My glamorous day

After reading about that photogenic wanker Bilzerian, I thought about what I could do to become an instagram star. I should take a storm of selfies of my exciting life.

Here’s my Monday:

  • Start my morning with a dental appointment.

  • Finish grading 50 cell biology exams. That’ll take me into early afternoon.

  • Spend the rest of the day finishing up my science talk for my Beijing trip. There goes the rest of the day.

  • Go to bed, too tired to play high-stakes poker.

That’s it. That’s the whole day. Maybe if I used a machine gun as a paperweight and had a team of topless supermodels standing around…nah, too distracting and my office isn’t that big.

Neither stigmatize nor celebrate mental illness

One of the odd things about NerdCon is the focus on John and Hank Green, an interest I do not share at all, but there were people there who were only attending to see a Green. They write books that I haven’t read, and I’ve seen a few of their videos, but the cult following is baffling to an outsider like me. I didn’t attend any of the Green events while I was there.

But maybe I should have. John Green posted the text of a talk he gave this weekend, and it’s quite good. It was about his battles with mental illness, and the myths around such illnesses.

In the end, I feel that romanticizing mental illness is dangerous and destructive just as stigmatizing it is. So I want to say that, yes, I am mentally ill. I’m not embarrassed about it. And I have written my best work not when flirting with the brink, but when treating my chronic health problem with consistency and care.

Now if only we had a society that believed in consistency and care…

Weekend plans

It’s Tuesday. I’m ready for the weekend already, so I can make my plans, can’t I? Besides, I have great plans. Tremendous plans. I have the best plans. Also, next weekend is the greatest weekend, since we get Monday and Tuesday off for our Fall Break, so it’s a four day weekend for me. So here’s what I’m going to do.

  • NerdCon: Stories is this weekend in Minneapolis. It’s a great little event with well-known writers (Scalzi will be there, also Mary Robinette Kowal, Saladin Ahmed, Nalo Hopkinson, Paolo Bacigalupi, etc.) doing weird creative things. It’s also far enough out of my comfort zone that I never feel guilty about not doing anything but enjoying myself as an audience member — you know that feeling, scientists. You shouldn’t be at the conference unless you can justify it by submitting an abstract. Also, it’s inspiring because it’s all about stoking the fires of creativity. You should go. We can enjoy it together.

  • I’ll be working on a talk I am obligated to give for a different event — I’m speaking in Beijing at the end of the month. The title of that talk is “Five difficult concepts in evolutionary thinking…and how to address them”. What I’m going to say is all clear in my head, but I have to do the work to sort ’em out and organize them and figure out how to communicate them. You should go. We can enjoy authentic Chinese food together and take a day to see the sights.

  • I am not formally speaking at Skepticon, but I am doing one of the Friday workshops, so I should start getting ready for that. My topic is “Bad Evolution”, and I’ll be preparing short, written examples of awful creationist logic and coaching people in how to handle them. It’ll be fun. You should go. I’ll be giving out prizes for good counterarguments — stickers you can put on your Skepticon badge.

  • There will be grading. There is always grading. But I’m going to try to get all caught up before the weekend so there isn’t too much hanging over my head. You should come to my house and do it for me.

  • My wife has been ambitiously cleaning up and throwing out two decades worth of accumulated junk. I hardly recognize our living room anymore, and I hear sounds from upstairs that tell me she’s tearing apart the boys’ bedrooms. I know I’ll be drafted to work on those projects. You should come help. We can lift things together and make trips to the dump.

  • I intend to take some quiet time and do nothing all by myself. You are not welcome to join me in that. That would defeat the whole point!

See? It’s going to be a great weekend.

Now I just have to see about making it through the week.

P.S. Skepticon still needs donations.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Today is a meaningful day up north, on which they will all give thanks that they are not part of the United States, and pray that they never will be.

Meanwhile, down here, most places call this Columbus Day, on which we celebrate genocide, the murder, rape, and enslavement of the indigenous people’s of this continent. We only do this to add a special fervor to the Canadian celebration because we like them all so much.

Nah, I lied. We do this because it is our nature to take over and exploit whatever we want. Manifest destiny and all that. Canada is just lucky that they don’t have anything we want…hey, oil in Alberta, huh? And global warming is going to expand agricultural opportunities northward?

Pray harder.

2 Corinthians 4: 17-18

You knew this day would come.

Your beautiful wife has been on a cleaning kick. She has been tidying the upstairs bedrooms, which used to be the boys’ rooms, which were an awful mess of teenage boys’ junk. You thought you could tuck your preciousses in there, where they would blend in and she would never notice. No one would notice. They were safe.

But then, one evening, she drops a great big box on the ottoman. She looks at you, accusingly.

“I thought you weren’t hoarding these things anymore,” she says.


“You never know when you might need that special cable,” you say, “You might give me some big home improvement project some day, and that box will hold exactly what will do the job.”

She gives you that look. You know the one. The one where she’d really like to say something critical, but she’s holding it back, because she’s so darned nice all the time.

“Sort it out now,” she says. “I’m hauling everything away tomorrow.”

You go through it all. There was ribbon cable in there. A Centronics parallel interface. A 1200 baud modem. You never know when you might suddenly have a use for a 1200 baud modem, and they’re just about impossible to find nowadays! Oh my god, Firewire cable. You know how much that stuff cost? Appletalk to ethernet adapters. Phone wire. Ancient mice that only worked with the old school Apple mouse connectors. You untangle and sort, and she glares at you and you end up throwing all that history away. You finally cling to only a couple of nice ethernet switches, and you found your handy RS-232 patch adapter, which you slip into your pocket when she wasn’t looking. It’s all going to the dump now.

She doesn’t know about the much bigger stash you keep in the lab, though, so you’ll still be OK if the apocalypse comes and you absolutely must solder up a serial-to-parallel cable, or you’ll die.

Oh, no! She just came down the stairs with the big spool of Cat5! We can’t get rid of that!


Everyone wants our money right now — presidential candidates are begging every day. But there are two other organizations that could use some help.

  • Skepticon! They have a contributor matching all donations until midnight tonight. You’ve got six hours!

  • RationalWiki! Help them out in their quarterly fundraiser — it’s all that’s keeping the doors open.

Oh, sure, give some money to Clinton, too.

Thursday goddamn

Labs, classes, committee meetings, and now I have to somehow squeeze my flu shot into the schedule. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate Thursdays this semester?

Oh, yes, you should get your flu vaccination too. For the good of your community. And so you’re less likely to spend a day or two puking your guts out at some time this year.