Drama Is Not Disagreement

Justin Vacula has done a new YouTube video, at the request of the slime pit. He calls it a “dramatic* reading” of a comment here at FreethoughtBlogs. Specifically, it is a comment posted at Butterflies and Wheels, on a post that mentions that Vacula is trying to raise enough money to attend Women in Secularism**. EEB, who comments here as well, is upset about the idea.

Vacula’s delivery in the video is more melodramatic than dramatic, and as he mentions in the notes on the video, there’s a long stretch where he can’t stop himself from laughing. Video tucked below the fold to make sure it doesn’t autoplay for anyone who doesn’t want to watch it.
Continue reading “Drama Is Not Disagreement”

Drama Is Not Disagreement

What Melody Hensley Has to Teach You About Professionalism

There’s this meme that the slime pitters are trying to pass around that my petition to have Justin Vacula removed as the co-chair of the Pennsylvania state Secular Coalition chapter was part of a bullying campaign against him. I won’t try to tell anyone I’m particularly nice to Vacula, but really, I think a bullying campaign generally has to consist of more than answering when someone asks me what I think of something or standing up for upset people who don’t have a platform of their own. Of course, in this case, I’m going to do something that isn’t quite either of those. Continue reading “What Melody Hensley Has to Teach You About Professionalism”

What Melody Hensley Has to Teach You About Professionalism

A Taste of 2012

There was one fairly obvious theme on this blog in 2012. Anyone who’s been around for most of it knows I did an awful lot of feminist blogging. That started all the way back in January, when I interviewed Melody Hensley on Atheists Talk about the Women in Secularism conference. Feminism is always pretty overt at the ScienceOnline conferences in Raleigh as well.

Things really ramped up at the WiS conference, of course. My most-read post this year is the one I wrote during the conference and on the plane on the way home, when I realized an off-hand comment from Jen McCreight was going to be very big indeed. So I followed up quickly to put some of that energy to good use. I’m very happy to say it was successful, if not entirely easy going. Continue reading “A Taste of 2012”

A Taste of 2012

Within the Movement (Updated)

One more response to Ron Lindsay’s post on divisiveness from yesterday. Ron suggested that the issue of abuse was largely solved “within the secular movement”. What happened in the comments–on the CFI site–suggested otherwise.

It isn’t just Ron who feels this way, either. There are plenty of people who want this to be just “some trolls on the internet”. So I started thinking about what “within the movement” really means. Continue reading “Within the Movement (Updated)”

Within the Movement (Updated)

Women in Secularism 2 Registration Now Open

An awful lot of people were sorry to have missed the Women in Secularism conference last year. They couldn’t afford to go after the Reason Rally. They didn’t know the conference was welcoming to men. They didn’t find out in time to make it a priority. Whatever the reason, they didn’t go.

If you were one of those people, you’ve got another chance. Registration for Women in Secularism 2 just opened today. It’s May 17-19, 2013, once again in D.C. And just look at that list of speakers:

Lauren Becker   educator, organizer, vice president & director of CFI Outreach

Ophelia Benson   author, editor, commentator, Butterflies & Wheels

Jamila Bey   author, editor, journalist

Soraya Chemaly   writer, activist

Greta Christina   writer, blogger, Greta Christina’s Blog

R. Elisabeth Cornwell   evolutionary psychologist, executive director of Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science US

Vykie Garrison   creator of No Longer Quivering

Debbie Goddard   activist, organizer, director of CFI On Campus and African Americans for Humanism

Adriana Heguy   biologist

Melody Hensley   executive director of CFI–Washington, DC, organizer, Women in Secularism

Teresa MacBain   public relations director, American Atheists

Amanda Marcotte   author, journalist, executive editor, Pandagon

Katha Pollitt   essayist, critic, poet

Edwina Rogers   executive director of the Secular Coalition for America

Amy Davis Roth   artist, blogger, skepchick.org

Desiree Schell   activist, podcast host, Skeptically Speaking

Shelley Segal   singer, songwriter

Rebecca Watson   cohost of Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, creator of skepchick.org

Stephanie Zvan   blogger, Almost Diamonds, radio host, Atheists Talk

Huh. Lookit that. Yes, I’ll be on one panel and moderating another next year. That means you won’t get the full benefit of my live-tweeting all the sessions, so you’d best see it in person.

Prices are discounted through March 15 of next year, but I wouldn’t wait that long. It won’t surprise me at all if registration is full this year.

Women in Secularism 2 Registration Now Open

Atheists Talk: Melody Hensley on the Women in Secularism Conference

I usually post these on Fridays, but this Sunday, I’m doing the interview rather than just hosting. That means you get to participate more than usual. If you have questions you’d like asked during the show, leave a comment. I can’t promise we’ll get them all in, but we’ll do what we can.

2011 was an interesting year for women in the secularism movement. We were more visible than we’ve ever been, both in the U.S. and across the world. At the same time, a simple request to respect women’s wishes with regard to being hit on at atheist events provoked months of discussion, both positive and very, very negative.

In the middle of all of this, the Center for Inquiry announced that they would be hosting the first Women in Secularism conference May 18-20 of this year in Washington, DC. The list of speakers is diverse and highly accomplished. The reaction to the announcement was…varied.

This conference is the brainchild of the Executive Director of the DC branch of the Center for Inquiry, Melody Hensley. Join us this Sunday as we discuss with Melody the impetus for the conference, the contributions of women to the secularism movement, and what attendees can expect from the conference.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Atheists Talk: Melody Hensley on the Women in Secularism Conference

Sam & Max Rules

A bit more than a decade ago, my husband and I played a bunch of LucasArts adventure games. Remember, this was pre-Episode One. Pre-Grim Fandango not being released for Macs for that matter. LucasArts was still okay then. In fact, they were pretty cool.

Sure, the Indiana Jones game was kinda dull, but Day of the Tentacle was a geek’s dream. Personally, though, I preferred Sam & Max Hit the Road. It’s still the most surreal game I’ve played, although Psychonauts came close. But even Psychonauts’ meat circus (really) didn’t quite compare to the combination of conspiracy theory, circus freaks and roadside attractions that was Sam & Max. Gator Golf, anyone? A bigfoot underground? How about a rotating restaurant atop the world’s largest ball of twine?

Still, my favorite part of the Sam & Max gameplay was the dialog. It was menu based. All the options tended to be snarky, but there were a few that would get a person decked in real life. Really funny, but nothing you’d actually say unless you wanted to end the conversation immediately.

The first time we came across one of these, we looked at each other, figured out how much progress we stood to lose, and picked the least helpful option. It got about the response we expected–a nasty, angry (silly) retort–but then the weird thing happened. We still had all our other dialog options left. There was no penalty for being nasty. This made a lot of sense in the game, since Sam and Max were both psychotic, but it took a little getting used to.

From that point on, we always chose the funniest, least productive dialog first. After all, if we picked the less-funny, productive stuff, we moved forward in the game and lost our chance at the funny.

Then we went even further. We decided we liked playing by Sam & Max rules, so we adopted them in real life. No penalty for the funny first response, even if it isn’t very friendly.

I don’t recommend this for everyone*, of course. It takes timing and a good sense of how much distance must be kept from the truth in order for something to be funny. Most of all, it takes both a willingness to explain and a willingness to listen when a joke goes awry.

For example, my husband has recently discovered caipirinhas and likes to have one in the evening. We even bought an ice crusher for making them. Since he had a final this weekend, he’s also been studying most evenings. Last week, as he was making a caipirinha and preparing to study, I joked that he was going to need to bring one to his final.

He got a little huffy and declared that it was one drink over several hours and–oops. I stopped him and invoked Sam & Max rules.

Then I explained. He’s never taken a psychology class, but luckily, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know anything about the subject.

“You know how context aids memory–you’re more likely to remember something in the same circumstances you originally encountered it?”

He nodded.

“Okay. This is one of the things that get mentioned in a variety of psychology classes. Every time it’s come up in one of my classes, there’s always one student who just has to say….”

He grinned. “So I guess I should bring beer to my finals.”


Thus was disaster averted. But that’s the thing about Sam & Max rules. You can’t play by them with someone you don’t trust or who doesn’t trust you. You can’t play with someone who won’t explain when the meaning isn’t evident, or with someone who won’t take explanations at face value, or with someone who can’t tell when the joke falls flat. Playing by Sam & Max rules takes a lot of work.

But when it works, it’s very silly fun.

* It’s taken me time, but I have eventually come to realize (not understand, mind you) that not everyone’s life and friends are a traveling comedy routine.

Sam & Max Rules