On complaints about Reason Rally speakers

It’s 5:30am, I’m boarding a flight in 10 minutes, and I’m typing this on my phone, so I’ll be brief:

What PZ said?



Hemant nailed it.

I also can’t speak for the Rally as a whole, but I can speak from my personal experience. I’m on the board of the Reason Rally as the representative for the Secular Student Alliance. I’ve put hours and hours of volunteer work into making sure this event will be as fun and successful as possible. Did you read that? As possible.

And right now, it’s impossible to find the “perfect” atheist politician. Some of the celebrities are going to have said stupid or sexist bullshit. But the Reason Rally is about getting secular people who have never heard about the atheist movement to know it exists and to get involved. If we crossed off every name that ever said something wrong, we’d have no draw or media appeal.

So, am I jumping for joy that Penn Jillette, Bill Maher, and Lawrence Krauss are speaking? No. But you know what I’m going to do? Go use the bathroom during their talk.

You know what does make me jump for joy? The Parks Department estimates 30,000 to 50,000 people will attend the Reason Rally. Yes, you read that figure right. That’s tens of thousands of people who have never heard of an atheist movement or organization that will now know we exist. And that’s what this event is about. It’s not a science lecture, and it’s not an attempt to convert people to atheism. It’s making our numbers larger and motivating our existing members so our movement grows stronger. So that in the future we will have skeptical atheist politicians, and will have celebrities that don’t make us occasionally cringe.

It’s just a flesh wound

Sometimes I feel like I just can’t win. On Saturday I received my car back from the cleaners, and it looked pristine and didn’t have a hint of mold smell in it. And it ended up costing less than my deductible, so I don’t know why I even bothered with State Farm other than to find out they’re massive assholes. But kudos to Mr. Detail for being very helpful and saving my car. And thanks to everyone who randomly made donations during my car crisis! Your acts of kindness cut the cost way down and I really appreciate it :)

Then on Sunday I had a door slam on my finger. Yaaaay.

I was closing my boyfriend’s outside door when a huge gust of wind came by and slammed the door shut. It pinched my finger and I yanked my hand out as reflex. Which was a poor choice, since that only succeeded in ripping a large chunk of skin right off the end of my finger.

Thankfully my boyfriend is the son of two doctors, so he threw 394271 types of disinfectants and bandages at me as I was sobbing and bleeding into his sink. The only highlight of the situation was when he said “These will definitely make you feel better” and appeared with Jesus novelty bandaids.

There was really nothing to stitch back together, so I just kept it under ice for the night. Went to the student health center this morning where they wrapped me up better than bandaids and noted that yep, I pretty much ripped my epidermis clean off the tip of my finger. Hurray. I bet it’ll leave a scar, right? I wonder if I’ll have a fingerprint there.

Thankfully it’s my middle finger so I can type with only minor inconvenience. Especially since my first committee meeting is tomorrow, so I’m going to spend the rest of the afternoon finishing my PowerPoint presentation. As long as I don’t accidentally flip off any of my committee members tomorrow…

America’s Next Top Model’s latest race fail

I’ve occasionally mentioned here and on twitter that I have a bizarre obsession with America’s Next Top Model. I don’t give a crap about fashion or modeling, though I can appreciate when the show occasionally produces artistic photos. I just love to hate it. And ANTM never fails to come up with new, amazing ways to be terrible:

  • The weird vocabulary (smeyes) and catchphrases (I’d put it in my salon!)
  • The typical reality TV type of humiliation. You mean modeling doesn’t usually require being set on fire or covered in bees?
  • The hyper drama and nonsensical screaming between the contestants that makes me feel good about myself because I’m not them
  • The inevitable stupidity that spews forth when they send the models who know nothing about world politics, geography, or culture to a foreign country
  • The fact that the show is comically bad when it comes to feminism and body image. Yes, those size 10 girls with perfect figures are certainly “plus sized,” and Tyra will teach you how to eat healthy but then throw you off the show if you gain a pound.

With Cycle 18 starting comes a new adventure. This cycle’s theme is “British Invasion,” with half the girls being Brits and half of them being Americans. And there’s some cultural battle or something. I hate to admit it, I kind of like it because the Brits also seem to be shocked and appalled by the behavior of the American girls, and they articulate their shock using delightful British slang.

But that’s not the interesting part. There’s a new milestone this cycle. Mariah Watchman is ANTM’s first Native American model, having grown up on the Umatilla reservation in Oregon. And what’s the first thing the producers make her do?

Dress up as Pocahontas.

Yes, you read right. ANTM has their first Native American model, and they immediately stick her in a tacky Pocahontas costume.

Let me put this costume in perspective for you so you understand how utterly flabbergasted I was when I was watching. The theme for the photo shoot was “Culture Clash,” where iconic figures from the UK and USA faced off. The pairings were:

  • George Washington vs. Queen Elizabeth
  • Janet Jackson vs. Scary Spice
  • Madonna vs. Elton John
  • Michelle Obama vs. Margaret Thatcher
  • Andy Warhol vs. Amy Winehouse
  • Jackie O vs. Princess Diana

Let me pause for a minute to reiterate that one of the models dressed up like MARGARET THATCHER.

With her buddy Michelle Obama. About to jump on a trampoline.

Anyway, I digress. Who was Pocahontas paired with? Who was the British equivalent the ANTM producers came up with?

John Lennon.

No, I don’t have an explanation for what Pocahontas and John Lennon have in common.

Yes, they gave Pocahontas a tomahawk prop. A TOMAHAWK.

My roommate and I were in utter disbelief. It’s not like ANTM is known for its racial sensitivity (remember the blackface episode?). But did the producers really not see the blatant problem with this? In case you need it spelled out, here’s what Adrienne had to say at her blog Native Appropriations:

She went on the record with an interview with her hometown newspaper discussing the choice as well (which was a choice of the producers, not her own), saying:

“As soon as I heard what the competition was, I knew that’s who I would be. I was completely fine with it. There’s no one else I’d want more to portray. It’s someone everybody knows.”I think this is completely a reflection of the sad, sad state of our society if a proud Native woman feels the only “iconic figure” that “everyone knows” of her race is a 12 year old who was famous for “saving” and marrying an old white dude, and then becoming a Disney character. Awesome.

The choice of the producers to have her portray “Pocahontas” is straight up offensive too. Let’s pigeonhole the only Native contestant by forcing her to don an extremely stereotypical outfit and be an Indian. The thing that stood out to me was that Mariah was cast into a race-based role, while the other pairings had plenty of (relatively progressive) race-bending. George Washington, Elton John, Jackie O, and John Lennon (all white) were portrayed by models of color, which I thought was kinda cool. But, because Mariah’s heritage is her “exotic” selling point for the show, the producers felt the need to exploit it.

Then the outfit they put on her. Oh the outfit. It looks like they bought it straight off thepocahottie halloween page--fake buckskin, primary colored feathers, plains-style beading and designs, braids in her hair. And, the kicker, a tomahawk. Yes, a tomahawk. History lesson, ANTM: Pocahontas was from Virginia, and none of those stereotypes apply to her people. So basically they did what everyone seems to do when they want to “honor” Indians–drew upon every Hollywood Indian stereotype without any regard for historical accuracy, regionality, or how effing racist it is to make the only Native girl basically dress up in blackface.

The cherry on top of this absurdity sundae was the judging panel. The judges insisted that Mariah “had a very easy thing to do” because she’s a Native American portraying a Native American, and that she should have done a much better job. Because, you know, all Native Americans are the same, and she didn’t portray Pocahontas close enough to their stereotypical notion of how Native Americans act. They couldn’t “see the angst.”

That’s what being Native American is all about. Angst and tomahawks. Gah.

And thus begins round two of insanity

It’s grad student recruitment weekend again, which means I’ll be running around like a chicken with my head cut off for the next couple of days. Hopefully this time my car won’t die a spectacular moldy death.

Consider this an open thread.

Come see me tonight at the Seattle Skeptics!

I’ll be giving my Skeptical Genetics talk from Skepticon, with plenty of time for your genetics questions in the Q&A. Here’s the info:

Bluestar Cafe
4512 Stone Way N, Seattle, WA
Hosted by the Seattle Skeptics
Event starts at 7pm
My talk starts at 8:30pm

Before my talk we’ll be hanging out and eating dinner, so join us!

Well triple fuck :(

I had a ray of hope for a little while about my car. Because some of you tweeted my blog posts at State Farm, I got a call at 8:30am yesterday saying how sorry they were about how poorly I was being treated, and that I was bumped up to a regional claims office and had the attention of Executive Customer Service. Later that day someone came to check on my car (yes, at a random time and I had to run home from work).

And today the same guy who couldn’t answer my questions gave me a call (aka, not some new regional claims person like I had been promised). He seemed much nicer this time around, kind of like someone told him he was dealing with someone who is happy to bitch on the internet.

And he told me they couldn’t cover the damage to my car.

The reasoning? Apparently the water got in because of some leaves that were blocking the drainage area around my trunk, and since my parking spot is slopped slightly downward, the water ran throughout the car. Since leaves take a while to build up, it was not a “sudden” accident, and so they won’t cover it.

I’m feeling shitty and beat down by the whole process. I’m not sure what I’m going to do next. I’m hoping the mold damage isn’t quite as bad as everyone thinks, and that I can save my car with minimum costs. We’ll see.


State Farm Insurance is fucking worthless

After talking to a bunch of Seattle auto detailers, I decided the cost of fixing the water and mold damage to my car is going to be more than my deductible, so I filed an official claim with State Farm. I stressed that I do not know how the water got in my car – flood, rain, vandalism, who knows – and that I wanted an agent to come look at it ASAP before my problem got worse.

I get a call back that an agent was going to inspect my car. The conversation basically went like:

Me: Sorry I missed your call, I was at work and couldn’t answer right away.
SF Rep: At work? How is our agent supposed to inspect your car if you’re at work?
Me: Wait, he’s coming right now? No one told me.
SF Rep: No, not now.
Me: Well when is he coming, tomorrow?
SF Rep: Sure, maybe.
Me: What do you mean, maybe?
SF Rep: He could come tomorrow or Friday, but if not you should call me Friday afternoon.
Me: Well I kind of need to know when he’s coming if I can’t be at work then.
SF Rep: He’ll probably come tomorrow. You can let someone else at home talk to him.
Me: I can’t… I guess I can try working from home tomorrow… Do you know what time he’ll be by?
SF Rep: I don’t know.
Me: I mean, does he work 9 to 5, or what?
SF Rep: More like 8:30 to 4 I guess.

Seriously, fucking worthless. They don’t even know when their own agents are coming to inspect my car, and I’m just expect to sit at home all day. I have a fucking job, you know. Worse he was rushing me to get off the call, and kept saying how they don’t cover gradual damage like rust and mold, and how he can’t see mold forming in my car even in a couple of weeks. I’m not so fucking slovenly that I would let mold cover everything in my car while I was driving it around, christ.

Like a good neighbor…yeah fucking right.

Thanks for all the moral support and practical advice, and sorry if you’re getting sick of these posts. They’re partly for me to vent, but mostly for me to document. Not to mention them finding out I’m an angry blogger might help my chances at getting proper costumer service.

Well double fuck :(

State Farm Insurance just got back to me about my wet, moldy car. They claim that since it was probably caused by a leak in my trunk (which they claim without ever looking at my car) the problem falls under “maintenance” and they won’t cover any damages. Because apparently you’re supposed to know you have a leak before you have any evidence of a leak. I have comprehensive coverage which is supposed to cover environmental things like wind, hail, flooding, but apparently “rain” or “melting snow” don’t count. They didn’t look at the car at all, they just decided this after my description over the phone.

I’m trying to decide what to do next. Some people have suggested getting a lawyer to write them a stern letter – is this typical for when insurance companies aren’t cooperating? If I file the claim despite them saying I won’t get anything, will that hurt my insurance premium? I feel like I should try something before finding a place who could potentially clean/repair my car and paying for it out of pocket. They couldn’t even suggest a place that might be able to do this.

And for everyone who is asking if they can donate to help, I greatly appreciate it, but let’s wait for a moment. I want to try to get my insurance company to do its job instead of relying on random kindness. And I don’t even know how much this is going to end up costing me.

A couple pics of the moldiness below. A lot of the general moldy grossness is a thin film that doesn’t capture well on camera, but there are some choice disgusting parts:

The standing water, which has evaporated (probably to other parts of the car) quite a bit since I originally saw it. You can kind of see how high it used to be.


Double yum.

Buckle up. All of the seat belts look like this.

How many species can you spot?

Blotches of mold are on the floor, on the seats, in my trunk… Yeah.

I’m going to drown my sorrows in lunch and then try to deal with this in the afternoon. I want to get it figured out quickly so it doesn’t get even worse.

The insanity begins

I’m part of a group of second year graduate students in charge of running my department’s recruitment weekend. Basically a gaggle of prospective graduate students fly in for the weekend and are shuffled around between interviews, food, and fun. Our duty is to answer any questions they have about the department, make them feel welcome, and make sure the shuffling occurs without anyone being left behind.

I’m less concerned with someone getting stranded during our scavenger hunt in Pike Place – the real labyrinth is the Health Sciences building, which is the world’s single largest university building. The floors of wings don’t match up – sometimes you spontaneously go from floor 3 to 4 without going up a flight of stairs. Some floors are only accessable via elevator if you happen to be in a particular wing. And the lettering system of the wings is nonsensical – you think something using letters would be vaguely alphabetical. I’m always expecting to turn a corner and see a graduate student who’s been trapped in its maze for years, with the stereotypical long hair, long beard, and worn clothes of a shipwreck survivor. Except that would be kind of hard to differentiate them from the regular graduate students.

Anyway, this all means that I’m going to be spending every minute of my day from now until Monday 11pm losing my mind. So, consider this an open thread!

Santorum: Obama and secularism are the path to beheading religious people

“They are taking faith and crushing it. Why? Why? When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights, then what’s left is the French Revolution. What’s left is a government that gives you rights. What’s left are no unalienable rights. What’s left is a government that will tell you who you are, what you’ll do, and when you’ll do it. What’s left, in France, became the guillotine. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re a long way from that. But if we do, and follow the path of President Obama and his overt hostility to faith in America, then we are headed down that road.”

I don’t think Santorum‘s speech really requires any commentary (Via Slog).