A little bit of good news

I opened my mail, and there was my very first royalty check from The Happy Atheist.

Whoa, I said. Whoa.

I guess a lot of you bought copies. Thanks! Buy some more! You know the paperback edition is out now, right?

Part of this is getting sunk into buying some gear for the lab — I’ve been desperate to get a good digital camera for the microscope. Anyone know anything about Jenoptik?

I don’t even know where it is, but I’m going to be there!

Right after my fun weekend at the World Humanist Congress, I’m heading off to Hebden Bridge. It’s somewhere in England, I hear.


I just looked it up: north of Manchester, about a 4.5 hour train ride from Oxford. And Edinburgh is 4 hours north of that; I’m hoping to pop in there, too.

I expect you all to show up, except for that one goofy English wackadoodle on twitter who always calls for everyone to boycott my talks. There’s the remotest chance he could show up, so his personal boycott might actually mean something, for a change.

Let me just leave you with this quote…it’s a busy day

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was on the craptastic Sunday pundit shows, and broke through the pretentious backpatting to say something interesting.

Well, this is a problem. I did a little bit of research, more whites believe in ghosts than believe in racism. That’s why we don’t have — that [sic] why we have shows like Ghostbusters and don’t have shows like Racistbuster. You know, it’s something that’s still part of our culture and people hold on to some of these ideas and practices just out of habit and saying that well that’s the way it always was. But things have to change.

Posting will be light today. This is the start of finals week, and lucky me, I get them all out of the way today, on the very first day — so shortly I head off to torment my poor students with tricksy questions, and then I’m going to sit down and do all the grading. With any luck, I’ll put down this semester by this evening, and then maybe go celebrate by watching the new Spider-man movie. Even though it probably sucks.

Mystery engagement tonight

I’m heading in to the Twin Cities tonight, to join a panel on approaches to science education for the public. I haven’t seen any advertising for it, I was told that there were some other panelists, but that their involvement was tentative. I was asked by the Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists to do this, and trusting fool that I am, I agreed, so off I go.

It’s in Folwell Hall 112, at 7pm. I need you all to go and check it out: if the room is eerily empty, it was a trap, and I’ve been abducted. Contact the FBI, the NSA, NASA, and Interpol! Tell them my last contact was with Chelsea Du Fresne! Mount a rescue! Run around in circles and shout!

Otherwise, well, you’ll get to attend an interesting discussion about an important topic. Not quite as exciting as a cunningly planned kidnapping, but you know, sometimes life just cruises along pleasantly.

What happens when you accuse racists of being racist?

You get mail. Nicely written, printed letters in the mail. And they confirm everything I said.

So a lot of Fox News viewers have been writing to me lately, expressing their outrage that I would dare to suggest that racist newspapers out to be thrown off campus. And a great many of them have another odd, common thread, something that wasn’t in the Fox News report, but apparently all these rabid tea-baggers have inferred it, and they’re pretty darned insistent that it must be true.

I must be Jewish.

Take it away, Bob in Boca:


“Myers” is not a Jewish name. I wouldn’t be at all put out if I’d had some Jewish ancestry, but I’m afraid that my father’s ancestry has been traced back to the 16th century (mostly Scots/Irish/English ne’er-do-wells living marginal lives along the western American frontier), and my mother’s back to the 14th (Scandinavian peasants who never wandered far from their village), and I’m afraid there’s no evidence of any Jewish family. I’ve never hinted that I might be Jewish. People who know me have never made the assumption that I might be a cultural Jew.

The only people who call me Jewish are right-wingers who write to me to chew me out for some great liberal evil I’ve committed, and a surprising number of them do so. They never speculate that I’m Lithuanian, or tell me that my name sounds suspiciously Belgian, or sneer at my obvious Sinhalese bias — it’s always this bizarre insinuation that I’m a wicked anti-American liberal, therefore…Jew.

It says a lot about them. Not much about me. Why are so many teabaggers implicitly anti-semitic?

I’m going to Connecticut!

Unfortunately, nobody who reads this blog lives anywhere near Hartford (right?) so it’ll be a lonely visit. Or maybe I’ll be surprised. I’m going to be speaking at the Mark Twain House in Hartford on 18 June. A very distinguished venue…but just to teach me my place, Dan Brown will be speaking at the same institution two weeks earlier.

By the way, a lot of people have been telling me that they thought this Connecticut professor was me. I like his style, and he certainly is a handsome fellow, but no, that’s not me.

Why are you a feminist?

I know why Laci Green is.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been one…even before I knew what it is. I felt it.

My parents married young, immediately had a string of kids, and weren’t highly educated: my father pumped gas for a living and my mother was a homemaker. Do I need to tell you we were poor? That didn’t matter to us: we could see that our parents loved each other very much and also loved us, but to be honest, you’ve got to admit that love doesn’t pay the rent. There were stresses and strains. I know my father was torn up because he was struggling so hard to meet that traditional male role as the breadwinner, and he wasn’t doing so well…and there was also a problem of binge drinking.

And then, my mother got a job to help out. And my parents argued. I knew that wasn’t right; if Dad can work, why can’t Mom? And then one night they fought. My father actually slapped my mother. I didn’t see it, but my sisters did, and they immediately started such wailing and crying and running through the house — that was wrong. Our parents were in love, they never ever hit each other. We were in total shock.

I’ll never forget what my mother did. She left. She took my sisters and moved back to stay with her parents. Our family was torn right in half, and it was probably the most traumatizing, terrible event of my childhood…but I still knew my mother had done the right thing, and that was important. My mother has always been quiet, soft-voiced, the stereotypical sensitive one, but I also knew in that moment that she was also damn strong and righteous. Even if I was crying myself to sleep every night, I was proud that she had stood up for herself.

The good news is that my father was also strong, and strength in this case meant admitting that he was wrong and changing his behavior. I never saw him drunk after that day; I never saw him strike my mother ever again. The usual description would be that he went “crawling back to her”, but that wouldn’t be it at all — it was more that two people who loved each other also realized that respect was part of the equation.

I was eight years old. I learned that forcing people into traditional roles tore them apart, and mutual respect and equality brought them together again. I also learned that women can be strong, and that good men can make mistakes. And years later, when I learned about this feminist thing, my reaction was to think, “But of course…isn’t everyone?”

I’m going to Seattle!

It’s a good deal — I’m going to spend a few days with my family, and then on Thursday, 5 June, at 7:30pm, I’ll be at Town Hall to talk about An Atheist’s Insight. I’m planning on specifically addressing the conflict between science and religion, and then opening it up to a nice thorough Q&A — you’ll be able to grill me. Lots of fun!

One catch: they’re charging admission. You’ll have to cough up a whole $5 to have the privilege of pestering me.

Oh, also, the big reason for doing this: The Happy Atheist is coming out in paperback. There will be a book signing. Or if you’d prefer, a book burning (it’ll sell copies, so that’s fine with me). I’ll also be in town most of that week, so if we want to do an informal get-together, we might be able to arrange that, too.