Seattle/Idaho Update!

Hey everyone! I managed to find a computer lab at the University of Idaho, so I’m slowly recovering from my internet withdrawal. And luckily for you, this computer lets me upload photos from my camera, so you get to see fun stuff! Woo!

My flights from Indianapolis to Chicago and Chicago to Seattle were kind of uneventful, which is a good thing. Once I got to Seattle I met up with this Guy from the Diversity program (who I had never met) to go exploring a bit. And yes, yes I did visit the Discovery Institute:Man, was that place small. The only reason I found it was because I had the exact address. It was just this locked door with a crummy looking buzzer next to it, and a flight of stairs that led up to what looked to be just a couple of offices. Unfortunately, I didn’t go inside. Sorry guys. I was thinking about at least buzzing them, but Guy had never heard of the DI, so I didn’t want to drag him into it. Once I explained it to him he laughed, though. That’s the one plus of hanging out with evolutionary biologists: I can giggle about Intelligent Design and they don’t think I have horns sprouting out of my head.

Speaking of crazy people in Seattle, I love some of the wacky stuff you see in big cities. The very first thing we saw getting off the bus downtown was a homeless screaming nonsensically at everyone. The only part I could make out was her repeated use of “Motherfuckers!!” I swear she looked just like the scary religious lady from Wife Swap. I also saw a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, and this lovely sign of Obama with a Hitler mustache:
Still not quite sure what their point was. They were two young people, and they didn’t seem to enjoy me giggling and taking a picture. “You’re a sports fan aren’t you?” the guy asked me. “What?” “You just think this is entertaining.” “Yes, yes I do.” And then I walked away.

Visited Pike Place Fish Market and the Original Starbucks:
Space Needle, etc:
Up in the Space Needle (freaking expensive to go up, but the view was awesome):
After that we were pretty much pooped, so we headed back to the Aiport. Our final flight to Pullman still didn’t leave for about three hours, so we wandered around a bit. We found a Croc Shop with nothing but those awful croc shoes. The rainbow wall of crocs amused me to no end, so I had to take a picture. We didn’t hang around long because it smelled like plastic and stinky feet.
We were also sitting right by a little bar/restaurant. Apparently the NBA final game was going on or something (hey, we’re a bunch of biology nerds, it took us a while to figure out) and there was this giant crowd of people watching the game. I love people watching, so it amused me to see thirty people staring unmovingly at a screen and then all cheering and groaning at the same time. One of the gate checkers literally came and screamed at a pilot for being ten minutes late for boarding because he was watching the stupid game, hahaha.
Our final flight was only about 40 minutes long, though oddly enough, it had the best complimentary refreshments. Not only did we actually get a snack and free pop, but they were offering free beer and wine. Like, decent beer and wine. It was 11:30 pm (felt like 2:30 am to me because of the time change), but being good college students, we all had some. Bad idea. I was already exhausted, but after that I was so tired that I was wavering between passing out and becoming completely delusional. We finally checked into our dorms around 1:30 am, which means I had been up for 22 hours straight… wooo. I’m also very reminded why I like living in an apartment:
I think most dorm rooms resemble prison cells, but this one is particularly bad. Maybe it would be nicer if it was full of my personal belongings. I’m mainly curious what the hell the little half window with a slidey door by my head is. It reminds me of some sort of trap door prisoners would use to smuggle in cigarettes and spoons or whatever.

Scary dorm room aside, the rest of campus is beautiful. The town is tiny – I think I saw the whole thing in about a ten minute walk – but it’s still really pretty. Definitely very green compared to the brick covered Purdue.
I’ll try to keep you updated if anything else interesting comes up. I’ll be much more busy once the conference starts, but I’m sure crazy things will happen.

Pirate Jen!

Ok, those photos of me modeling our club shirt I posted yesterday were absolutely horrible. So horrible I feel like I need to redeem myself. Here, have some photos of me from our Pastafarian preaching from Talk Like a Pirate Day 2008. Like always, click for larger images.

Drawing the posters was fun <3Notice my developing sunburn. Wasn’t fun.I love my club members so much.

Yay Indiana

I’m not even to the airport yet and I have to make a phone post. I just saw a car with a State Representative license plate with a plastic border that said ‘In Christ.’ Couldn’t get a good photo though.

Leavin on a jet plane, etc etc

Well tomorrow I’ll leave my apartment at 7:30 am and won’t be back until 7 pm on Wednesday the 17th for Evolution 2009, wooo! Because I care about you guys so much, I’ve set up autoposts for every day I’m gone to show you some random fun videos I like. Don’t want to leave you without updates for a week! I’ll have limited internet access through my phone and some public computers at the conference, but don’t expect too much. Even though my phone has a keyboard, I don’t think I could tolerate typing more than a paragraph, haha. I’ll make sure to tweet a sadface when I’m standing outside the Discovery Institute. Don’t worry, the lack of updates will be made up with the billion stories and photos I’ll probably have when I get back.

Somewhat related, should I wear my club t-shirt on my various plane rides home? Photos of the atheistic beauty here… I mean the shirt, not the model. I look like I’m on uppers in the first photo and downers in the second one, wtf. Anyway, might make a neat social experiment. Where do I get the most dirty/confused looks: Pullman, Seattle, Chicago, or Indianapolis? …I think I know the answer to that one already.

Edit: Here, have a photo of where I’m going. Pretty, isn’t it?

Professor stalking

So in preparation for Evolution 2009, I’ve been highlighting all the different professors I’m potentially interested in for grad school. There are actually a handful from my list (yes, I have an excel file going for the grad school search, shush) who will be attending, so I’m pretty excited. At the very least I’m going to go to their talks and try to introduce myself afterwards. Some of my current top picks will be there, so I’m hoping I like them personality-wise. That is, their research seems awesome, but I hope they’re friendly/nice/interesting/etc.

Any advice on how to approach random professors at conferences and show your interest about grad school? My current prof told me to be a “persistent stalker” since popular professors are usually swamped with people trying to talk to them. Does this require a net? Tranquilizers? Bribery with coffee? I’m just afraid I’m going to go into Utter Social Awkwardness Mode, which happens every once in a while. I don’t want to come off as too interested, since I’m not dead set on any of them, but I don’t want to seem too casual either. *fret fret fret*

Wanting to believe

People have a lot of different reasons for being religious or believing in God. Since I was raised in a secular household, I have to admit I don’t really understand most of them – I’ve never had the experience of being religious. But there’s one argument that I always have conflicting thoughts about: “Wanting to believe.”

I was hanging out/on a pseudo-date with a friend/guy/whatever you want to call him (it’s complicated, take that however you wish). He was raised religious, but now is one of those wishy washy deist/Buddhist/spiritual types. He’s totally cool with my atheism, but he was telling me a story about a priest he saw give a talk. The priest said he witnessed an exorcism where the girl was floating a foot above the ground. I gave him one of my Uh Huh, Sure looks.

Guy: But the way he told the story with such conviction…it made me want to believe, you know?
Me: Wanting to believe in something and that something being true are two entirely different things.
Guy: Does it matter if it’s true if it gives you something good to believe in?
Me: *gives him the I Don’t Want to Debate Religion While Snuggling look*
Guy: *shuts up*

That’s the argument that always gets me. Does it matter? My mom is the same way. I’d call her an agnostic theist/deist – she doesn’t believe in the more supernatural stuff like virgin birth and walking on water and all that, but she wants to believe in something. “What does it hurt?” she’ll say, and I know it’s true that it comforts her. When her friend passed away unexpectedly a couple years ago, she took comfort in the idea that she was in “a better place.”

She’s also pretty superstitious, which she gets from my Greek grandparents. She told me how a couple months after said friend’s passing, she was watching the news and the pick three lotto numbers were her friend’s birthday. “It’s a sign!” she said. I paused, wondering if I should say anything and risk upsetting her. “It’s not that unlikely that those three numbers would come up together. This looks special, but you don’t remember the hundreds of other lottos where the numbers meant nothing to you.” She rolled her eyes. “Whatever, let me believe what I want to believe. I think it’s a sign!” I left it at that.

Don’t get me wrong, I think we’d have a lot less worries if the religious population was dominated by deists and agnostic theists. Most of them seem benign enough that I’m not inclined to debate them – I mean, they’re not the ones flying planes into buildings and trying to pass religious laws, right? But at the same time, the idea of believing in something just to comfort yourself, even if you have no reason to believe it’s true, bothers me. I like being a scientific thinker. I need evidence for what I believe to be true, and when better evidence comes along, I’m willing to admit that I was wrong and adjust my views. So do you let people go on believing in something you see as a delusion, just so they can be happier? If your friend was convinced their beat up clunker was actually a red hot Porsche and that made them the happiest guy alive, would you point out that he’s wrong? Or do you just bite your tongue? Is it okay if he keeps it to himself, but once he starts bragging you should tell him what you think?

Three more days until Seattle!

Thursday I’ll be traveling to Evolution 2009 in Idaho, but I’ll be stranded in Seattle for about 9 hours waiting for my flight. These seem like the things I definitely must do while there:

– See the Space Needle, go up for look
– Pike Place Fish Market (weee flying fish!)
– Pacific Science Center
– Original Starbucks
– Freemont Troll
– Go frown by the Discovery Institute’s door

I know you guys probably all think I should try to get in the Discovery Institute…but I know I’d fail. Apparently two other female atheist bloggers got a tour through lies and subterfuge and were shown around by Casey Luskin (posts here, here, and here). Other than white lies with friends, I’m uncontrollably honest…so I don’t think I could go in acting like a big supporter of intelligent design. Even if I tried I probably wouldn’t be able to keep a straight face. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure the second I tell them I’m on my way to an Evolution conference they’d slam the door in my face (er, well, keep it locked).

Oh well. Maybe if I’m feeling especially brave that day I’ll at least try – just need to remember not to wear one of my atheist/sciencey shirts. I drew this to sum up how I’m feeling (click for larger):
Of course the little devil has to be a blogger.