I’m alive and well

I’ve had people asking if I’m okay since I haven’t been blogging at all lately. So I wanted to make a quick update to let you know that no, I haven’t been hit by a beer truck or muted by my university or enslaved by aliens. I just decided that I needed a mental break from blogging for a while. All of the drama, pettiness, short-sightedness, name calling, insults, hate mail, and general crappiness was making me miserable. I found myself unable to become passionate about issues I used to care about, because I knew writing about those issues would just lead to even more shit thrown my way.

I understand that you always have to deal with some level of shit when you’re trying to change minds. But I’m human. This blog is a hobby for me. I logged into WordPress and opened up Google Reader everyday to express myself, connect with people, and have fun – not to feel hopeless, worthless, angry, and scared for my personal safety. But with the current atmosphere of the atheist/skeptic movement, the latter is how I’ve been feeling.

So instead of permanently rage quitting, I decided to take a mental break and go back into the Real World for a little while. I saved up enough money to replace my broken desktop computer, so I’ve been having fun fiddling with my new toy. I’ve been playing a lot of Tropico 4 and Civ 5 Gods & Kings (I always name my religion Pastafarianism or Satanism). I went to a wedding. My advisor gave me a paper to review for a journal for the first time, which is kind of like taking off the Grad Student Training Wheels. Sean and I went camping in the Olympic Peninsula.

I’m sorry if I’ve made any of you worry, and I’m sorry for not providing you with your usual blog entertainment. But I felt it was better that I rest and recharge and wait for some of the gnarlier drama to subside, rather than keep blogging out of duty and permanently burn out. I’ll be back.

A juggernaut of secular awesome

You want to know how quickly the Secular Student Alliance is growing? Here’s the group photo from the first annual conference I attended back in 2009:

That was the year PZ and 300 atheists (including myself) zerg rushed the Creation Museum. We’re all making Cthulu faces.

Here’s the group photo from the 2012 Secular Student Alliance conference that I attended this weekend:

That’s 300+ secular student leaders of today and tomorrow. And the number is just going to keep going up. Wooo!

Open thread!

I’m sitting in the Columbus, OH airport, still recovering from yet another awesome Secular Student Alliance conference. A quote from Jesse Galef best summarized how I feel about the annual con: “This feels more like a family reunion than my family reunions do.” And it’s so true. I love being able to see all of my friends that live all over the country – it’s the one of the few times we all get to come together.

When I first saw JT at the conference…aka #FTBullies

Anyway, I’ll be traveling all day and there’s no wifi on my flights (damn you, US Airways). And when I get home, I’m going to collapse in a pile of mexican food and cuddles. So consider this an open thread to talk about whatever your heart desires.

Feminazism runs in my family

This story broke while I was still in Europe, so you may have already heard of it:

Republican state Sen. Marty Golden’s office was planning career-development classes for his “female constitutients,” where participants will “‘refresh’ their knowledge of what’s new in 21st century business etiquette and social protocol.”

“POSTURE, DEPORTMENT, AND THE FEMININE PRESENCE: walking with books on the head are outdated,” part of the course description reads. “Women who walk from their power center. The art of feminine presence. Sit, stand and walk like a model. Walk up and down a stair elegantly……and much more.”

So why am I bringing it up now? Because my big brother is the campaign manager for Golden’s opponent, and I just had to share this wonderful quote from him:

“Tragically, this is Golden’s idea of the 21st Century woman,” Chris McCreight, campaign manager for Golden’s Democratic opponent, Andrew Gounardes, told Politicker. “This just goes to show that Marty Golden just doesn’t get it – either that or he lives in a cave and thinks Leave It to Beaveris a new reality show.”

Zing. Good job, Chris!

Off to the Secular Student Alliance annual conference!

I haven’t been off a plane for 48 hours, but I’m about to hop back on one. But I’m excited because I’m going to the Secular Student Alliance annual conference in Columbus, OH! Wooooooo!

I’ll be giving the same talk I gave last year – “Diversity.” ” Or, “That Obligatory Diversity Talk.” Or, “How to Make Your Group Not Just Contain Nerdy White Dudes (Though It’s Cool if You’re a Nerdy White Dude).” Or, “Indoctrination into the Feminazi/Femistasi Politically Correct Totalitarian Conspiracy.” Whichever title works.

Before someone actually accuses me of a feminazi diversity conspiracy…It was the SSA con organizers who asked me to give this talk last year, and who asked me to do it again. I’m not shoving it down their throats – they realize the importance of groups being diverse. Of course, I guess that just makes them part of the conspiracy. Oh well. DEEP RIFTS!

I’ll be tweeting about the conference @jennifurret if you want to keep up to date about secular student shenanigans.

Paris Food Porn – Sweet

And now, the sweets!

Okay, a regular ol’ croissant isn’t exactly a sweet, but I had to include it somewhere. I consumed so many of these for breakfast throughout the street. They were just from random bakeries within a block of our apartment, but they were the best croissants I’ve ever had.

Mmmm, chocolate croissant.

From the famous Berthillon ice cream shop. I had chocolate and salted caramel butter, Sean had chocolate and raspberry. All of the flavors were some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had.

Famous Ladurée macaroons. Salted caramel butter, chocolate, raspberry, and pistachio. A little expensive, but all were delicious.

Pistachio tart topped with raspberries that were glued on with honey. Soooo goooood.

Molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Okay, it’s not very french, but it was delicious.

Crepe with homemade caramel and vanilla ice cream. It was kind of a hot mess, but soooo good.

That’s all this time. I wish I could have tried more French desserts, but we just didn’t have the room. We were always stuffed from our main meals. I don’t know why people talk about portion sizes being so much bigger in the US…the French portions we got were just as big!

Paris Food Porn – Savory

Because really, the food was my favorite part of Paris.

Our last meal was at Robert et Louise in Marias, and it perfectly sums up how amazing the food was. We came back to this place twice because this was probably the best meal I’ve ever had in my life.

For an appetizer, classic escargot. Managed to get it out of the shell without flinging anything across the room. I don’t know why people hate on escargot – it’s a mollusc just like mussels, clams, oysters, scallops, squid, and octopud…and it was equally delicious as all of those things. The bread in the background was the best baguette we had in Paris.

Confit de canard. The duck was so flavorful, the skin was perfectly crispy and delicious, the potatoes were some of the best I’ve ever had. It’s the only meal I repeated. Unf. We decided this is the Platonic form of duck.

Sean had the lamb shank. Also delicious (though nothing can top that duck to me).

We only repeated one other restaurant, Comptoir de la Gastronomie near Les Halles.

Sean needed to have the most perfect cassoulet both times.

The first time I had La Salad Gourmande, which was topped with foie gras, a duck leg, smoked duck, duck gizzards (which I didn’t realize at the time…but were delicious), tomato, and an egg. Holy crap was that amazing.

The second time I had veal with a morel risotto in a veal juice reduction. Sweet jesus was that risotto good. The only bad part was that I didn’t get a bathtub sized serving of it.

One of my other favorite dishes was at Louise Café near the Louvre:

Ratatouille with poached eggs on top. Hit the spot. Sean had some delicious coq a vin, though the picture is kind of crummy.

Squid with rice pilaf in some delicious lemony sauce. Had this at Au Père Louis in Odéon, which had a great atmosphere and really nice servers.

We got a little sick of French food near the end (inconceivable, I know). We decided to try the “World’s Best Fallafel” at L’As du Fallafel…but accidentally went to the wrong fallafel place right next door, Chez Hanna. I got confused because our guidebook mentioned Chez Hanna, so the name looked familiar (damn you, Rick Steves!).

It was still the best fallafel I ever had. Makes me wonder what the other ones taste like…

We decided to splurge and do one really fancy dinner. And when I mean really fancy, I mean 3 Euro symbols on Yelp. Still can’t quite afford those Michelin star restaurants. We headed to Le Reminet near Notre Dame. We were so ridiculously out of our element with the fanciness it wasn’t even funny (okay, it was pretty funny).

The appetizer we had was mindblowingly delicious and was honestly the highlight of the meal. The bottom was three stripes of chicken, foie gras, and pidgeon, topped with a pastry filled with…something that was fucking awesome. Honestly I suspect it was gizzards, but I don’t have a clue. Whatever it was, the whole thing melted in your mouth.

After the appetizer a large spider somehow managed to climb into Sean’s wine, to my absolute horror. The worst part was when the waiter picked up his glass to get him a new one, we realized the spider was still alive. Gah. Good thing it wasn’t in my glass, or I probably would have had a heart attack and chucked the glass across the street.

Pork chops in some fancy-ass foam with porcini mushroom polenta and roast apples. Honestly the polenta was the best part…so rich.

Veal with roast green tomato and mixed veggies, with a yummy mustard sauce. Honestly I was kind of disappointed with this one, despite how beautiful it looked. The veal was super dry except for the center. Highlight for Sean was when I cut into the tomato and it jizzed a perfect stream of juice onto my nice dress.

Despite all the fancy meals in restaurants, one of my favorite was our picnic at Pont Nuef (Point Nine) on Ile de la Cité, the island that’s home to Notre Dame. We dubbed it Drunk Island (or Point Nine Blood Alcohol Level) because the area around the water was filled with picnickers drinking tons of booze. The cops just waved as they drove by on a boat. I love Europe.

EDIT:  Tarian says: ““Pont Neuf” translates to “New Bridge”. Complicating this, “neuf” is also the word for “nine”, and there’s two words for “new” in French: “nouveau” and “neuf”.” Well, shows what little French I know…aka none. I basically memorized some key phrases before going, but that was all.

Our spread: a bottle of red and rosé wine, two fresh baguettes, a pile of assorted cheese (my favorite was the brie), prosciutto, strawberries, foie gras (Sean was obsessed by this point…), apricot jam, and nutella. As a side note…why the fuck had I never tried nutella before? Chocolate hazelnut deliciousness that I can spread on everything?! Why did no one tell me?!?!

The money shot. And that’s pretty much what our breakfast looked like every morning:

…I am now going to sink into a deep depression knowing that the food back here in the US just can’t compare.

I’m back!

After over 24 hour of traveling, I arrived back in Seattle last night. But I’m not posting until now because I promptly passed out at 9pm. Missed all of the 4th of July fireworks and was too tired to care. Maybe spending two weeks in Europe is what made me so unpatriotic.

As fun Paris was, I’m glad to be back home. I missed Mexican and Asian food, being able to communicate with people in a language I spoke, not getting run over by mopeds on sidewalks, and Pixel. Pixel, however, has greeted me by biting me and puking on the floor. I think she may be mad at me.

Expect Parisian photo dumps throughout the day. And then tomorrow, like the insane person I am, I get back on a plane to fly over to the Secular Student Alliance conference! Which should be awesome, despite my jet lag.

Until then, how’s it going? What the hell happened in the rest of the world for the past two weeks? I hear the blogosphere was perfectly calm in my absence (I seriously still have no idea what’s going on…for once I was not the cause of drama, hooray!).