I heart Canada

I spent this weekend exploring Victoria, BC thanks to being invited to speak for the Victoria Secular Humanist Association. It was my first time in Victoria, and my first time driving a car onto a boat. Which I got to do four times! I know, how crazy is that?!?!

…I am from Indiana. Ferries are novel, shush.

The drive to Victoria was fairly uneventful, other than the torrential downpour I drove through. Apparently I was in a part of the Pacific Northwest that’s a temperate rain forest. Not only is that neat, but it washed off the thick layer of pollen that had coated my car, alleviating my worries that I would be stopped at the border for smuggling plant biomaterial or yellowcake uranium or something.

We spent Friday night pub hopping (Canoe, Swan, Bard and Banker). Saturday was for the indoor tourist-y stuff, since it was pouring rain. After stuffing ourselves with delicious breakfast at the Blue Fox Cafe, we checked out the Royal BC Museum. We’re two dorky biology grad students, so needless to say we had a good time. I think I was most amused by the fact that the Museum’s IMAX theater had multiple daily showings for a documentary about beavers.

1. Really, beavers? That’s so… Canadian.

2. Heh heh heh, beavers. I have the sense of humor of a five-year old.

I did learn things, though. For example, the main way Canadians used to finance their Navy was through beer, beer, and more beer:

I also found a new potential wedding location:

And this needs no explanation:

After that we hopped over to the Victoria Bug Zoo, which was freaking amazing. The place was packed with different types of stick insects, leaf insects, praying mantises, Hercules beetles, diving beetles, and more. My favorite was the huge leafcutter ant colony they had living in clear plastic pipes on the walls. You could see the ants hauling chunks of leaves through their tunnels to farm the fungus they eat.

My least favorite section was the corner devoted to spiders. You should have seen my facial expression as I was taking this photo of Sean holding a Mexican redknee tarantula.

On Sunday I gave my talk about the Creation Museum, which went great. It was awesome meeting some of my blog readers. Hello, guys! I want to give a particular shout out to Sarah, who not only hooked me up with free tickets to Butchart Gardens, but bribed me with stereotypically Canadian chocolate:

Om nom nom. I am such a chocolate fiend. Can we start a trend where people start bringing me local chocolates, like people bring PZ squid things? I would totally be down with that.

Speaking of chocolates, I’m always surprised how many types of candy bars Canada has that the US doesn’t. I’m seriously jealous. My new tradition is hitting up a convenience store and loading up on all the weird chocolate bars I’ve never seen before:

Why can’t I find Caramilk bars in the US? What the hell is Wunderbar and Aero? Your Kit Kat come in dark chocolate? Your Reese’s lack apostrophes and come in bar form?! You get fancy 3 Musketeers?!? WHAT IS THIS MADNESS?

The strange candy bar differences are just one of the many things that makes Canada feel like Bizarro America to me. We’re so similar, so the slight differences are jarring. Canadians pronounce “sorry” really funny, which becomes apparent quickly because you also say “sorry” so much more frequently than Americans. Things are spelled funny like “centre” and “theatre.” “Bathrooms” are universally called “washrooms,” which Sean found hysterical for some reason that I do not quite understand. Your walk signs on street signals are also particularly jaunty and brisk looking, which Sean and I both found hysterical for some reason no other person on the planet will ever understand. And then there are all the hints of Britain, like random pictures of the Queen, or English Candy Shops, or this that I stumbled upon:

…Yeah, we were pretty much giggly obnoxious American tourists the whole time. It’s because we love you. Please accept me if Bachmann or Perry become president.

The way back was fairly uneventful. I nearly had a stroke when we drove past a store devoted to Twilight, since we were getting close to Forks, WA. And creepily, on every of the four ferries we took throughout the trip, we were behind a mini van from Texas with one of those “Jesus is _____” license plates. Obviously a sign from God, not patterns in peoples vacation behaviors and traffic bottlenecks.

Yep, I have no life

It’s sad how predictable the reaction is when you dare say that women should speak out against sexism:

Thanks, ERV.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go back to writing my NSF application. You know, since I’m a PhD student doing genetics research. And after that, I might just snuggle with my kitten, or play some video games with my boyfriend, or get a drink with friends. Or maybe talk about the vacation to Canada I just took.

Man, being a loser-at-life is hard.

Pro-tip: If you’re one of the concern trolls who was making accusations of ad hominems, it’s best not to make publically viewable Facebook comments that actually are ad hominems. Like saying I’m not hard working, don’t have a “real” job, and using “second-wave” as a dirty word.

Not to mention demonstrating you obviously don’t know what second-wave is, since I’m a third waver true and true. Seriously, if you think I’m the radical…hahaha.

lol internet drama

Don’t shut up

EDIT: Keenan has apologized.

You’re all probably familiar with the saying “Don’t feed the trolls.” It’s a good mantra to live by. When someone is doing or saying something for the sole reason of riling you up, it’s best not to give them the satisfaction. Ignore them, or the trolls win.

This, however, does not mean we should shut up about everything.

That seems like a pretty easy concept to grasp, right? That some things are worth responding to. That sometimes, staying silent is worse than speaking up. That change involves saying “I disagree.”

I wish more people understood this, but sadly it’s not true. It’s especially not true when dealing like things like racism, homophobia, and sexism. Under the guise of concern, people insist that disadvantaged groups suffer in silence. But it’s not concern – it’s distaste that these loud, uppity blacks/gays/women are causing them the slightest discomfort.

Telling someone to shut up and deal is the essence of privilege.

I bring this up because lately women have become particularly vocal about the internet harassment they face. These are sadly things I’m all too familiar with as a female blogger. And they’re not just “trolls.” There are oodles of men (and some women) out there who are disgustingly misogynistic. The abuses we face are no less real because they’re written or transmitted electronically. If you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and read “A woman’s opinion is the mini-skirt of the internet” and “”You should have your tongue ripped out”: The reality of sexist abuse online.” And check out this post about the new twitter hashtag #MenCallMeThings, which ends on this particularly relevant note of the sort of thing outspoken women hear:

STOP TAKING IT SO SERIOUSLY. “Extremist,” “humorless,” “PC,” “whining,” “bitching,” “complaining,” “divisive,” “single-issue,” “feminazi,” &co. You have simply GOT TO STOP IDENTIFYING PROBLEMS! Men can do all that for you! Also, should you accidentally identify a problem, stop acting as if that problem bothers you, or is bad! If you get all riled up about this, you might end up, like, solving something. And we don’t want that, now do we? Therefore, I beg of you, ALL of you: Shut up.

To put this in perspective, this is the same silencing tactic the religious try on us outspoken atheists. When have you heard a person tell atheists to criticize religion more? No, they’re always saying that we’re divisive, abrasive, and there wouldn’t even be a problem if we just accepted the status quo and stopped whining. So the atheist movement should be much more understanding about this topic, right?



Rebecca Watson recently called out a comedian who targeted her with a completely nonsensical, bizarre, misogynistic rant. This was partially spurred on by the aforementioned outspokenness from other women writers. But according to Keenan of the University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers and Inquirers, Rebecca needs to stfu and deal .

The point you receive pushback and feel the need to voice your disgust is is the perfect time to prove that you aren’t taking them seriously, however. There is a fantastic political theory out there called the “Spiral of Silence” theory and it basically posits that the less attention you give a fringe group, the less willingness they will have to express their unpopular ideas in public, and therefore less other people will be exposed to them. This is how racism became unpopular in America. We are now seeing the same phenomenon with homophobia which, just like misogyny, is still very prevalent in the media.

Gee, thanks for that helpful advice, privileged white dude! Not patronizing at all to tell disadvantaged groups how to deal with problems you don’t experience!

And I hope Keenan isn’t a sociology major, because this is just embarrassing. People who are sexist are sadly not a fringe group – they are the majority. Racism did not start to become unpopular because black people sat peacefully and quietly. They spoke up, marched in the streets, held sit ins and protests, and caused a general stink. GLBT individuals, women, and other disadvantages groups inch slowly toward equality because they do the same. Social change takes activism, not twiddling your thumbs. People are never going to change their minds unless they’re challenged.

The rest of the post isn’t even worth debunking, since it’s just them taking an obvious dump on Rebecca Watson, basically calling her an attention whore for speaking out about these sorts of things. Which is completely unsurprising coming from UNIFI, since they have a particular hate-on for Rebecca Watson ever since she rightfully criticized some of their members for their ignorant, sexist comments. Apparently you’re not allowed to do that unless you’re also a student. I don’t follow that logic at all, but it doesn’t matter. I’m also a student leader, so I guess that means I have the green light to criticize other student leaders when they say ignorant, privileged bullshit!

So please, please don’t shut up. When men come out of the woodwork and tell you to tone it down, it means crank it up to eleven. Their concern is just fear that they’ll have to change.

EDIT: I originally misattributed this post to the webmaster of UNIFI, Adam Shannon, while it was actually a repost from UNIFI member Keenan. My sincere apologies to Adam for the confusion.

Jennifer Ouellette speaking in Seattle this Thursday

Women in Genome Sciences is hosting popular science writer and skeptic Jennifer Ouellette this Thursday. She’ll be giving a talk about popular science writing, blogging, and writing as an alternative career at 1:30pm in Foege Auditorium (room S060) at the University of Washington. Here’s a brief bio:

Jennifer Ouellete is the director of the Science & Entertainment Exchange of the National Academy of Sciences and the author of three popular science books, including The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse. She blogs about physics and space science for Discovery News and maintains a science-and-culture blog at Scientific American called Cocktail Party Physics.”

I know the time is crappy for most people with 9 to 5 jobs, but it’s really meant for UW students and faculty. But it should be a good talk, so please spread the word!

Are only 3 out of 50 “brilliant atheists” women?

Do we really need to keep having this conversation?

Apparently, yes.

Part of me feels like I shouldn’t care about a random “The 50 Most Brilliant Atheists of All Time” list on a website I’d never heard of. But it’s making the rounds on Facebook, and I cringe that it perpetuates the myth that female atheists done exist. I mean, really? You could only come up with three brilliant atheist women when you have all of written history to work with?

It’s especially aggravating when you look at the choices. Okay, I’m not personally a fan of Ayn Rand, but I’ll concede that one. But Katherine Hepburn and Jodie Foster? Don’t get me wrong, I love these ladies. But it seems like a slap in the face when you can only dig up two actresses compared to dozens of male scientists, philosophers, writers, and visionaries. Where are women like:

  • Hypatia of Alexandria, philosopher and mathematician
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton, suffragist and abolitionist
  • Susan B. Anthony, suffragist and civil rights activist
  • Margaret Sanger, American birth control activist
  • Ernestine Rose, suffragist and civil rights activist
  • Ayaan Hirsi Ali, writer, politician, and activist
  • Gloria Steinam, feminist, journalist, and activist
  • Marie Curie, Nobel prize-winning chemist

And that’s just off the top of my head. I’m sure you guys could come up with even more brilliant atheist women.

Look, I don’t expect a list that’s looking at historical atheist figures to have a 50/50 gender ratio. It’s obviously going to be skewed male, since women have historically been oppressed and not as able to partake in intellectual pursuits associated with atheism. But when you have some obvious examples, don’t leave them off.

Canada, here I come! Again.

This Sunday (Nov 13) I’ll be giving my talk about my trip to the Creation Museum to the Victoria Secular Humanist Association. It starts at 10:30am at the Cedar Hill Recreation Centre (3220 Cedar Hill Rd, Saanich, BC). Do I have any blog readers in Victoria? Who knows. If I do, I hope I’ll see you there!

And if any of you have suggestions of things to do or places to eat in Victoria, let me know. It’s a three-day weekend for me, so I’m turning the talk into an excuse for a mini vacation with the boyfriend, who’s excited to be a blogger’s groupie. All he insists we do is visit the Bug Zoo. As long as it’s taxonomically correct and doesn’t feature any spiders…

I got HUMP!ed

My only regret is not buying the t-shirt that said that.

HUMP! is an amateur porn film festival (and Dan Savage’s pet project) held in Seattle and Portland every year. When I went last year, the only thing I disliked was having to wait a whole year to go again. But this Friday I went with a huge group of friends, including Greta Christina. Feel free to complain how jealous you are in the comments.

Here’s a taste of HUMP! for those of you who couldn’t make it. The bonus props this year were duct tape, super soakers, and the number 7.  Obviously NSFW, and Not Safe For People Who Are Seeing Hump Next Weekend and Don’t Want Spoilers:

  • HUMP! opened with a spoof on Japanese Furry Porn where each animal was introduced like a character selection screen on a video game. Also, gratuitous use of silly string. I giggled.
  • I can never eat a donut again. The only lesbian video in HUMP! (and apparently the only lesbian video submitted at all) were two cute punk girls smothering donuts all over each other. There were parts that were hot, parts that were cute (sprinkles stuck to the butt!) and parts that were gross (cream filling facials). Probably the best use of the super soaker, which was filled with cream and strawberry stuff.
  • There were two James Bond spoofs, possibly the logical conclusion of trying to work a Super Soaker into porn. The first, Gold Penis, had some pretty hot sex scenes, but could have used some better video quality and…er…better casting. Sorry, but that was the most un-James-Bond-like James Bond I’ve ever seen. The second spoof was more focused on humor, with a hedgehog being the arch nemesis and the Bond Girl having a blond wig for both her top and bottom.
  • If there was a category for “Creative” or “Clever,” I would have voted for Go Fuck Yourself. Imagine a time paradox where you have to go to the past and have sex with yourself. The camera work was very cleverly done, and the plot had some funny twists I wasn’t expecting.
  • My next nominee for my fake category of Clever would be Night of the Giving Head. It starts as a typical zombie flick, with a girl being chased by zombies. Eventually her finger is chomped off, but she keeps running. Once the zombie catches her, he discovers she’s already turned into a zombie. And they bone. But in a funny twist, we get a montage of them doing zombie dating activities, like learning to dance Thriller in a karaoke bar, or eating humans at a picnic in the park. It was all tied together when he proposes by giving her finger back with a engagement ring on it, which she duct tapes back onto her hand. Definitely the best use of duct tape, in my opinion.
  • Six Feet Under starts with us at the funeral of a young man, and as the priest gives the eulogy we flash back to what he was actually doing. When sleeping with his wife, he was actually watching a hot dude through the window. His time with his “jogging buddy” was a little less innocent. And we discover his last moments were spent with the priest…having kinky gay sex. And he died from a little too much duct tape. It was cute and hot the whole way through, with a shocker ending of his jogging buddy and the priest coming on his face in the casket. What.
  • There was a Star Wars Strip-Light-Saber-Battle. Funny idea, poor execution. Straight male Star Wars fans apparently didn’t care.
  • Still in the nerdy theme, there were two separate films that involved video games and having sex with Atari joysticks. I…okay.
  • In Which She’s Pushed Against the Door or whatever it was called was super hot, but her screaming sounded super fake and annoying which kept me from voting for it for Best Sex. You were so close, IWSPAD! Fuck realistically or in silence! Silence would have been hotter!
  • The kinky stuff was waaaaay more intense this year. Last year I was “meh” about a couple films and maybe groaned in horror once, but this year was pretty unsettling. One video starts as a potentially hilarious ad for getting kinky supplies at Fred Meyer…but ends in one of the guys being completely wrapped in duct tape and having his partner pee into a funnel that looks like is going into his mouth…but which is revealed at the end to be a trick. One video involved two naughty nurses kidnapping some guy and…Jesus, I don’t event want to explain it. Gore. Fake blood. Stitches. Electroplay. It was one where I was hoping it would end soon. Don’t Call Me Missy was an intense dom/sub film, which starts with the woman tying the guy up to a chair and smacking him around pretty brutally. Eventually he escapes and the wrestling and grabbling and such comes full circle. Honestly the more mild parts of this were kind of hot, but there were lots of extreme parts that were way too shocking for me.
  • But my vote for Best Kink went to Knife, for freaking me out the most. I was literally flailing and had to cover my eyes for the last half. Basically someone ran a knife all over a woman’s body, cut all of her clothes off with it, then continue to run it all over her body. And I mean along her neck, jabbed into her breast, pulling a nipple out and running the sharp end against it, somehow none of this cutting her at all. And as the knife slowly made it’s way downstairs, the whole audience collectively went “Nooooo” and leaned back in their seat in revulsion. And then they stuck it in. Garhgrarhgarg. Augh. Why. WHY.
  • My vote for Best Sex went to Music for 2 Humans. Honestly, a lot of the other videos (Gold Penis, the Door one, Six Feet Under) were super hot… but I think after being freaked out by all the kink videos, I wanted one that was more sweet and…well, something I could relate to. I mean, if you’re into kinky stuff, that’s totally cool, but it’s just not for me. This one was set to beautiful music and was very intimate and real feeling, not staged.
  • My vote for Best Humor went to Mythical Proportions. It was an interview of three women who have centaur fetishes, with their fetishes animated in claymation. It had me in stitches. Favorite fantasy: “Not now honey, I’m preparing to spill the blood of the orc legions.”
  • My vote for Best in Show went to Teenage Dream. Every year there’s a video I wish was online so I could share it, and it’s this one. For one, the production value – film, camera work, acting, choreography – was excellent. It starts with a sort of nerdy effeminate guy playing basketball in gym class, and he blows the winning shot. He walks through the locker room, nervously checking out all the super hot guys. One of the jocks notices and calls him a fag, and before he can do anything, the gay kid faints. We then cut to a dream sequence where the Glee version of Katie Perry’s Teenage Dream starts playing, with all the jocks lip sincing and dancing around, progressively getting more and more naked, while the gay kid is on cloud 9. He eventually is woken up by the bully and his gym teacher, and he just has a big grin on his face. It was sweet, it was funny, and it was awesome. I really, really hope they consider releasing it.
And a funny observation about HUMP! Compared to “typical” internet porn, the women in HUMP! are so much more attractive. They have real, natural bodies of all shapes and sizes, instead of all being super skinny blondes with huge fake boobs. But it’s weird, because I feel like the guys of HUMP! feel…more fake. Maybe it’s because typical straight porn features average or below average guys, but a lot of the HUMP! porn was gay stuff, where all the guys were super hot and ripped. I wanted more variety (skinny nerdy guys!), but maybe that’s just me.
And that was HUMP! The only downside is I have to wait another year to go again. And, well, the dearth of lesbians. Come on ladies, submit stuff for next year! Can’t have the gay guys showing you up like this.

I get (sometime very different) emails

Every once in a while, I receive a particularly heartwarming email from a reader. I thought the one I received yesterday was particularly nice, so I got permission to share part of it:

You really, really helped. Sometimes, you get hatemail, and sometimes people say cruel things aimed at hurting you, but you don’t just lock yourself in a room and cry about it, which I have to admit was my worst habit. Or at least, if you do, you at least do it with the glare of a computer screen, so that you can eventually dissect these criticisms and usually end up laughing them off. This is something I am trying to learn to do – I don’t want to blog, but I am learning new ways of coping with negativity in others. You also always do your best to remain measured and fair in all of your posts and I think your recent editing of the ‘dogmatic Jen’ post demonstrates that. More importantly, you helped me think about some things that I never even knew were important to me. Since my ex left me in the debt that he did, I have been single. Three years on Christmas day, in fact. Once upon a time, I told myself that if I was single at Christmas when i was 21 I would kill myself. I don’t think I really meant it, but to look back at myself then is really scary. I needed more confidence, clearly, and some of this has come from things you have helped me to think about. For example, I can now identify as an atheist, humanist and a feminist. I’ve never been especially religious, and I remember even at primary school I got upset that we had to sing hymns to a God I didn’t believe in, but I never had any real way to express this frustration. At my school, the Muslim children had to sit out of assembly because they couldn’t sing the hymns. Really inclusive, right?

The atheist identification means I no longer feel vague and confused when filling out forms that require me to indicate my religious leanings. The humanist identification reminds me that atheism isn’t selfish, because I love people and I want the best for humanity. The feminism means that I no longer measure my success by having a boyfriend, and I am now happy that I live alone, because it means I haven’t settled for someone that only wanted me for my apartment, or for someone that makes jokes about my weight. Also, I’m half-way through losing that extra weight and I now know I’m doing it for myself, not for anyone else. When you wrote briefly about losing weight a few months ago that helped me relate even more to the blog too. I think it is hugely important to have female voices like you and Greta Christina in the atheist movement, and I’m pretty sure you know why because you’ve blogged about it before. Not even just female voices; reading about JT’s struggles with anorexia has really helped to put my problems in perspective; I think it’s massively important that bloggers don’t just write about atheism, or feminism, or any other ism — it’s the personality that makes the argument persuasive; it’s the people that make the blogs what they are.

It’s touching to know that I’ve helped someone in this way.

I then clicked to see my next unread email, and found the following comment on an old post, “Stephen Colbert called me “smoking hot“”:

But you’re ugly

And I laughed. Hard. The comedic timing was perfect.

A couple of years ago, this probably wouldn’t have been my reaction. I had low enough self esteem and enough body image issues that I probably would have locked myself in my room and cried about it. But dissecting criticism through blogging has helped me grow a thick skin, and the sweet emails I get mean so much to me that they keep me motivated even with dealing with assorted drama or insults.

So now, I just laugh. I mean, really? “You’re ugly?” What’s next, that I’m a poopyhead? The fact that someone wasted their time making such a dumb comment makes me feel so much better about myself.