Frequently-Asked Questions

A Skepticon Retrospective: From Crasher to Speaker

I attended my first Skepticon in 2012. Jen McCreight happened to be in the same carpool as me. The night before, she told us that she had a workshop that she wasn’t quite into the idea of facilitating. I joked about taking it from her and she suggested that we could co-facilitate it. That workshop ended up going swimmingly and Jenn went from my hero to my hero and my friend.

Funnily enough, I crashed another workshop at last year’s Skepticon. Faisal Saeed Al Mutar did one on Islam and modernity. Due to technical issues, the original ex-Muslim woman he wanted to bring in for another perspective could not be Skyped in as planned, so he invited me to sit in with him for his Q&A. Towards the end of the weekend, I told Lauren Lane (one of the many tireless people who make Skepticon happen) that I ought to have my own workshop. That Monday, I emailed her with the subject line “First!” asking for one.

What I got was far, far more than that.

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What We Can Do About Ferguson

Aiding the People of Ferguson’s Defense of Themselves
Officer Darren Wilson may have claimed that he had to defend his armed self from an unarmed man with lethal force, and he may have had the very prosecutor for the grand jury defending the killing instead of actually prosecuting (i.e. doing his job), but the people of Ferguson and their supporters have ways of defending ourselves, too.

On the ground, protesters are defending Ferguson businesses from looters. Those of us too far away from them to bodily interfere can help with the legal defense. Even if you are too broke to contribute yourself, social media shares go a long way. So again: here is the link to donate to the legal support fund for those arrested in Ferguson protests standing for Justice for Mike Brown. For those concerned, this comes via and is vouched for by James Croft, who is demonstrating humanism in action by being on the ground at Ferguson.

Disinfecting with Sunlight
Unrealistically sunshine-y views of the world lead people to irrationally believe that only those who deserve it are victims of blatant injustice. While their views cannot be completely eradicated from the face of the earth, the unflinching optimism of those who firmly adhere to the just world fallacy should not be dictating public policy. I’m hardly the first person to say that a system cannot fail those it is not designed to protect in the first place, but I hope that I am not the last. Those who are not throttled by its hands often cannot fathom the systemic nature of injustice, but they can certainly try to learn.

Remember: It is a rare grand jury indeed that does not indict. Of course, the law is applied quite differently to the police than it is to civilians, with members of the former group able to abuse their power while the latter is at their mercy. Civilians disenfranchised by the system itself are particularly and painfully vulnerable.

Not Giving In, Not Giving Up
As unfashionable as it is to say so in certain circles, I am quite irrationally enamored of my country, to the point where I will never stop believing that it can be changed for the better. As much work as there is to be done, that so many of us are willing to talk about what needs to be done is heartening. No matter how many removed-from-reality naysayers oppose progress, as long as there are people willing to stand up to them, all is not lost.

Leaving the House of Islam

Once upon a time, I had just come out to my family as an ex-Muslim. Believing me to be under the influence of a a heathenish social group or malicious atheist man, my folks dragged me to mosque after mosque all over California. The miles were clocked in the hopes that some imam or sheikh would manage to “answer my questions” (though I was long past questions, really). I went along with it, since I had been successfully gaslit into feeling guilt for my choices and had learned that there were rewards to giving into their “requests” instead of resisting them (i.e. I’d be left blissfully alone about it for a longer while if I yielded instead of standing my ground).

One such excursion was up north to see a religious leader my father knew and liked. That my cousin’s Gaye Holud was to take place that evening was no deterrent. The entire family piled into the van and we made the 150-mile trek up to the Santa Barbara area. What ensued was an hours-long conversation that involved lots of discussion and point-counterpoint but absolutely no eye contact between the imam and me, bless his devout heart.

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Will Harris & Aslan Let Islam & Muslims Speak for Themselves?

Reza Aslan thinks that Islam can inspire no ill.

it seems like a logical thing to say that people get their values from their scriptures. It’s just intrinsically false. That’s not what happens. People do not derive their values from their scriptures — they insert their values into their scriptures.

Meanwhile, Sam Harris thinks Islam can inspire no good.

But the task isn’t as simple as discrediting the false doctrines of Muslim “extremists,” because most of their views are not false by the light of scripture. A hatred of infidels is arguably the central message of the Koran.

I’d like to see both of them try to us those arguments outside of an interview with a Western media outlet.

A Muslim: “My devotion to Allah inspired me to do charity work with non-Muslims.”
Sam Harris: ” But if you actually took your faith seriously, you’d behead those infidels, not help them.”

Another Muslim: “I behead these non-Muslims in the name of Allah!”
Reza Aslan: “Actually, you didn’t do that in the name of Allah. You did it because [insert any and every motive besides religion here].”

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Beauty Level-Up #5: An FAQ on Contouring

Contouring is one of those things that seems really intimidating. It doesn’t help that many guides to it don’t start with the basics and launch into placement of colors. I was personally quite freaked out by contouring until very recently. Even now, I’m still exploring different ways of doing it.

Here is what I’ve learned about contouring that I learned from experience more than from what I’ve read online and heard from others, as well as some links that have helped me.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is contouring?
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Skepticon Is Nigh: A Tale Told in Reaction Images

If you follow me on social media, you’ll know how beyond stoked I am for this weekend. In but a few short hours, I will be boarding the flight that will be the first leg of my journey out to Springfield, MO, where I will be not only presenting my first workshop after two years of crashing others’ but also speaking at the Skepticon.

a cat with the caption (heavy breathing)

Inorite?

My workshop is on Becoming & Being One of the Cool Kids Online. It will cover the weirdness that is being a skepto-atheist-secular-SJW-type who uses the interwebs.

Attention online is a mixed bag, as we will discuss.

Because getting attention online is complicated, we’ll be talking history and theory but also brainstorming strategies and plans of action.

My talk is called Simple Pleasures: It’s Complicated.

I will also be decked out to the nines for the benefit of all beholding, but especially my dance partners (you could be one!), at SkeptiProm / Dino Prom.

the singer from Future Islands doing a kind of awkward yet kind of hot jig-dance

The aforementioned decking-out will take place at my hotel room, where I will be allowing in people (within reason) to borrow make-up and jewelry, as well as get help with the application of the former.

Elsa striding in her cool (see what I did there?) new outfit, captioned

It is so on.

For once, I am taking my laptop with me to con, and I’m committed to posting at least one update during all the excitement. I do tend to post things on social media, as well, so you can peek there for livetweeting and other updates.

Expectations vs. Reality on Dating Sites: Fat Hairy Girls

Content notice for racial and gender-based slurs as well as rape apologism and fatphobia. This post is heteronormative not because I’m hetereosexual, but because most of my online dating “adventures” have been with men.

I am, for better or for worse, a seasoned veteran of OkCupid. I’ve been using it off and on for almost a decade now. The way in which I have used it and for what end has varied over the years, as has my weight, my appearance, and my sexual orientation.

What hasn’t changed?

  1. For various reasons, I’m not everyone’s non-platonic cup of tea.
  2. Most men on the site claim to be opposed to at least one of the facets of who I am.
  3. I get messages from those men anyway.
  4. Hilarity ensues.

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Do I Get to Dress Like the Women on Matt Taylor’s Shirt at Work Now?

The Matt Taylor ShirtGate / ShirtStorm issue has been covered to death. As a supporter of women in STEM who is not herself a graduate of a STEM program, I thought I’d be okay with limiting my participation in conversations around it to signal-boosting others’ takes on it.

Kiran Opal discusses why people’s reactions to Matt Taylor’s apology were so terrible. Gretchen Koch explains with whom exactly she is angry. Phil Plait makes a case for why, although the conversation has centered around a shirt, it isn’t just about a shirt.  Greta Christina took on the issue from her unique perspective as a pornographer.

Many people on Twitter and other social media platforms have brought up the fact that women and people perceived to be female face constant criticism for their clothing choices both within and outside of the workplace.

This is where my outrage as a person perceived to be female comes in.

Until the day comes where women and women-perceived people’s clothing choices are not policed to death, especially in the workplace, I am entirely unsympathetic towards Matt Taylor’s choice to express his sexual preferences via his clothing choices at work.

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Polyamory: What No One Warned Me About

A born loner, bookworm, and nerd, I looked up “sex” at the library when I was nine years old rather than asked my peers about it. In the ensuing pre-teen and teenage years, I encountered all kinds of sex and love related things online (they were textual rather than visual, since I was only allowed to use our crappy dial-up for an hour a day and I feared getting caught with images or video). One of those things was the concept of non-monogamous relationships.

And so, before I had even had my first kiss, I was well-read and -versed on poly terms, concepts, and theory. There was one thing that all the poly websites, books, and podcasts didn’t quite prepare me for: how much more devastating a poly break-up can be to the dumpee’s self-esteem.

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Buy a Dance With Me at Skepticon

Today, I was simply going to announce that you can buy a slot on my dance card at SkeptiProm/Dino Prom. The proceeds will benefit Skepticon. Though I can’t promise that I’m good at dancing, since I grew up in a Footloose-esque family, I can promise that I’m always entertaining.

the invitation to SkeptiProm

 

As always, I can never just announce a thing without something else coming up. A simple fundraiser is too hard to comprehend for some people, evidently. Avicenna notified me of … well, read it for yourself. [Read more…]