I’m not the only one moving to a new home

My apartment is (mostly) packed, and in an hour I’ll be off to pick up my soon-to-be roommate and our U-Haul. Then the real fun begins. Blah. After some thought, I realized this will be the ninth time I’ve moved in five years. As much as I hate packing up all my crap just to unpack it a couple of hours later, I’m looking forward to escaping my terrible apartment. And I’m glad some of my classmates are helping us lug stuff around, since I pretty much have no upper body strength. Thankfully grad students are easily bribed with promises of pizza and beer.

But I’m not the only one moving soon. So is my blog!

In a couple of weeks, Blag Hag will have a cozy new home, and Pharyngula and Greta Christina’s blog will be her roommates. That’s right – I’m joining Freethought Blogs!

I’m super excited that I was invited to be a part of this project. I’ve been itching to get off Blogger for a while, and I’m honored to be in such good blogging company. And don’t worry – nothing major will change for you guys. The content will be exactly the same, just with a better situation for me and a new layout (which I’ve been promised will be prettier than it is currently once all the technical and advertising kinks are worked out).

If you have any questions about the move, please leave a comment here and I’ll make a FAQ post. Have to finish moving my physical crap before I start worrying about my internet crap.

My life is weird

As I was mulling around some indie games at PAX, a very familiar face approached me. Very familiar, because I was certain it was Jerry Holkins, the writer of Penny Arcade (“Tycho”) and half of the duo putting on the very awesome convention I was currently enjoying.

“Don’t I know you?” he asked.

“Uhhhhh.” I glanced down at his name tag. Yep, Jerry Holkins. “I know you, but I’m pretty sure you don’t know me.”

Keep in mind the expo hall was super loud with the various bells and whistles of video games going off in the background, so it was hard to hear what he was saying. Plus I was very confused. And a little fangirly.

He asked me if I had a game there, and I said no. Now I was convinced he was mistaking me for someone. But then he seemed to remember something and said something about seeing me holding up a sign, but that just confused me more. I don’t remember holding up a sign anywhere.

Then he said “I followed all of Elevatorgate!”

Wut.

I then realized the “sign” he was referring to was my profile photo here. I was a little dumbstruck, and bumbled out something along the lines “You read my blog?” Yep.

We then babbled about the atheist movement for a good while and giggled about how stupid the internet can be sometimes. And how happy he was to run into me. And how happy I was to run into him.

I’ve oddly gotten very used to strangers approaching me (which also happened a couple of times today). Within the last year I’ve gotten used to famous people within the atheist or skeptical movement approaching me. But I’m definitely not used to someone from a totally different corner of the internet I appreciate approaching me.

Yeah, my life is really freaking weird.

And as an unrelated PAX update – I collected six gym badges today. Though to be honest, one was because I came up with a Pokemon haiku, another was because the IR connection kept glitching, and the third was because I was a “good sport” as I got my ass kicked. I’m going for the Ash Ketchum route to the Elite Four. I have no shame.

The church for gamer geeks

Oh goodie. I was already super excited for PAX – my cosplay outfit is done and my Pokemon team is all ready – but now I have a new thing to look forward to. What could possibly top three days of the largest video game conference in the US?

Church!

GameChurch.com has a booth at PAX. The site hosts game reviews from a Christian perspective, a “Strategy Guide for Life,” and a geekified version of the Bible titled “Jesus, For The Win!” From the introduction (yes, I couldn’t not download it):

“But wait! How can you be a Christian and kill zombies, cast spells and shoot someone?!? Isn’t that hypocritical!?!? I get that question from Churches and also from people that don’t want anything to do with Christians. It’s unfortunate that it’s even a topic. We’re ALL hypocrites. Every last human. Video games are not the problem. The problem is that we have complicated the message that Jesus brought to us. And yes, I do believe He would be leveling up with me in World of Warcraft.”

I can see it now. “Starving children in Africa? But daaaad, I’m in the middle of a raid!”

I can’t stop reading this thing, it’s full of terrible gems:

“Jesus… many people see Him like Gandhi, or the Pope. He was a good guy, maybe even a prophet, who died before I was born and has nothing to do with me. What if you found out that Jesus is not who the world says He is? What if you heard that Jesus came to Earth and hung out with stinky fisherman and prostitutes? What if He spent His time with tax collectors and people who were looked down upon by “higher society?” What if Jesus came to Earth for the GAMERS? Despite what you may have heard before, He did! Jesus loves Gamers, just as much as He loves thieves, soccer moms, and even pastors. Jesus came to PWN the Devil and save the world for YOU.”

Bahaha. I don’t even need to add my own commentary, do I?

I’m not going to lie. Part of me wants to stop by their booth for the chance that they’ll have some ironic free swag. I would definitely love a shirt about Jesus respawning (their words, not mine). The only difference is I realize magical Jesus is about as real as Zelda or Mario.

A new earthquake hypothesis

Apparently the idea that immodestly dressed women cause earthquakes is sooooo last year. The real reason? Gay marriage, duh.


A New York rabbi claims gay marriage and the earthquake that shook the East Coast are directly connected.

In a video uploaded to YouTube, Levin says gay rights legislation, like the gay marriage law passed in New York, are responsible for earthquakes, like the one that struck Washington, D.C. Tuesday.

“The Talmud states, ‘You have shaken your male member in a place where it doesn’t belong. I too, will shake the Earth,’” Levin says.

He also notes that he does not dislike gay people.

“We don’t hate homosexuals,” he says. “I feel bad for homosexuals. It’s a revolt against God and literally, there’s hell to pay.”

On Top Magazine reports that Joseph Farah, editor of WorldNetDaily.com, expressed similar sentiments.

Obviously I must find some lucky lady to marry me in the name of science. Or we can just stop listening to bigoted religious wackadoodles who know nothing about natural disasters. What a novel idea.

Gawker asks: “Was today’s earthquake another Boobquake?”

Jen responds: No.

I know I said that I didn’t want to talk about Boobquake anymore, but I can’t help myself when data crunching is involved. Well, it’s also hard to ignore when dozens and dozens of people are tweeting at me asking if I’m wearing anything revealing. For the rest of my life I’m going to know when every major earthquake occurs via a very strange alert system.

But when a huge blog like Gawker decides to comment, I feel compelled to reply. Especially when they throw out all knowledge of statistics for the sake of giggling at boobs:

Remember when an Iranian cleric said earthquakes were God’s punishment for scantily-clad women, and then a bunch of scantily-clad women organized a naked protest to disprove the cleric, but then an earthquake actually occurred at the moment they bared their breasts? Well, there is a chance that today’s East Coast earthquake was a boobquake, too, because it’s National Go Topless Day, and there are all kinds of naked boobs in Central Park right now.

I already established that the earthquakes on Boobquake were not statistically significant – that is, they occurred at the same frequency and magnitude that you would expect at random chance. But one of the main criticisms of my “study” was that there was only one data point. I never realized I had National Go Topless Day to add to my data!

So, does bearing some boobage actually cause earthquakes?

Being the giant nerd I am, I’ve spent the last couple of hours looking up earthquake data at USGS, writing simple Python scripts, and plotting things in R. I’m pretty sure this isn’t how my graduate program envisioned me using the skills I’ve learned, but oh well.

I found the dates for the 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 National Go Topless Day. Today actually wasn’t National Go Topless Day – that was the 21st. New York was doing their own thing today, so I counted both the 21st and 23rd of days of decreased modesty. I downloaded the worldwide earthquake data for those 5 days plus boobquake, for a total of 6 samples. Now, we want to compare those especially lascivious days to “regular” days to see if earthquakes actually increase. For controls, I got the data for the three days before and the three days after any event. I picked neighboring days to control for any temporal changes that have nothing to do with boobs, but may reflect overall trends.

(As an aside, apparently National Go Topless Day is run by the Raelian cult. WTF? Allah may not support boobs, but aliens apparently do.)

Do boobs increase the number of earthquakes?

Nope (t test, p value = 0.65)

Do boobs increase the magnitude of earthquakes?

Nope (t test, p value = 0.26)

Sorry to disappoint all of you, but yet again, we have shown that boobs do not have the ability to manipulate plate tectonics. Alas, it seems this is another example confirmation bias – remembering the “hits” and ignoring the “misses.”

But if you’re still skeptical, I wasn’t bearing any cleavage when the earthquakes hit Colorado and Virginia today. Hmmm, though I was pantless. My butt isn’t anything to write home about, so many that’s why both of these earthquakes weren’t exactly devastating.

Scientists confirm that bisexuals exist

Oh science. You amuse me sometimes. File this one away in “We kind of already knew that, but thanks for getting actual data to make sure.”

Well, I already knew that, at least. But from all of the straight people who have told me bisexuals are just slutty or want attention, and all of the gay people who have told me bisexuals are just closet cases, maybe we did need a scientific study.

The video of me learning how to ride a bike

My part starts at 1:14:

I have to keep reminding myself that I did this for the children. Hooray for Camp Quest! Take that, PZ!

And no, I swear I’m not a chain smoker. I lost my voice from having too much fun at the Secular Student Alliance conference. And yes, that’s the farthest I rode the bike. As in typical Midwestern fashion, a thunderstorm popped up and started to produce a torrential downpour.

Thanks, Ashley, for making the video!

I am a geek

Proof:

1. I just bought this:I love Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, dinosaurs, and surrealism. How could I not resist?

2. Next weekend I’m going to PAX Prime, the ginormous gamer festival that’s the brain child of the guys who make the webcomic Penny Arcade. When I say ginormous, I mean ginormous – over 60,000 people have attended in the past. I’m a huge video game geek and haven’t been to any sort of geeky convention since ACen in high school, so I’m looking forward to it. The tournaments haven’t been announced yet, but I’m hoping at least something I’m good at will pop up. Mario Kart plz? Or if we’re going esoteric, Pokemon Puzzle League?

And unlike the poor shmucks who are flying in and have to deal with hotel, transportation, and food confusion, I can just hop on my same ol’ bus to downtown! Huzzah!


Upon further reflection, I just realized I’ve been reading Penny Arcade for over 10 years now. I feel old.

3. I became overly excited when I found out that there’s an unofficial Pokemon League taking place during PAX. Yeeessssss! Time to tweak my party in Pokemon White, charge my DS, and prepare to get my ass kicked. Seriously, I’m great at in-game battles, but I’ve never played competitively. People get pretty hard core about Pokemon. IV breeding and EV training lolwut?

If you’re going and can hunt me down in the crowd of 60,000, feel free to challenge me to a battle (or say hello, if you’re not a Pokemon geek like I am). I’m sure I’ll be tweeting the whole time, making con-stalking even easier.

4. Speaking of Pokemon… I’m currently constructing my cosplay as Hilda from Pokemon White:Don’t judge.

I have to give a shout out to my mom, who’s dealing with my geekery. I made her hunt through my old bedroom for my Burger King Pokeballs (which apparently suffocated small children) and mail them to me to complete the costume. Now I’m just trying to hunt down some cheap boots and a hat that I can alter with pink paint. May have to give up on a pink purse. EDIT: Boots and purse acquired at thrift store! Now just for the hat, shoelaces, and wrist band thingies. I AM GOING TO BE SO COOL.

5. And if that’s not enough, I just bought my ticket to Geek Girl Con in October.

I am in geek heaven.

That’s not skepticism – that’s bubbleheaded post modern BS

EDIT: A couple readers have pointed out that I’m wrong about skepticism not being the claim that we can know nothing. Apparently the definition of “skepticism” that I am familiar with – and honestly, the only definition I’ve heard after years in the skeptical movement – is really methodological skepticism. The author at Feministe is likely talking about philosophical skepticism. I believe my misconception came from the fact that the former is the more commonly accepted, modern definition of “skepticism” alone, and that post modernism also claims that there is a problem with objective truth. But I’m a good scientist, so I’ll admit where I’m wrong. She’s using the term fine, though I still think her views are utter hogwash.

It pains me whenever anti-science claptrap surfaces in feminist blogs I typically enjoy. It’s more evidence that feminism isn’t some monolithic entity or hive mind that constantly agrees. It’s also more evidence that we need to keep talking about how skepticism can aid feminism, because some feminists are writing rubbish like this:

As you may know from the numerous threads in which I’ve gone about it ad nauseum, I’m a skeptic (an fallibilist, existentialist …sort of). Without boring you to death, here’s the short version. I don’t think you can know things. I mean know them, know them. Not feel them, not experience them…but KNOW them. We (humans) cannot (probably) be absolutely certain of anything.

Skepticism is not some ideology where one cannot know anything. And before someone runs in screaming “No true Scottman!” – you could claim skepticism means you enjoy picking your nose while riding elephants, but that wouldn’t make it so. Skepticism is, at the very core, the application of the scientific method. To relabel it as some bizarro philosophy in where there is no such thing as knowledge is ridiculous. I can’t help but think of Tim Minchin’s wonderful Storm:



Conversation is initially bright and light-hearted

But it’s not long before Storm gets started:

“You can’t know anything,

Knowledge is merely opinion”

She opines, over her Cabernet Sauvignon

Vis-à-vis,

Some un-hippily

Empirical comment made by me


Hint: You don’t want to be making the same arguments as Storm.

There are a lot of reasons that Certainty, or at least certainty of the world outside ourselves, doesn’t work. There are the limits of human cognition. The limits of human perception. The unbridled arrogance of dogmatism. The centrality of certitude in the oppression of many, many people. But the one I want to talk about today is that dogma means that you stop learning, you stop listening to other people. In that sense I see certitude as antithetical to social justice.

Ok, I’m with you so far. Dogma = bad. Our brain messes up sometimes. That’s why we have science, right? To get around the limits of human cognition and perception. She then goes on to talk about how this sort of dogma that’s accepted as the most popular belief often gives privilege to those groups and oppresses others. Sure, I can see that. But then the argument goes back into lala land:

In my view, we can tear down all of the institutions, create perfect equality of resources or equality of opportunity, reshape the external world to our liking, but unless we reshape ourselves, address the underlying flaw in our understanding of the world and each other we will simply recreate the same power dynamics over and over again. One group will see their collective perspective as truth, as more valid than the perspectives of others, then they will once again attempt for force that reality on to others.

Which brings me back to skepticism. If we accept that we (probably) can’t know what is real, that as much as we consider, think, feel, explore we will (likely) never grasp the totality of truth, we are free to accept or learn from other people’s perspectives. We are free to accept contradictory perspectives, holding each as true for that person in that moment. We dismantle not just the current dominant narrative but also the very concept of a dominant narrative.

That to me is the goal of social justice.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

The idea that we can’t definitively know what’s 100% true, therefore we must accept all people’s views of reality as equally valid is fucking ridiculous. You can’t simultaneously accept that there is no god and that the Christian God is sitting up in the sky hating on gays, just like you can’t simultaneously accept that gravity exists and doesn’t exist. Reality is independent of whatever delusional ideas our brains come up with.

But her views (not valid) make a lot more sense when you see what she says in the comments:

“Science to me contains the same claims to certainty (in many instances) as the most fundamentalist religion.”

Hooooooooo boy.

Science is the antithesis of dogma. We don’t base our views of truth and reality on whatever idea pops into our poorly evolved ape brains. We collect evidence, perform experiments, and repeatedly try to correct our view of the world so it’s close and closer to reality.

The fact that you’re making the same arguments as in-character Stephen Colbert should be a giant red flag:


The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Michael Shermer
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Shermer: The only way to tell, really, the difference between these true patterns and false patterns is science.
Colbert: Really? You think science is the answer? But isn’t that just your belief? You are a skeptic. You are inclined to believe that skepticism is – the scientific method – the right idea, so you look for evidence out in the world that evidence is a good thing to luck for. But isn’t science just another belief system?
Shermer: It is another belief system, but it’s sets apart from another belief systems because it has built into it self correcting machinery, that says if you don’t look for your disconfirming evidence that debunks your own beliefs, someone else will, usually with great glee in a published form.

To claim that that science is bunk, or worse, just another religion, is to obviously not understand how skepticism, science, or the universe works. You may label yourself as a skeptic, but you’re the complete opposite.