CONvergence 2014 panel audio: It’s (Not) Written In The Stars

This was a fun panel about the cognitive dissonance and shared delusion necessary to believe in astrology despite all of science’s advances. It was a bit raucaus at times, but we had good audience participation and Brianne had some hilarious points throughout, relieving me of my usual role as snarker. With a real-life astronomer and two science teachers — one tenured, one a teacher-in-training — this panel covered all the perspectives. Well, except for the perspectives of true-believer. No wait, Nicole admitted to having been one herself at one point! So it covered all the perspectives! Yeah!

We’ll explore the myths and beliefs of astrology and why some people still find it convincing in the modern age of science.

Panelists: Jason Thibeault, Brianne Bilyeu, Dan Berliner, Matt Lowry, Nicole Gugliucci

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(or download the It’s (Not) Written In The Stars mp3 – 24.7 megs)

My CONvergence schedule – 2014

It’s gotten so’s I gotta put a year in the title to make it unique! How weird is that.

My CONvergence schedule is a bit thicker this year than in years past — I’m invited to participate in six panels. That’s a record for me! One of them is even my own brain-baby — the Superheroes in our Modern Day Pantheons panel.

And as usual, I’ll be hanging out in the FtB / Skepchicks “party” rooms wherein we’ll not actually be partying, but rather fending off constant attacks from the encroaching Royal Manticorian Army and Klingon rooms. Also, there will be science sandboxes, commisserating with like-minded individuals, and modest amounts of alcohol to lubricate the conversation. I might also provide hilariawful Bible games on the big-screen TV, e.g. Super Noah’s Ark 3D, if I can manage a better setup than last year.

The panels are:

Friday, July 4 • 5:00pm – 6:00pm
Alien Conspiracy Theories

The truth is out there, and we’ll help you find it! We’ll cover a wide range of alien-centric conspiracy theories and discuss the implications these have on individuals and society at large.

Panelists: JD Horn, Jason Thibeault, Nicole Gugliucci, PZ Myers, Scott Lynch

Friday, July 4 • 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Superheroes in Our Modern-Day Pantheons

Nobody really worships Hercules or Thor as Greek and Norse gods anymore, but don’t despair, because now they’re both members of The Avengers. This panel will explore the commonalities and differences between our ancient and modern pantheons.

Panelists: David Schwartz, Jason Thibeault, Roy T Cook, Jonathan Palmer, Ryan Consell

Friday, July 4 • 11:30pm – 12:30am
It’s (Not) Written in the Stars
We’ll explore the myths and beliefs of astrology and why some people still find it convincing in the modern age of science.

Panelists: Jason Thibeault, Brianne Bilyeu, Dan Berliner, Matt Lowry, Nicole Gugliucci

Saturday, July 5 • 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Criticism and Empathy Online

When people abuse anonymity to give hurtful, damaging criticism, is this merely a failure of empathy, or is there something more there? How do you criticize people without triggering a flame war? Should you even TRY to avoid flame wars?

Panelists: Miri Mogilevsky, Jason Thibeault, Wesley Chu, Kameron Hurley, Ted Meissner

Saturday, July 5 • 8:30pm – 9:30pm
Organizing Online to Make a Better World: Do We Need to Tear the Old One Down?

Criticism and even rage blazing across social media has proven remarkably effective in getting complaints heard, but what are the downsides? How do we maintain communities when anger and volume get things done?

Panelists: Miri Mogilevsky, Jason Thibeault, Beth Voigt, Stephanie Zvan, Debbie Goddard

Sunday, July 6 • 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Urban Legends: Myths, Facts, and Half-Truths

From alligators in the sewer to clowns in the attic, urban legends walk the line between total absurdity and being just so outrageous that they might be true. Where do these stories come from, and why do they capture our imaginations so effectively?

Panelists: Jason Thibeault, Anne Sauer, Naomi Kritzer, Bug Girl, Shawn van Briesen

The specific gravity of cold-press coffee

Okay, a bit of a misleading title, but I like it nonetheless.

I just had a minor bit of unpleasant SIWOTI, only in meatspace instead of On The Internet. I don’t think I handled it entirely appropriately but that’s mostly because as a nerd, these things do matter to me. But interacting with other people also matters to me.

Caribou Coffee is a local answer to Starbucks that falls about halfway between Tim Horton’s and Starbucks on the scale of fancy-fancy frou-frou (which is a scalar value, obviously). They have a trivia question on a chalkboard next to their menu every day, and getting it right will knock ten cents off your order. It’s not a big deal, but it’s a fun little thing. Today’s question was: “What is Mars’ gravitational pull (relative to Earth’s)?”
[Read more...]

The Constitutionality of Abortion Policy in New Brunswick – PDF

A few people wanted it in PDF form, so here’s Tia Beaudoin’s thesis, reformatted and polished up in a nice, easily distributable PDF file.

Took me all evening to build this. Hope it serves someone well!

The Constitutionality of Abortion Policy in New Brunswick

If you’d like to read it in blog format, here it is:

Cover / Works Cited
Introduction
Chapter 1: A Social and Legal History of Abortion in Canada
Chapter 2: New Brunswick: Openly Defying the Canada Health Act
Conclusion

The Constitutionality of Abortion Policy in New Brunswick – Conclusion

Tia Beaudoin, a recent Political Science Honours graduate at University of New Brunswick, has kindly offered her thesis as a series of guest blog posts on the subject of the abortion policy in NB, with particular regard to the laws that have resulted in abortion being virtually inaccessible for much of the Maritimes.

As it’s very long, I’ve broken it up into multiple posts:

Cover / Works Cited
Introduction
Chapter 1: A Social and Legal History of Abortion in Canada
Chapter 2: New Brunswick: Openly Defying the Canada Health Act
Conclusion

As an editor’s note, I should point out that Dr. Henry Morgentaler died last May, and after his death, the clinic he founded in New Brunswick — which he’d been fighting to force the government to cover the costs of the procedures done there in the courts over the last 11 years — was forced to close for lack of funding, despite the Canada Health Act requiring funding of abortions. The provincial government, thanks to Regulation 84-20, only covers funding for abortions recommended by two doctors as “medically necessary” — a law that makes it nearly impossible to obtain the two doctors’ sign-off during the mandated first twelve weeks of the woman’s pregnancy. Those two facts essentially make it impossible to get medical funding, and the clinic under Morgentaler had mandated to never turn away a woman in need. As a result, it has lost close to $100,000 over the past ten years.

Worse, the lawsuit was dropped in the wake of the ongoing backlash against Regulation 84-20.

Conclusion

Change is inevitable for New Brunswick; the only thing the provincial government can do is slow that change down, although resisting change comes at the high cost of restrictions being placed upon women’s rights and health care. Many who are following the ongoing Morgentaler v. New Brunswick case speculate that the provincial government is stalling the case because they are waiting for Morgentaler to die, as he is growing older and in ill health. If this happens, the case will dissolve and if someone else were to wish to continue with that case they would need to start from the beginning. Even if Morgentaler dies before the case is over, the human rights complaint will still be processed, attacking Regulation 84-20 from the physician’s side rather than from a women’s rights standpoint. Regardless, it is only a matter of time before the federal government chastises New Brunswick for not properly adhering to the Canada Health Act, however this will likely not happen while Prime Minister Harper is in office. I believe the likelihood of the federal government deducting from New Brunswick’s Canada Health Transfer would be increased under a Liberal or New Democratic government, as those parties are far less socially conservative by definition than Canada’s current government.
[Read more...]

The Constitutionality of Abortion Policy in New Brunswick – Chapter 2

Tia Beaudoin, a recent Political Science Honours graduate at University of New Brunswick, has kindly offered her thesis as a series of guest blog posts on the subject of the abortion policy in NB, with particular regard to the laws that have resulted in abortion being virtually inaccessible for much of the Maritimes.

As it’s very long, I’ve broken it up into multiple posts:

Cover / Works Cited
Introduction
Chapter 1: A Social and Legal History of Abortion in Canada
Chapter 2: New Brunswick: Openly Defying the Canada Health Act
Conclusion

As an editor’s note, I should point out that Dr. Henry Morgentaler died last May, and after his death, the clinic he founded in New Brunswick — which he’d been fighting to force the government to cover the costs of the procedures done there in the courts over the last 11 years — was forced to close for lack of funding, despite the Canada Health Act requiring funding of abortions. The provincial government, thanks to Regulation 84-20, only covers funding for abortions recommended by two doctors as “medically necessary” — a law that makes it nearly impossible to obtain the two doctors’ sign-off during the mandated first twelve weeks of the woman’s pregnancy. Those two facts essentially make it impossible to get medical funding, and the clinic under Morgentaler had mandated to never turn away a woman in need. As a result, it has lost close to $100,000 over the past ten years.

Worse, the lawsuit was dropped in the wake of the ongoing backlash against Regulation 84-20.

Chapter 2: New Brunswick: Openly Defying the Canada Health Act

Under the Canadian constitution, legislation, regulation, insuring of medical procedures is strictly under provincial jurisdiction.1 The federal Canada Health Act legislates that all provinces must cover medically necessary procedures within their respective provincial health insurance plans in order to be eligible for the Canada Health Transfer; which is a fund given by the federal government to provincial governments to help supplement provincial medical insurance payments among other things. Within the following chapter I will detail the government of New Brunswick’s problematic interpretation of the federal legislative void in which abortion has existed since 1988. 2 Included in this will be an explanation of the relevant court cases ongoing in the province. I will also discuss how the province has continued to be unpunished for its disregard of the Canada Health Act, although the federal government has full knowledge of New Brunswick’s transgressions. In addition I will conclude by discussing the importance of clinic abortion access, along with the numerous benefits these clinics can provide both to the government and to women in New Brunswick. New Brunswick’s abortion policy is operating in contravention to women’s Charter rights on several levels, and is extremely inaccessible when compared to many other Canadian provinces.
[Read more...]

The Constitutionality of Abortion Policy in New Brunswick – Chapter 1

Tia Beaudoin, a recent Political Science Honours graduate at University of New Brunswick, has kindly offered her thesis as a series of guest blog posts on the subject of the abortion policy in NB, with particular regard to the laws that have resulted in abortion being virtually inaccessible for much of the Maritimes.

As it’s very long, I’ve broken it up into multiple posts:

Cover / Works Cited
Introduction
Chapter 1: A Social and Legal History of Abortion in Canada
Chapter 2: New Brunswick: Openly Defying the Canada Health Act
Conclusion

As an editor’s note, I should point out that Dr. Henry Morgentaler died last May, and after his death, the clinic he founded in New Brunswick — which he’d been fighting to force the government to cover the costs of the procedures done there in the courts over the last 11 years — was forced to close for lack of funding, despite the Canada Health Act requiring funding of abortions. The provincial government, thanks to Regulation 84-20, only covers funding for abortions recommended by two doctors as “medically necessary” — a law that makes it nearly impossible to obtain the two doctors’ sign-off during the mandated first twelve weeks of the woman’s pregnancy. Those two facts essentially make it impossible to get medical funding, and the clinic under Morgentaler had mandated to never turn away a woman in need. As a result, it has lost close to $100,000 over the past ten years.

Worse, the lawsuit was dropped in the wake of the ongoing backlash against Regulation 84-20.

Chapter 1: A Social and Legal History of Abortion in Canada

This chapter will give a summary of federal abortion legislation from Confederation until present day. It will also describe the various societal problems associated with each historical stage of abortion legality, such as the widespread and at times deadly practice of illegal abortion. I will discuss how the societal issue of illegal abortion, coupled with the illegality of contraceptives and sexual health information and the sexual revolution and Second Wave feminism of the 1960’s brought about a surge in reproductive justice activism which helped fuel the flames of change in Canada. I will also consider the introduction of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and how it led to one of the most significant moments in the history of abortion in Canada, the Supreme Court’s 1988 Morgentaler decision. I will conclude by describing Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s designation of abortion as a medical issue, thereby placing it’s regulation under provincial jurisdiction, which led to the numerous problems New Brunswick is facing today.
[Read more...]

The Constitutionality of Abortion Policy in New Brunswick – Introduction

Tia Beaudoin, a recent Political Science Honours graduate at University of New Brunswick, has kindly offered her thesis as a series of guest blog posts on the subject of the abortion policy in NB, with particular regard to the laws that have resulted in abortion being virtually inaccessible for much of the Maritimes.

As it’s very long, I’ve broken it up into multiple posts:

Cover / Works Cited
Introduction
Chapter 1: A Social and Legal History of Abortion in Canada
Chapter 2: New Brunswick: Openly Defying the Canada Health Act
Conclusion

As an editor’s note, I should point out that Dr. Henry Morgentaler died last May, and after his death, the clinic he founded in New Brunswick — which he’d been fighting to force the government to cover the costs of the procedures done there in the courts over the last 11 years — was forced to close for lack of funding, despite the Canada Health Act requiring funding of abortions. The provincial government, thanks to Regulation 84-20, only covers funding for abortions recommended by two doctors as “medically necessary” — a law that makes it nearly impossible to obtain the two doctors’ sign-off during the mandated first twelve weeks of the woman’s pregnancy. Those two facts essentially make it impossible to get medical funding, and the clinic under Morgentaler had mandated to never turn away a woman in need. As a result, it has lost close to $100,000 over the past ten years.

Worse, the lawsuit was dropped in the wake of the ongoing backlash against Regulation 84-20.

Introduction

In an ideal world, women could choose when their bodies would become pregnant, and every child would result from a fully intended pregnancy. Scientifically, we as a society are getting closer to this ideal through an improved understanding of how the human body works, and through the use of contraception. However these methods are still flawed in a number of ways. Many women do not have access to contraceptives, either because they are too expensive or because they live in a restrictive home where they are not able to receive a prescription for birth control, or purchase condoms. Even if contraceptives are used, mistakes or lack of knowledge can still lead a woman to become pregnant. In addition to this, rape and intimate partner abuse is all too common in our society; women should not be expected to prepare themselves to prevent pregnancy from sexual assault. In addition to this, a partner may refuse to wear a condom. There are countless situations when contraceptives are either impossible to access, or their use is ineffective.
[Read more...]

The Constitutionality of Abortion Policy in New Brunswick – cover

Tia Beaudoin, a recent Political Science Honours graduate at University of New Brunswick, has kindly offered her thesis as a series of guest blog posts on the subject of the abortion policy in NB, with particular regard to the laws that have resulted in abortion being virtually inaccessible for much of the Maritimes.

As it’s very long, I’ve broken it up into multiple posts:

Cover / Works Cited
Introduction
Chapter 1: A Social and Legal History of Abortion in Canada
Chapter 2: New Brunswick: Openly Defying the Canada Health Act
Conclusion

As an editor’s note, I should point out that Dr. Henry Morgentaler died last May, and after his death, the clinic he founded in New Brunswick — which he’d been fighting to force the government to cover the costs of the procedures done there in the courts over the last 11 years — was forced to close for lack of funding, despite the Canada Health Act requiring funding of abortions. The provincial government, thanks to Regulation 84-20, only covers funding for abortions recommended by two doctors as “medically necessary” — a law that makes it nearly impossible to obtain the two doctors’ sign-off during the mandated first twelve weeks of the woman’s pregnancy. Those two facts essentially make it impossible to get medical funding, and the clinic under Morgentaler had mandated to never turn away a woman in need. As a result, it has lost close to $100,000 over the past ten years.

Worse, the lawsuit was dropped in the wake of the ongoing backlash against Regulation 84-20.

[Read more...]

Skeptech Gameathon Fundraiser – March 22nd!

Last year, the first Skeptech conference was, entirely unsurprisingly, a big success. With some big names talking about some big topics in and around the intersection of science, technology and skepticism, they’ve got a tough act to follow this year.

And yet, they seem to have managed just fine on the speakers front, with Jesse Galef, Tim Farley, and Debbie Goddard, to name a scant few.

They’re still in a drive for fundraising though, since the rocket packs they’re strapping to all these cats don’t come cheap. So, I’ve agreed to host a twelve hour gaming fundraiser telethon, with games broadcast via Twitch TV while we concurrently run a Google Hangout On Air. Brendan Murphy and Chelsea DuFresne will be the real hosts, while I play video games and run tech and probably get more than my fair share of screen time regardless. Stephanie Zvan will visit in person, as will Brianne Bilyeu; we’ll have a number of guests join us via the Hangout, including Rebecca Watson, Scicurious and Surly Amy.

From the teaser:

On the 22nd, this page will be outfitted with a Google Hangout, Twitch Stream & Chat, and an easy way to donate to the Skeptech conference (paypal).

Here are some initial incentives (more will be added):

$5 to be a member of our Organ Trail team.
At $200, we’ll buy Super Meat Boy and fail horribly.
At $1000, we’ll buy Amnesia, and play it at full-volume in the dark. You’ll be able to watch our horror on the hangout.
We hope you’ll join us! Stay tuned for a rough schedule of what we’ll be playing, who will be joining us, and when.

I don’t have this rough timeline myself, but I can reveal a few other incentives we have on tap. For $20, you can jump into the Hangouts for 15 mins and try to go all debate-club on us, while we try to multitask and out-debate you while also staying on the course on Rainbow Road in Mario Kart or some other such outlandish gaming stunt. Wanna talk about gaming handicaps, there you go.

For $100, I’ll write the blog post of your choice — you get to pick the topic, the side you want me to argue (and I’ll even steel-man some positions I’d otherwise never take or even strongly disagree with!), and you can even give me a specific phrase to work in. Minimum of 1200 words, to boot, EXCLUDING blockquotes. This is a quote-miner’s goldmine, and it could be yours for a mere hundred clams.

Or for $50, you can point me to a post by anyone on any topic, and let me blog whatever I’d like about it, taking whatever angle I so choose. Minimum 1500 words — a better value, but you don’t know necessarily what I’ll argue or how!

And I’m sure if you come up with specific gaming stunts or bounties, we could come to some arrangements. It’s interactive entertainment, all to serve a higher cause: dispelling the demons of ignorance and delusion while talking about the science and technology that proves our side is the side of angels.

See you there!