Hey, John Pieret! I Am Too a Philosopher!

Just over a week ago, when we were all having our way with Ken Ham, John Pieret at Thoughts in a Haystack said this:

John Wilkins has, coincidentally (or perhaps not), just posted an excellent meditation on the claim that God is necessary for morality,
The evolution of morality.” Dana, in the more direct language of the non-philosopher has made much the same points.

Now, I have to admit I felt a bit put-upon. Not a philosopher? Am too a philosopher! After all, I’m an American who thinks – that’s practically Plato right there! I’ve got at least a plausible claim of being a street philosopher, don’t I?

Apparently, I do:

And I’ll have you know there’s a section for Politix, which I could have ended up in. But I didn’t. Not Politix. Imma Philosophy. So there.

The above screen shot comes from a site called Voice From The Pack. Aside from an exquisite taste in philosophy, the blog boasts a masterful spanking of Denyse O’Leary. And, by way of a change from the blogs I normally read, there’s some good bits on climate change as well. Not that the rest of us don’t care about global warming and the silly fuckers who deny it, but we’re so busy paddling the never-ending parade of media dumbshits, Constitution-shredding politicians, and IDiots that we don’t spank the global warming skeptics quite as much as we might like.

And did I mention that Harebell has excellent taste in philosophy?

*Of course you know I’m not seriously upset with John. I even agreed with him – but hell if I was going to pass up a chance like this!

Hey, John Pieret! I Am Too a Philosopher!

So That's Where My Smack-o-Matic Went!

Paul at Cafe Philos gives John Freshwater a sound spanking, thus saving me the necessity:

There are a lot of John Freshwater’s out there. And, intentionally or not, they are doing their best to undermine the nation’s science education.

I pity the kids who because of some fool teacher will grow up without an understanding of evolution.

I’ve given you a mere sip of the nectar. If you haven’t had time to read the full report of Freshwater’s fuckery, you owe it to yourself to get on over to Cafe Philos and see the whole saga laid out in unrelenting detail. Paul puts many of our nation’s journalists to shame.

While you’re over there, if you’re one of those who hasn’t sampled Paul’s delights, you really must. Go on. Indulge.

Then head on over to Going Down Bitter in the Hinterlands for a post on the march to war with Iran that’s guaranteed to curl your hair – and have you screaming mad. It’s one of the best examples of using others’ words against them I’ve seen in a long while. Bitter lays out each quote in chronological order like a carpenter hammering nails into a coffin – that coffin being the final resting place of any doubt that the Bush regime has been steadily driving this country to the brink of war with Iran. We’re being played like they played us into Iraq. Well, Bitter deals back.

After your blood pressure’s calmed a mite, you can troop over to Decrepit Old Fool for a sharp-eyed look at suicide and religion:

Christianity starts with the premise that we’re all unworthy sinners, who deserve to burn in hell unless we’re redeemed by the sacrificial blood of Jesus. That’s a recipe for depression, not a cure. You can’t tout salvation from guilt manufactured by your religion itself and then try to claim the high road.

I’ll give you a hint: religion doesn’t fare well. George, you see, is a kind and gentle man, but he’s the kind of critical thinker that should have fuckwits like Ken Ham shaking in their shoes. The fact that people like Ken Ham are too willfully stupid to realize their being torn to shreds is beside the point.

Finally, by way of a palatte cleanser, you’ll be delighted by what John Pieret’s brought us by way of the latest on Expelled. Yes, there’s more!

Lucky Canadians are getting a chance to see what happens to IQs when subjected to certain versions of religious belief that require that brains be put on hold so as to not get in the way. Peter McKnight of the Vancouver Sun, who I’ve found to be a reliably intelligent and sensible voice on the topic of science and religion, has a look into Stein’s misshapen stepchild and turns up some interesting — and highly amusing — tidbits.

Trust me when I say that even after all this time, there’s still supreme fucktardeness to be mined from Expelled. Oh, yes. Yes, indeedy.

For bonus fun, go enjoy yourself John’s wonderful smackdown of Ken Ham. It’s amazing what this man can do without wielding a single expletive.

So That's Where My Smack-o-Matic Went!

Dear Associated Press: Bite Me

Warning to all of you who like to quote long stretches of Associated Press articles: they’re gunning for you (h/t Carpetbagger):

For a blog to feature news content from an Associated Press article is about as common as the sunrise, so it came as something of a surprise last week when the news agency went after a prominent liberal blog for what seemed like a minor excerpting issue.

Last week, The A.P. took an unusually strict position against quotation of its work, sending a letter to the Drudge Retort asking it to remove seven items that contained quotations from A.P. articles ranging from 39 to 79 words.

On Saturday, The A.P. retreated. Jim Kennedy, vice president and strategy director of The A.P., said in an interview that the news organization had decided that its letter to the Drudge Retort was “heavy-handed” and that The A.P. was going
to rethink its policies toward bloggers.

The quick about-face came, he said, because a number of
well-known bloggers started criticizing its policy, claiming it would undercut the active discussion of the news that rages on sites, big and small, across the Internet.

Well, of course it would. The AP is one of the most commonly linked to news outlets on the planet. If bloggers can’t excerpt 79 words from an article, it’s going to have an effect. It was encouraging that the AP realized that its aggressive posturing towards the Drudge Retort was, in fact, “heavy-handed.”

The result, according to the NYT, is an effort on the part of the Associated Press to “define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt without
infringing on The A.P.’s copyright.”

I think it’s time for the AP to join the real world. First off, trying to impose ridiculously strict standards on bloggers’ use of their content is going to be like trying to put out a 100,000 acre crown fire with a garden hose. They’re going to be spending far more in legal fees than they’ll recoup from protecting their copyright.

It’s a losing battle: those thousands upon thousands of blogs, many run by amateurs who don’t know the first fucking thing about copyright law and who could give a shit anyway, aren’t going to be intimidated by the AP going after a few prominent sites, so the long-winded excerpts will continue apace. I wouldn’t put it past a good number of bloggers to start exerpting 80 words just out of spite. It’s a lawless digital frontier, my friends, and I don’t see Dodge being cleaned up anytime soon.

There’s going to come a time when copyright law will have to catch up with the internet, no question. And I think it’s going to have to stretch the definition of “fair use” here to include longer excerpts. What these clowns don’t seem to get is that the internet’s a different animal than print media. In print, a long excerpt can mean that folks won’t go to the original source to obtain the rest of the work, simply because it’s too much of a pain in the arse. Online, if the excerpt intrigues you, all it takes is a click, and voila – the original copyright holder gets some love they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Clicks are gold out here.

Restrictive standards will mean that bloggers will either ignore you and excerpt anyway, comfortable in the knowledge that the AP can’t go after everybody, or that bloggers will simply say, “Fine, then, fuck you and your little dog, too” and excerpt someone else. I doubt the AP has such a monopoly on news that bloggers can’t find other sources to work with. And this “say a few words and then link to our story” position they seem to be taking is just silly – I can’t speak for the rest of the blogosphere, but I’m not willing to show restrictive assholes any love. When I link someone, I’m basically giving them free advertising. I’m not going to do that if I’m not getting anything in return – in this case, a decent chunk of text to riff off of.

Have to admit, though: I haven’t really given this much thought. As a writer, I’m of course interested in copyright and protections for the originator of a work, but I also realize that what goes up online is pretty much fair game. I personally am delighted when folks filch a chunk of my blathering for their own blog, because of the link love – as long as they’re not copying the whole of a post, they’re giving credit where due, and I get more traffic out of the deal, it’s all good. When I quote other sources, I try not to take more than a third or so of the article or post in question – just enough to get the point across, and, hopefully, get a click through to the source’s site, so they can feel the love. After all, I enjoyed reading the damned thing: my readers might as well. And everybody gets the attention they deserve.

I know corporations don’t think that way. But there’s got to be some sort of happy medium here. What’s fair use on the digital frontier? How much of an excerpt is too much? Is copyright law even going to survive in the digital age?

The floor is open.

Dear Associated Press: Bite Me

A Teacher on the Front Lines

Our own dear NP has gone and posted a frightening article on education on her blog, the Coffee-Stained Writer. Ever wonder what the view was like from a young, enthusiastic teacher’s perspective? It’s worse than we thought:

At the school from which I recently resigned, I was told many things about how the school curriculum is run. I was warned that Honors classes are “watered down,” and that a good portion of my time as a teacher of English would be spent helping my junior students prepare for their science standardized test in the spring. I was also told the curriculum for sophomore English students focused around taking and passing the English writing standardized test. And in the time left, teachers split their time between teaching literature and grammar and taking students to registrations, passing out report cards, and going to assemblies.

I don’t know about you, but that looks like a wasteland. Now I understand just what kind of damage Bush’s vaunted “No Child Left Behind” nonsense has caused. It must be making the fundies scream with joy – kids are so busy learning how to test well that they’re not learning to think.

Take your Zoloft and go have a read.

En Tequila Es Verdad is not responsible for the resulting deflation of your mood, and holds itself harmless from civil actions resulting from eyes stabbed out with grapefruit spoons, head injuries caused from skulls being smashed repeatedly against walls, and the complete loss of your social life as you gird your loins and jump into the battle to save education in this country.

A Teacher on the Front Lines

So That's What that Was

There I was at work all day, getting me arse kicked by unrelenting call volume, totally oblivious to what was happening over at Pharyngula. And here I was wondering why the sudden influx of new and delightful commenters. Got me answer when I pulled up Sitemeter this evening and went, “Oh, now, THAT traffic’s not normal…”

Wish I could return the favor, but let’s be honest: the majority of my regulars are already Pharyngula readers, so humble thanks will have to do. Muchas gracias, PZ! The cantina owes you at least a few drinks next time you’re in the neighborhood.

It’s good to see you all here. And for any of you who weren’t here for the Carnival of the Elitist Bastards, please go enjoy – it’s got a lot more intellectual substance than my ravings.

So That's What that Was

Many Meetings with PZ Myers

Meeting PZ Myers is like rubbing shoulders with a rock star, only with science.

PZ’s blog Pharyngula has, in a very short time, changed my life repeatedly. I stumbled across it at the turn of the year, spent a captivated few days reading post after archived post, and I’ve not missed a day of it since. Pharyngula gave me insight into a whole new world: one in which biology is discussed by ordinary people alongside actual scientists, where atheism is a glorious celebration of godlessness rather than a shameful secret, and where fruitful argument is the order of the day.

PZ proved that you can have your outspoken atheism and your job, too. So, change one: I started speaking out rather than try to slip under the radar. Change two: he was among those who inspired me to start this blog and speak my mind without fear. Change three: I now know that evo-devo exists, and it should prove a fruitful line of inquiry for a poor SF author trying to evolve her aliens properly. Change four: I found out that atheists had started coming together to effect change, and ended up feeling a lot less alone in the struggle against religious right fuckery. And the changes go on and on, right up to those that happened over the past week when my baby blog hosted the first ever Carnival of the Elitist Bastards and was fortunate enough to get an approving nod from PZ. That allowed me to meet PZ Myers not as some anonymous fangirl, but as the captain of the HMS Elitist Bastard, which I have to tell you is a change I liked very much.

Seeing PZ speak has changed my life just as much as his blog has. For one thing, I discovered he’s lying to us all.

He likes to claim he isn’t all that funny or fire-breathing in real life. I’m not sure how he gets away with such claims. Granted, he doesn’t shout from a pulpit like a Texas televangelist, but there’s plenty of fire there. Anyone who loves science as much as he does breathes fire. It’s not the fire of hell and brimstone, but the fire of the phoenix. It doesn’t burn (unless you’re a hapless Christian silly enough to try to take PZ head-on), but renews. It impassions. It’s going to keep me warm on a lot of cold nights.

As far as not being funny, well. The audience certainly laughed a lot in response to his incisive, at times diamond-cutter sharp sense of humor, so I think we can lay that self-depricating little myth to rest.

He is soft-spoken. He doesn’t shout. He doesn’t rant. He’s just implacable, which is a tremendous force all its own. Relentless logic doesn’t have to scream to ring out loud and clear. After watching him lecture twice, I have a lot of sympathy for his foes. It must feel like getting run down by a bulldozer shoveling an avalanche down upon you. I’m glad he’s on our side, I’ll tell you that.

His talk for the Northwest Science Writer’s Association is available in podcast at Real Science. I strongly urge you to listen to it. I’m not going to rehash it – others have done a better job. I’m just going to discuss a few points that are salient to me as a writer and blogger. You’ll filter his lecture through your own interests, of course, and it’s best that you do. Especially since what follows is based on my paltry notes and pathetic memory: it was a choice of relying on those or putting off this post YET AGAIN so I could listen to the podcast. Be warned.

With that caveat, let us move on into what PZ wants to see more scientists and science writers do: speak out. His students, when asked to mention scientists and popularizers of science, come back most often with Bill Nye the Science Guy, Mythbusters, and Marie Curie. Where’s Attenboro, Sagan? he asks. They’ve never heard of them. PZ tells us it’s our fault. We aren’t promoting science enough. And he’s right.

He has a list of what scientists and science writers can do to get science out in the public eye:

  • Show passion and personality.
  • Be a patient instructor.
  • Be an advocate (and in this, he advises us to shun caution and avoid those weasel words that make laypeople believe that science doesn’t have any near-certain answers).
  • Be positive.
  • Argue Argue Argue.

Looking at that list in stark black-and-white crystalizes matters. I remember looking at that Power Point slide and thinking this is it. This is exactly what we must do if we want science to become something the public can approach and enjoy. Carl Sagan was nearly all of these points. So were great popularizers like Isaac Asimov, James Burke, and Stephen Jay Gould.

In an impatient culture, though, people often don’t have the attention spans or the time necessary to sit down with a good book and read it cover-to-cover. I think this is why PZ emphasized blogging so much during his lecture. He encouraged more scientists (and lovers of science) to blog. And yepper, there was a Power Point slide for that, too:

Why Blog?
  • Short form writing.
  • Entertainment.
  • Community Building.
  • Consciousness raising.
  • Advocacy.

He pointed out that science blogging is good practice for scientists. It’s good practice for any writer – blogging forces you to get the words out, be succinct in your presentation of ideas, and garners you immediate feedback that can drastically improve your writing. Blogs are also becoming a huge part of the new media. A growing percentage of us are getting their news and entertainment through blogs. PZ’s right to advise more scientists to take advantage of the power of blogs to shape and inform public opinion.

PZ, of course, is something of a controversial figure (particularly to those Christians who took advantage of the question-and-answer period to challenge him for challenging their beliefs). It makes perfect sense that he’d include controversy as a major part of his talk. “Controversy sells,” he said, and that’s all too true. So you tackle the controversies head-on. PZ stated that you’ve got to get something that gets people angry. A fight gets people on your side. People against you help you hone your arguments.

I’ve seen that in action with Expelled – I don’t think we’ve ever done better at getting the message out about what science is actually about than when we were fighting that noxious pile of dog vomit. I can guarantee you that people who didn’t give two tugs on a dead dog’s dick what the scientific meaning of the word “theory” was now understand it simply because of the negative reviews of the movie. Plenty of folks ended up on Pharyngula, getting their daily dose of science blogging, simply because Mark Mathis was stupid enough to boot PZ out of the theater, but let Richard Dawkins in.

Science wasn’t something high on my list of priorities aside from a useful tool for my writing until I stumbled across the whole creationist attack on evolution. A huge community of very excellent science bloggers and writers made got me passionately, angrily involved in its defense, and because of that, I’m learning more science. I can’t be the only person that’s true for. And that’s one of the reasons PZ doesn’t shy away from controversy. It hooks people. It interests them. Any good writer will tell you that – without conflict, there’s no story, and without a story, there’s no readers. QED.

But controversy and passion aren’t the only tools in the science populizer’s arsenal. There’s also the little matter of the cultural hook. PZ mentioned several science books that did a wonderful job promoting science by using pop culture as a lure:

The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios
The Physics of the Buffyverse by Jennifer Ouellette
The Sandwalk Adventures, Clan Apis, and Optical Allusions by Jay Hosler

I especially like the last three, seeing as how I’m a comic book advocate.

In closing, PZ had a startling tip: the most important thing about science, he said, isn’t its importance. There’s a tendency to emphasize what’s important – without science, there’s no cure for cancer, no solutions to the energy crisis, no flying car. And these are vital things, but PZ contends they’re not important enough to the general public to be the only hook.

“Never mind ‘importance,'” his Power Point slide said, thus shoving aside everything common sense tells us about what a writer should focus a science story on. “Science writing is all about beauty.”

“They appreciate the fact you’ve told them this little piece of something beautiful,” he said as we sat absorbing that extraordinary claim. And I realized, sitting there frantically scribbling my notes, he’s absolutely right. Carl Sagan didn’t spend as much time emphasizing the importance of cosmology as exploring the wonder and the gorgeousness of it all. Controversy and pop culture may lure people in, but what they’re going to stay for is science’s awesome beauty.

Science has too often acted helpless in the face of public apathy and ignorance. Every scientist and science writer who bemoans the lack of interest in scientific subjects among the general populace needs to go listen to PZ’s lecture, and start employing his tactics. Especially that last.

PZ’s lecture put me very much in mind of something Neil Gaiman said when I saw him at the Chicago Humanities Festival in 2001. “Being contentious is what you should be doing,” he said. “You should be shaking people up.” I have a feeling PZ would be in whole-hearted agreement with that.

He’s certainly not afraid of being contentious. In the question-and-answer, a Christian stood up to challenge him on his outspoken atheism. PZ never flinched. He’s unapologetic in his views and never, ever compromises them. “Religion itself is a lie and a danger,” he said, also calling it a “perilous short-circuit in our thinking, and we have to be aware of it.” Plenty of people are out there who can support theistic views, he said. He isn’t interested in being one of them.

And I have advice for the next Christian who plans to stand up and bludgeon PZ with the old “Science can’t explain things like love” chestnut: don’t. The results are brutal. I’ll leave it up to you to listen to that delightful little exchange on the podcast. But it can’t bring across the smile that spread across PZ’s face when that got thrown in his teeth. “Wicked delight” I think describes it fairly well. This was the smile of a gunfighter whose pistol has already cleared the holster when he realizes his opponent is not only a fumbling klutz, but shooting blanks to boot.

PZ is one of those incredible people who has the courage of his convictions. Whatever you think of him and his outspoken atheism, you can’t deny him respect for that. He’s a fabulous advocate for science, and he’s a rock for atheists. Along with the fantastic ideas for science writing, he’s provided me a stellar example of someone who won’t compromise his values for the sake of pandering to religious sentiment. Even though we don’t fully agree on this point – I don’t mind religious moderates so much as he does – I appreciate very much the fact that he won’t back down. He’s not one of those thunder and no substance folks. There’s a cannon in all that smoke.

PZ’s talk at the Seattle Society for Sensible Explanations dinner on Friday was a lot more difficult, and I’m not even going to attempt to rehash the biology. I could follow a good bit of what he was saying, but it was the first I’d really heard of the evolution of the eye. That means that, even with my pathetic little notes, I can’t do his lecture any justice without a hell of a lot more reading on the subject. Thankfully, PvM from Panda’s Thumb was there, and has a post up with links to some spiffy science papers on the whole thing. PZ’s also promised to post some of the slides on Pharyngula soon, probably complete with an excellent write-up.

In light of that, I’m going to play up the sizzle more than the steak. PZ promised he’d trash the Bible in his talk. I figured he meant he’d trash-talk it, but no – he ripped Genesis right out of the Gideon Bible he’d filched, and waved it about at several points in his talk. His point: the “science” contained within that page and a half is absolutely ridiculous. You can’t encompass the whole of creation within a few verses of awful poetry. He compared that page and a half to the reams of papers tracing just the evolution of the eye. That was a stark example of the paucity of science in scripture. “This is not enough to be talking about science,” he said as he rattled it. And he pointed out another flaw: Genesis talks about the waters and the fish, but where are the squid?

Indeed, the squid are MIA in Genesis. So much for all the answers being there, eh?

Someday, I hope he writes up a brief little tract on the evolution of the eye that I can hand to creationists who show up at my door. I didn’t ken a lot of the intricate detail of the evolutionary biology, but I grasped just enough to know one thing for sure: things would have turned out very differently indeed had an actual God created the eye. It’s complex, to be sure, but not irreducibly so. It’s complex the same way a very old city is. You’ve seen ancient cities that grew up organically and are a complex, somehow-functioning but ridiculous mess. Old streets get pressed into service they weren’t originally intended for, old buildings get absorbed into the new, and a lot of nonsensical crap is forced into making some kind of crazy sense out of necessity, whereas things would be a lot more streamlined and sensible if the damned thing had been designed and built from scratch, with modern necessities fully in mind.

That’s not a perfect analogy, but it’s just about how the eye is. You’re talking something that’s actually neural tissue – would any self-respecting God press neural tissue into service for seeing when there had to be better material He could have created? What about those crazy upside-down photoreceptors? Looking at the eye is like looking at a stoned MIT student’s attempt to design something with the help of a chimpanzee.

PZ compared it to a Rube Goldberg machine. “Only an idiot would design something like this,” he said after entertaining us with a slide of a Rube Goldberg machine for making orange juice. “The Designer was demented.”

Looking at the slides of how the eye works, I can only agree. And yet, the damned thing works. Evolution doesn’t always give us the most elegant solutions to our survival needs – much the opposite – but it gets us there. Somehow. And at least it’s never boring!

I’m looking forward now to digging into the story of eye evolution. I’d never really considered before how my aliens see. I’ve now got a plethora of eyes to choose from, and a fantastic one-liner to come back at creationists w
ith. Everybody wins (except the IDiots).

These t
wo lectures have also inspired me to add a bit more science to this blog: expect regular Sunday Science features from here on, complete with controversy and a heaping helping of sheer beauty.

So that’s it. My two encounters with PZ Myers of Pharyngula fame. And I’ve got the pictures to prove it. That’s me in the one on the left, there, and JC from the Seattle Skeptics group on the right.

Envy us, don’t you? You know you do. So don’t miss PZ next time he’s in your town.

Many Meetings with PZ Myers

Random Musings on Becoming Dana Hunter

I’ll be posting a write-up of my two (count them, two!) events with PZ Myers later on Saturday for your reading pleasure. He’s a fascinating speaker, a lot funnier and interesting than he’ll admit to. He’s also a genuinely nice guy. Being nice doesn’t mean he’ll compromise his values, though, and that’s certainly given me food for thought.

Right now, though, I’m coming down from an extremely eventful week, and I’m going to chew over some of the more personal ramifications. Feel free to skip. It’s all navel-gazing from here, I’m afraid. Well, aside from the shameless praise of my readers, so maybe there’s something in it for you after all.

Those of you who’ve been around here long enough, or gotten curious enough to click over to me website, know that Dana Hunter is a nom de plume. Possibly even a nom de guerre, the way things are going. I’m assuming the Seattle Skeptic’s group I just joined this week is also aware of this fact, as I gave them a wee bit o’ a clue in my profile (i.e., explained the above).

I’ve been introducing myself as Dana Hunter all week. It’s the name folks know from online, ye see, and seeing as how I was meeting PZ Myers as well as a fair number of Pharyngula readers, I figured it would be simpler that way. And damn it, I like my pen name. Those of you who know my legal name know exactly why that is.

The strange thing is, I’ve become Dana Hunter. I’m sure every author who writes under a pseudonym goes through this at some point: moving from awkward to perfectly comfortable with the alternate identity, finding that it doesn’t matter which name is given because the underlying person is the same. It’s just that one name is recognized and the other’s not. I’m sure this is going to get a lot more common – I already have friends I wouldn’t dream of referring to by any other name than the one they use on the internet. And at least this time, I didn’t have a cautious dad doing a double-take when his son introduced me under one name and he found out I was born with another.

This is also the first time I’ve been recognized by strangers. When I started this blog, I had no idea that was going to happen. Eventually, people coming up and saying, “You’re Dana Hunter, aren’t you?” will become common place. Right now, it’s a novelty. And a flattering one at that. Thank you!

I’m going to take some credit for that recognition – after all, I’m the one who writes most of the shite for this cantina – but a huge chunk of the credit is down to the readers. An author is nothing without readers. Some authors forget that, and take the appreciation as their due. I never will. I may not always have the time to respond to each of you individually, but I hope I’ll always manage to get across the fact that I appreciate each and every one of you. I’m constantly amazed that I managed to attract such an amazing community of readers. Writing is something of a reward in and of itself, but what I’ve always wanted is you – intelligent, engaging, and wonderful people who actually enjoy reading what I write. It’s overwhelming to realize that’s happened.

On top of that, I’ve roped in some truly brilliant co-bloggers. They keep this blog from degenerating into What Dana’s Pissed About Now. I hope you all enjoy their perspectives as much as I do.

So, I’ll go back to work on Sunday a different person than when I left. I’m one co-blogger, one Skeptic’s group, two PZ lectures, and one phenominal Carnival of the Elitist Bastards linked to by Pharyngula richer. I’ve become Dana Hunter. None of that could have happened without you.

Don’t you forget it.

Random Musings on Becoming Dana Hunter

Ye Gods, What a Week!

My best friend from North Carolina is here, PZ wuz here, I met a group of absolutely delightful skeptics, and I’ve got a packed week, so posting is going to be light and probably of inferior quality, alas. I’ve got some posts in the kitty to keep you entertained, and I’ll still be doing Discurso for the political junkies among you.

I’ll be writing up PZ’s talk at the Pacific Science Center in the next day or two – Garrett will allow me to steal that much time away.

To all the people I met tonight: you’re awesome, I’m thrilled to meet you in the flesh, and there will be much more awesome fun!

En Tequila Es Verdad will resume its regularly scheduled intense snark in just a few days, with added PZ. Until then, thanks for suffering through the thin fare!

You, my readers, all deserve the very best snark I can give. I shall deliver.

And for those eagerly awaiting a new installment of the Carnival of the Elitist Bastards, folks are already putting together fantastic contributions, and we’re less than a month away from another voyage. Details to follow. Prepare to board!

Ye Gods, What a Week!

What Does It Mean…

…when you start dreaming about your blog? I had a very long and involved dream this morning that Blake Stacey from Science After Sunclipse came for a visit, and I was ignoring the poor man because I had to comb the internets for appropriate tidbits for you lot. As I remember, he sat nearby making very distracting snarky comments. And ordered me pizza. Thanks for that.

For those who are wondering, his intellect is indeed as formidable in the dreamosphere as it is in the blogosphere.

Do you bloggers ever dream blog-related dreams?

What Does It Mean…

Submissions to the Rescue!

You lot have saved me today.

My day blew goats. Summer’s peeked in on Seattle. It’ll run away screaming soon enough, but today it decided to grace us with scorching sun, oven-quality heat, and the kind of humidity that isn’t really noticeable until you get overheated and discover your sweat has decided to shirk its cooling duties.

In this heat, I had to roll myself out of bed and venture down for an emissions test.

They ask you to turn off the air conditioner for better results.

I baked.

Whilst there, I discovered that my tags expire tomorrow, not at the end of the month. So I had to scamper down to the licensing branch. In the heat. And humidity. And I took a wrong turn and ended up stuck in a New York-quality clusterfuck on a long, winding road that meanders along Lake Washington. In the midst of this, the gas light comes on. In a residential neighborhood. In bumper-to-bumper traffic that measures its progress in inches per hour.

I started sweating more. The nervous sweat joined the previous sweat’s rebellion and refused to evaporate, and I had to turn the AC off in hopes I could preserve a precious bit of gas.

When I finally stumble into the licensing branch, it’s bumper-to-bumper people. And it’s hot. And I haven’t had anything to drink in hours, and there aren’t any chairs, and I haven’t eaten, and by now I feel pretty pathetic.

I survive that only to get home and remember I promised my mother I’d call today. Calling my mother is a form of torture that would be banned under the Geneva Conventions, but is perfectly legal in the opinion of the Bush Administration. I spent a mind-numbing hour listening to stories of evil credit card companies, evil flu viruses, evil flu viruses killing a dog, evil meth-addicted neighbors poking sticks at the surviving dog and turning it mean, evil landlords raising rent, and then we had a segue into hating God but loving Jesus.

My sum total contribution to this conversation was several “Um-hmm. That’s terribles” until at the end of an hour I could finally work in a regretful, “I’ve gotta go – I’ve got carnival work.”

Thank you, my darlings, from the bottom of my heart, for providing me the excuse.

My headache and I went to bed, where we sweated to death and tried for a recovery nap. It didn’t work. My brain felt like those little stained glass beads after they’ve been sitting in the oven for several minutes: a partially-fused, misshapen mass that looks as if no good could ever come of it.

Until I started reading your submissions. They brought me back to life. They made me laugh, made me think, made me shout out in appreciation. And this is only the beginning.

The delight of being a host is that you get one of the first looks at the incredible range and power of a group of people with different interests and backgrounds coalescing around a common theme. It’s been a privilege and a joy, and it’s not stating the case too strongly to say that you’ve rescued me. My brain has been restored, and it’s all down to you.

Keep the submissions coming: [email protected]. We’ve got room for plenty more. And I can tell you from what I’ve seen so far that this Carnival of the Elitist Bastards is going to be among the greatest shows on Earth.

I really do love you, you Elitist Bastards you. Thanks for saving me.

Submissions to the Rescue!