The good news

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has just announced that 47 colleges have been awarded big grants via their Science Education Initiative, and the University of Minnesota Morris is among them. I’m the program director here, which means I get to be an administrator of our $1.2 million grant. Yay me!

Wait…administrator? Work? Why did I write that thing again?

Oh, well. The bulk of the award is going to be used to sponsor undergraduate research, as well as outreach to local schools and the community at large, so I guess it’s all worth it. It’s just…work. <shudder>

Episode CCCXXX: People I’ve talked to

I’ve been in Anderson Cooper’s position a few times: having a conversation with someone defending the indefensible. I feel some sympathy for this poor woman: she’s probably of average intelligence, and has just discovered that she has to defend hatred and ignorance on television…and she discovers that falling back on the authority of her pastor isn’t enough.

(via Mano)

(Episode CCCXXIX: Centered.)

Why I am an atheist – Sharon C

My upbringing was a little atypical – my parents never mentioned religion at all that I can remember. To this day, I’m only 50% sure they are also atheists, the other 50% is that they straddle the line between atheist and just-don’t-care. Though every year my dad says the Singularity is only 10 years away (he’s been saying this for the last 20 years), so they do have their little oddities. As a child, religion for me was no different from other bits of make-believe or the fantasy books I was constantly reading.

That started to change in high school – I was talking to people my age that were religious, and generally trying to figure the universe out. I went to church once or twice with my grandmother, but found the sermons pretty offensive. I stumbled into paganism after a blow up in a star trek email discussion group (long story), and thought that it sounded nice.

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Why I am an atheist – Ben Pitawanakwat

I’m a Native North American, Ojibwe, grew up in Canada. 34 years old now. Family is Catholic, and went to Catholic school for my education.

Though the schools were there to continue indoctrination, I do have to admit the teachers were quality teachers who genuinely cared about the well-being of the students. They practiced their craft well; helping those who struggled and offered challenge to those who excelled. They put up with us teenagers doing teenaged things like getting drunk, smoking, and skipping school, and taught us when we were ready to learn. So I learned.

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Why I am an atheist – Tim “Santiago” Converse

I suppose the easiest thing to say is “because there is no evidence for the existence of any super natural being.” Ultimately that’s what it comes down to.

Notice that “Santiago” in my name? That’s because I am a semi-professional magician and “Santiago” is my performing persona. This is relevant. You see it was my research in to magic that put the final nail in the coffin of religious and supernatural belief for me.

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In which I master German

So I found my way to a Bäckerei — not hard, they’re everywhere — and discovered that my server had not a word of English, and my German is decidedly rusty to the point of crumbling. I know some nouns, at least, and I quickly discovered that I could manage with just two words.

“Frühstuck!” I said.

She started rattling off a list of words that included “-brot” and “-fleisch” and “-käse” and a lot of other utterly unrecognizable phrases.

I simply said, “Ja” to each. It was easy.

Thus I ended up with a platter of meat and cheese, and a basket of assorted bread, and a cup of strong dark coffee, und Ich beginnen mit the gut fressen. And it was real bread, with texture and flavor and a wonderful flaky crust, Gott sei dank. Ausgezeichnet!

I may not be able to leave this country, at this rate. Just the thought of the pale bland gooey Minnesota version of “bread” fills me with revulsion.

Thanks for the beer warnings!

I have received a lot of advice in my email about the beer here in Germany — apparently, there’s a fair amount of regional variation. I know I washed down my dinner last night with something that was indistinguishable from American Budweiser, anyway.

But I don’t know how I’d react if I saw something like this Papst-Bier:

I might be contractually obligated to drink it, so I can desecrate it by passing it through my heathen kidneys.