’s another first year graduate student rotating in the same lab that I’m rotating in, though he’s working on a different project from me. How do our projects differ, you ask?

1st Year: *talking to another labmate about something completely off topic*
Post doc: Hey, that’s five minutes you just wasted that could have gone toward curing autism!
Me: That’s why I’m not studying autism.
Post doc: *laughs* So you can waste as much time as you like?
Me: Yep. Evolution’s not going anywhere!

Joking aside, I actually have been getting a lot of work done. For the fellow biologists: I run my first microarray on Tuesday! For the non-biologists: I get to do cool nerdy stuff I haven’t done before!

This is why I don’t consider myself a science blogger. Too lazy.

Ironic research

Male Labmate: Isn’t it kind of funny that a feminist blogger is researching the Y chromosome?
Me: I’m just doing it so I can scientifically prove that males are inferior.

Or so I can study human evolution on a haploid chromosome. Something like that.