Lunch with PZ

I’m going to be giving a talk tomorrow and Tuesday in St Paul and Minneapolis—if you’re free at the noon hour, stop on by! The title of the talk is “Science and Secularism in a Demon-Haunted World,” and it’s sponsored by the Atheists for Human Rights.

On Monday at noon I’ll be at the St Paul Landmark Center, 75 West Fifth Street, in the Ramsey County Room.

On Tuesday at noon I’ll be in the Minneapolis Downtown Public Library, in the Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi Room.

If you aren’t in the Twin Cities area, be patient…I just agreed to do an interview with the Infidel Guy sometime in August, so you might be able to hear me over your computer then.

Dire warnings

Reading some of my favorite blogs today, I can’t help but feel the looming hand of fate preparing to destroy us all.

  • Jon Voisey is praising a director of the Oklahoma ACLU, Joanne Bell. You’re in Kansas, Jon. It’s not that far from Oklahoma. What happened to Bell could happen to you.
  • Ophelia Benson is saying harsh words about Mother Theresa. An uppity woman criticizing an icon of Christian charity? Someday, you could be in a hospital with a hatchet-faced nun looming over you, contemplating how best to chastise your body before your immortal soul meets the god who will fling you into the flames of Hell.
  • General JC Christian dares to mock those who would sic Jew-haters on the home of the Dobrich family. You’re anonymous, old boy—wouldn’t it be a fine coup for some winger somewhere to publish your home address and phone number? Let’s see how funny you are when a manly Christian fellow shows up at your door with a demand to give your inner Frenchman a workout.
  • Cream Pickle Pups? Oh, no—it’s fair time in the Midwest, when the most obscene foods appear in greasy carts on dirt paths in places that reek of farm animals. We’re all gonna die.

Despite the horrible possibilities, though, I can’t help but hope that everyone keeps it up. Well, except for Diablo Cody—no one really needs to OD on fried fats in grease, do they?

Morris in the news

Seeing ourselves as others do can be a strange experience. Here’s an article in the Humboldt County Times Standard that discusses Morris, Minnesota, and pretty much exclusively praises us.

Recently I was listening to Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion.” I had to pull my car over to the side of the road after he said that Morris — a city located in Stevens County in his home state of Minnesota — had a high school dropout rate of less than 1 percent. In addition, 95 percent of the high school graduates in that city and county go on to some kind of postsecondary education.

[Read more…]

Drinking Liberally…in Morris!

We become more cosmopolitan day by day. As of tomorrow, our fair city will have its very own Drinking Liberally chapter (it’s even on the map!). I can walk to it, instead of driving for three hours. Here’s the info:

When: Thursday, May 18, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 or whenever.

Where: Old #1 in Morris, near the horseshoe-shaped part of the bar.

Why: To have a relaxed, informal place for progressive political
discussion and socializing.

For more information, visit drinkingliberally.org, or contact local
host Jeff Lamberty (Lambo) at morris@drinkingliberally.org.

Bill O’Reilly: Pinhead in rose-colored glasses

Bill O’Reilly is upset that little kids are using profanity, and he has a ludicrously sentimental vision of small town America.

OK. That happens every day, all day in the public schools here in New York City. And I know it happens in Chicago and Los Angeles and Boston and Washington, D.C. In any major urban center. It doesn’t happen in the small towns; it happens in the cities. I live in New York. I’m not gonna have my 6-, 7-, 8-, 9-year-old go to a school where they’re saying that stuff in the hallway and the teacher doesn’t do anything about it. You know, private school, that does not happen.

Oh, brother. I grew up in a small town in the 60s and 70s—Kent, WA, population 14,152 (we lived on the edge of town, right near the city limits sign, and I caught the school bus every day right under that message)—and my fellow children were obscenely profane all the time. I now live in an even smaller place, population just a hair over 5,000, and if you want to hear some hair-raising language, walk by the elementary school playground. Heck, I’ve been startled a few times while walking past the Catholic school yard in town. I don’t have much experience with private schools, but I would be very surprised if human nature was much changed by the imposition of tuition (and, come to think of it, some of the most casually explicit chatterers I remember from the old school days were the most well-off kids).

Here’s what real small town America is like: petty, irrational hatreds, intolerance, and vicious smears of anyone who is the slightest bit different, leavened with far too few more charitable individuals. My daughter and several of her friends have been joining in the “Gay? Fine by me.” campaign—basically, they just express support for people with different sexual preferences in a very low key way. How do you think other fine, upstanding Middle American school kids react?

Today was the second Gay-Day. A bunch of us wore our “gay? fine by me.” T-shirts to school. Funny that the first time people didn’t react, but then they went boom this time. It was the standard moronic bashing. Flicking us off in the hall, calling us fags, asking if we were gay, asking why we liked gay people, saying that gay people should be shot, that they aren’t real people.

Bill O’Reilly, bigoted blowhard that he is, probably thinks that kind of thing is just fine, as long as they don’t use the “f”-word*. Personally, I’d rather see kids cussing like sailors as long as they were tolerant of each other’s differences. I’m afraid, though, that small towns aren’t exactly shining beacons of idealistic American values…those progressive values, no less, that are the antithesis of what O’Reilly promotes.

*Falafel!

Travelin’ man

My life isn’t easing up just yet as we wend our way to the imminent end of the term. I’m going to be flitting about over the next few days.

I’m chauffeuring #1 son to a job interview in Minneapolis today, and then returning him home to St Cloud again sometime this evening. I’m planning to be in St Cloud in time for a painful event: Kent Hovind is speaking there.

Date : April 28, 2006
Time : 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Title: Dr. Kent Hovind (Dr. Dino) — Creation v. Evolu.
Description: Dr. Kent Hovind or the more popularly known Dr. Dino, is one of the most requested speakers on the Creation and Evolution topic in churches and Universities all over the world. Dr. Hovind served as an educator for many years teaching Biology, Anatomy, Physical Science, Mathematics, Earth Science, and many other sciences. Dr. Hovind has debated the Creation and Evolution controversy over 100 times all over the world, in many large Universities, and on thousands of radio talk shows. Come and hear what Dr. Dino says on all sorts of scientific topics as well as taking questions from the audience. Again Dr. Hovind will be at Ritsche Auditorium @ 7pm on Friday, April 28.

Truth be told, I’m hoping something keeps me pleasantly occupied in the Twin Cities so I miss it.


Saturday is a day of rest. Actually, it’ll be a day of grading and lecture preparation, but at least I get to spend it at home.


On Sunday, 30 April, I’m traveling to the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point to give a talk in their Evolution Sunday lecture series. Look for me in Collins Classroom Center, Room 101, at 6:00 that evening.


Monday, I’ll be driving back home. My students are very sad that I’ll miss a day of lecture in my physiology course, but there’s no way I can be back in time for an 8AM class. They’ll get to sleep in, I’ll be on the road, slugging back coffee.


Tuesday is Drinking Liberally at the 331 Club in Minneapolis. You don’t want to miss this one: in addition to the usual suspects, like the Power Liberal and the Wege and many others, Jerome Armstrong and Markos Zúniga will be there, which is impressive enough…but also Bitch, Ph.D. will be dropping by. It’s like an evening of blogging royalty.


Wednesday I’ll be exhausted, but back to normal. I’ll be wrapping up the last few classes of the semester and giving a couple of final exams the week after. Sometime shortly after that I’ll be making another trip to Wisconsin, this time to Madison, to pick up #2 Son and his mountain of stuff and returning him to lovely Morris for his summer break.

I’ve got a few other summer travels planned, like a talk in Vegas and another in Minneapolis in July, but they’re too exhausting to contemplate right now.

Last chance until the Fall

We’re having our last Café Scientifique Morris of the 2005-2006 school year tonight, at 6:00, at the Common Cup Coffeehouse here in beautiful downtown Morris, Minnesota. Our speaker is Mark Logan of the Mathematics discipline, who’s going to be talking about “Origami in Math and Science”—that wonderful interdisciplinary stuff we liberal arts colleges do so well, tying together math and art.

It’s a good thing we’re doing it tonight so that we don’t suck away Sean Carroll’s audience for the Café Scientifique Chicago tomorrow.

GeekProm!

In the rural fastness of Western Minnesota, a legend grows. A man so nerdly that his infamy spreads far and wide; when people see shell-less molluscs, his name leaps to their lips; when geeks and nerds gather, they all whisper the same thing: “Pee-Zee” (or, as the Canadians and Dr Who fans would say, “Pee-Zed.”)

Yes, in yet another of a string of geek honors, I have been invited to the GeekProm, to be held in the Science Museum of Minnesota on 22 April. There will be spaz-dancing, cow-eye dissections, and a talent show, and some couple will be crowned King and Queen Geek.

Obviously, I deserve to go to this. What you may not realize, O Unsuspecting Readers, is that by reading this site you too are now fully certified Geeks and Nerds. Sorry about that, but it is infectious, and you have only yourselves to blame. I’m also afraid that there aren’t any scientists interested in working on a cure, so you’re just going to have to live with your punishment…and show up to out-spaz me on the dance floor.

See you all there.