I can’t turn it off

At dinner the other night, after a couple beers:

Boyfriend: Okay, random question time.
Me: Shoot.
Boyfriend: If you could be teleported to any restaurant in the world, where you could have dinner, and you would be teleported immediately back, where would you go?
Me: Hmmm, this is a tough one.
Boyfriend: So you don’t have to worry about travel to or within that country.
Me: Do I have to actually be able to get into this place? Or can I like, teleport into French Laundry and they’re required to feed the person who just appeared?
Boyfriend: …Let’s say you have enough time to make reservations, but you still have to be able to get the reservations and afford the meal.
Me: Okay, so not French Laundry. ………..Honestly, probably some seaside restaurant in Italy.
Boyfriend: Not somewhere in Asia? Or the Middle East?
Me: I’m not really sure if I want to go to the Middle East…
Boyfriend: Okay, just what food would you want to eat? Let’s also say you have a magic forcefield that makes you look like a male.
Me: I like how I can suspend disbelief for teleportation, but sexism? Nope.

All I can say is thank goodness I found a man gets a laugh out of my overthinking.

Where would you go? Same rules as above apply, including magic forcefields to make you have the most privilege possible in the local area.

This is kind of awesome

One clever 6th grade teacher (from Indiana!) turned his classroom into a role-playing game, complete with leveling up for completing certain tasks, unlocking achievements, having random encounters, and forming alliances with other students.

Many students were thrilled right off the bat. It was mainly my group of athletic boys, who are constantly driven by competition to do well. The fantasy/sci-fi aspects of ClassRealm drew in other students as well. It didn’t matter why they cared. I just wanted them to care.

[…] Participation skyrocketed on the first day. I had students I never heard from volunteering to answer questions they didn’t even know the answer to. Students who normally wouldn’t even care were going out of their way to get XP from class participation. Every one of my students pushed themselves to focus during the day’s assignments and behave. One student, who earned a bronze level achievement, was even applauded by the entire class. It blew my mind. The amount of XP I was going to give out was undetermined, so I just let them come naturally. Share your maths answer with the class? XP for you. Let a classmate borrow your dry erase marker? XP for you!

I am completely and utterly jealous I didn’t have this when I was in middle school. Hell, I’m jealous I don’t have this in grad school. I totally would have leveled up my “Paper Reading” skill today. “Dissertation Defense” would be the final boss. Sidequests all involve finding as much free food as possible.

I’m not going to lie. I think my favorite part is the Friday quiz battles that are done to Pokemon battle music. Maybe I should just have video game battle music playing constantly at my desk…

Still looking for Christmas cards?

Don’t forget I have some evolution themed Christmas cards for sale!

Christmas Tree of Life:

Evolution of Christmas:

Have no idea what to actually write in your godless Christmas cards? Digital Cuttlefish has oodles of atheist Christmas poems.

And if you still need to buy a gift for PZ, you can bid on this awesomely blasphemous piece of art by Joshua Bennett:

He’s auctioning off the piece, and all proceeds go to the American Humanist Association.

I’ve been pony-fied

I had two My Little Ponies that I played with when I was about six years old, until their manes turned bright green from me bringing them to the swimming pool too many times. But I totally don’t get the whole My Little Pony reboot fandom thing. Bronies? What?

But I don’t care. Along with the other Skepticon speakers (here and here), I’ve been pony-fied, and it’s pretty damn cute:

I love it. My favorite color blue (nabbed from the Blag Hag logo, I assume), badass pegasus wings, a DNA symbol, a mane that accurately depicts my bushy brown hair, and a pony pun that PRONOUNCES MY LAST NAME CORRECTLY! Win.

Answers to the critical thinking puzzles

Many of you took a shot at answering the critical thinking puzzles I posted during Blogathon. Now it’s time for the answers! And because I’m lazy, I’m just going to copy and paste the explanations given by some of you guys!

Question 1: In front of you are four cards. You know that each card has a photo of a famous person on one side, and a photo of an animal on the other. The four sides that are visible to you are as follows: Ken Ham, Richard Dawkins, a narwhal, and a T-Rex. I let you know that all of these cards follow the same rule – that if a card has a religious person on it’s famous person side, it has a dinosaur on its animal side. What’s the lowest number of cards you’d need to flip to determine if this rule is true or false for these cards, and which cards would you flip?


Answer from UrsaMinor: “You would have to flip two cards to test the rule. If it is true, Ken Ham will have a dinosaur on the reverse, and the narwhal will have a non-religious person on the reverse. Since there is no rule stating that non-religious people must have any particular theme on the reverse, it is not necessary to turn over the Richard Dawkins and T-Rex cards, because no matter what they have on the reverse sides, they cannot not break the rule.”

Alternative smartass answer from James F. McGrath: “Question 1 is a trick question to prevent banana-wielding creationists from winning. Anyone who embraces mainstream science will know that the categories “famous persons” and “animals” overlap. :)”

Question 2: Because I’m super nice, I give you a giant one hundred pound watermelon as a gift. You determine that this giant watermelon is ninety-nine percent water by weight. Unfortunately you let the watermelon sit out in the sun, and some water evaporates. Now the watermelon is only ninety-eight percent water by weight. To the nearest pound, what does the watermelon now weigh?


Answer from Gary Usleaman: “This one was fun! Since it started out at 100 lbs. and 99% water, then that means that 1% (or 1 lb) was Not Water (NW). After letting it rot in the sun for a bit (best thing for water mellon, if you ask me), you find that it is 98% water. [BTW, you had to weigh it to figure that out anyway, so why are you asking me how much it weighed?] Well, the 1 lb of NW didn’t change, so that means that 1 lb is 2% of the total weight. That makes the total weight 50 lbs.”

Question 3: While you were at TAM9, you decided to suspend skepticism and gamble – specifically, by playing roulette. But since you want to have some sort of strategy, you decide to flip a coin before each bet to decide whether to place a bet on red or on black (which should have a 50/50 chance of happening). Sadly, you lose sixty seven times in a row – that is, the ball always lands on the opposite color that you pick. If you turned your skepticism back on, it would be most rational to think:

A. You just have shitty luck
B. It’s terrible strategy to flip a coin to pick what color to bet on in roulette
C. You should keep up this strategy because you’ve really likely to win the next bet
D. The roulette table is obviously broken, but you can’t assume that’s intentional
E. The casino or the staff are dirty crooks who have rigged the game against you somehow
F. You can’t reasonably decide which of the listed options are more likely


Answer from Jonathan: “The probability of losing 67 times in a row is one in 2^67, ie about 1 in 147 billion billion. So this is *extremely* unlikely to be bad luck. If the game is fair, flipping a coin is no worse than any other strategy – there’s no pattern to pick up on. C is for idiots, D might make sense if you were always betting (say) red, but since your choice is random and there’s no sensible way your coin toss can directly affect the wheel, if must be E, and the casino is seeing your bet, then manipulating the wheel (or, at least, it’s far more likely that the casino is crooked than that you’ve lost fairly 67 times on the trot).”


Katie was nice enough to make up some graphs of your responses:

Most of you guessed I would fail at the door question, followed by the roulette question… But I actually got the watermelon question wrong. I know, I know. The answer is obvious now that I see it, but I’m rusty and wasn’t thinking. Alas.


Congrats to our winner, Jimmyrhoffa, who was the first to get all of these right! Katie should have your prize to you soon.

Solve these critical thinking puzzles, win a prize!

I love logic puzzles, and a friend showed me some particularly good ones the other day. These are based on puzzles written by the Mathematician from AskAMathematician.com.
If you’re the first to get all three of them correct with correct explanations for all of your answers, you’ll win a prize! Skepticon will send you either 4 Skepticon pint glasses or 6 Skepticon shot glasses. To be eligible for the prize, include the work “banana” in your comment.

And as a bonus just for fun – these questions were from a larger set of 8, and I included the only question I got wrong. Which one did I mess up on?

Question 1: In front of you are four cards. You know that each card has a photo of a famous person on one side, and a photo of an animal on the other. The four sides that are visible to you are as follows: Ken Ham, Richard Dawkins, a narwhal, and a T-Rex. I let you know that all of these cards follow the same rule – that if a card has a religious person on it’s famous person side, it has a dinosaur on its animal side. What’s the lowest number of cards you’d need to flip to determine if this rule is true or false for these cards, and which cards would you flip?

Question 2: Because I’m super nice, I give you a giant one hundred pound watermelon as a gift. You determine that this giant watermelon is ninety-nine percent water by weight. Unfortunately you let the watermelon sit out in the sun, and some water evaporates. Now the watermelon is only ninety-eight percent water by weight. To the nearest pound, what does the watermelon now weigh?

Question 3: While you were at TAM9, you decided to suspend skepticism and gamble – specifically, by playing roulette. But since you want to have some sort of strategy, you decide to flip a coin before each bet to decide whether to place a bet on red or on black (which should have a 50/50 chance of happening). Sadly, you lose sixty seven times in a row – that is, the ball always lands on the opposite color that you pick. If you turned your skepticism back on, it would be most rational to think:

A. You just have shitty luck
B. It’s terrible strategy to flip a coin to pick what color to bet on in roulette
C. You should keep up this strategy because you’ve really likely to win the next bet
D. The roulette table is obviously broken, but you can’t assume that’s intentional
E. The casino or the staff are dirty crooks who have rigged the game against you somehow
F. You can’t reasonably decide which of the listed options are more likely

Good luck!

EDIT: Katie from Skepticon adds:

“Keep posting! Even if someone has already given your response, I’m strongly considering a small consolation prize (for the first 10 correct folks), so it’s in your best interest to post. Unless you don’t like getting special prezzies in the mail, of course. :)”


This is post 10 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

The “Don’t Send Jen to Georgia” Fund

Speaking of Skepticon – one of the reasons why I agreed to be part of their photo shoot is because I’m going to be speaking there! Woohooo! So add Springfield, Missouri to my list of exciting travel destinations.
You know what I don’t want to add to that list? Georgia.

A bit of an explanation (and an attempt to quell the rage of my Georgian readers): Skepticon is a free conference. They do a lot of fundraising to try to keep it as cheap as possible. This is all the more impressive because it’s run by a student organization at MSU. Unfortunately, I am also a student, so it means we have poor students trying to buy poor students plane tickets.

So here’s where I turn to you, good readers. As it stands, the cheapest flight from Springfield to Seattle involves not only arriving way past midnight, but having a layover in freaking Georgia. It’s bad enough that I’ll have to brave public transportation alone in the middle of the night. But flying to the complete opposite side of the country is too illogical for me to handle. Especially after attending a skeptical conference – my brain may well explode. Apparently not many Seattle people need flights from Missouri.

So if you have a couple bucks to spare and want to help Skepticon (while keeping me sane), consider donating to the For The Love of FSM Please Don’t Send Jen to Georgia fund:

EDIT: Goal reached! Well, goal surpassed, actually! You guys are awesome. Not only did you just make my life easier, but you just helped fund other conference stuff too. Thanks so much!
On a serious and less whiny note… I fly out to these things without asking for honorarium and often accrue costs from various odd things (taxis, food). Not to mention the less time I’m flying, the more time I have to catch up on my research that I’m already missing from traveling. So I seriously would appreciate any help you could give.

Here’s my Skepticon calendar photo!

I went for the classy look.Because hey, you don’t need to show lots of skin to look sexy, and the most important thing was to do something I was comfortable with. And if Dan Barker can pose fully clothed, so can I.

Calendars will go on sale in about a month, and all proceeds will help fund the amazing, free skeptical conference Skepticon. Thanks to my friend Brendan for being an awesome photographer.

Bonus points to anyone who recognizes where this was taken! Edit: That was quick! Yep, this was taken at Gas Works Park in Seattle.

(Hint #1: This is one of those contexts where it would be okay to comment on my appearance.)

(Hint #2: Because this one instance of an acceptable context exists, that does not mean that all future contexts are to be ignored. One yes does not mean “always yes.”)