Swag for SkepchickCon

If you don’t already know SkepchickCon, it’s the slow invasion of CONvergence by science and skepticism types. (If you do already know it, you can skip this explanation and go donate for your swag now.) CONvergence is our big fan-run convention here in the Twin Cities, running over July 4 weekend.

SkepchickCon is a friendly invasion. Skepchick works with the convention to keep us from completely overrunning the place, and we (where “we” mostly means people who aren’t me to whom I’m very grateful) find ways to program around them to add more science and skepticism content without pushing anything else at the conference out. In the last couple of years, that has meant things like art projects and small-group discussions and afternoon sessions for kids who want to do hands-on science experiments.

All of this requires supplies and people with experience to share.  We do a lot to keep costs down by donating time and travel and materials and even furniture, but not everyone can afford to do that, and what we can give doesn’t cover everything needed to make all this happen. Neither do the donations raised at the evening parties. This year, the uncovered costs are $2,000.

In order to raise that money, several SkepchickCon participants and supporters are offering some great, geeky swag. Continue reading “Swag for SkepchickCon”

Swag for SkepchickCon

NECSS, Fallout, and Where the Fallout Falls

At this point, I think the major takeaway from the situation with NECSS and Richard Dawkins is “Don’t invite someone as relentlessly divisive as Dawkins to speak from your stage unless you want to be left with no good options when he does it again.” There are organizations that will refuse to learn this, and there are organizations that will learn this quietly, which is probably wise. There are a handful of organizations that will talk about it as appropriate, which is decidedly brave.

In the meantime, however, let’s look at who takes the hits in all this back and forth, shall we?

If there are problems with the Storify embedding, you can read it here. Continue reading “NECSS, Fallout, and Where the Fallout Falls”

NECSS, Fallout, and Where the Fallout Falls

The Reading List, 2/14/2016

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

The Reading List, 2/14/2016

Saturday Storytime: How the God Auzh-Aravik Brought Order to the World Outside the World

I do have a particular weakness for stories of making and unmaking like this from Arkady Martine.

The god Auzh-Aravik spat into her flayed palm and turned the saliva streaked with blood, out onto the earth. Where it struck it sizzled. The god was pleased by how the soil writhed and struggled, enlivened by her fluids; she smiled, skinless lips crawling back from skinless teeth, visible tendons straining.

Before it was stolen, the skin of Auzh-Aravik had been inscribed with all the laws of heaven. Tattooed on her calves were the equations for the orbits of stars; written across her belly was the commandment to increase; her shoulderblades were scalpels of poetry. All rules of obedience and desire made up her right cheek; all commandments of justice and prohibition made up her left. She was the proudest and the most accomplished of the gods. She was envied for her beauty and despised for her rigor; the other gods called her the Ornament of Heaven and did not mean it flatteringly.

Naked to the muscle, she stood at the edge of the world. It was a sheer cliff of uniform slate that encircled both the palaces of heaven and the dwellings on the earth. Before Auzh-Aravik had been flayed, she could have opened the world-outside-the-world with the touch of her left elbow, where all the words ever spoken for opening were recorded in pinpoints of black ink. Skinless, she was without most of her power. She had walked to the world’s edge on her feet like a human would, and left footprints of blood behind her.

Nevertheless, she spat again, and again mixed the spittle with her ever-welling blood. This time instead of watching it squirm in the dirt, she drew a door with it on the face of the cliff. She marked the door with the word for door, and told it what it was. It opened.

The world-outside-the-world roiled, clouds of ink lolling in dark water. Only one god dwelled there: Saam-Firuze, twin sister to Auzh-Aravik. It was not a place of names or words or laws. Auzh-Aravik stepped into it and was swallowed. Behind her the door that knew it was a door glowed red for blood and white for spit.

Auzh-Aravik landed on her hands and knees in darkness only made substantial by her landing on it. She called, “Sister-mine! Saam-Firuze! What have you done with my skin?”

The laughter of the god Saam-Firuze is liquid and enveloping. It welled out of the world-outside-the-world and lapped at the abdominal musculature of Auzh-Aravik. “Sister-mine,” she said, “have you lost yourself? You are much diminished since I saw you last.”

“I have been robbed,” said the god Auzh-Aravik. “Diminishment is not my problem.”

“How dreadful.”

“Where is my skin, sister-mine? Without my skin the laws of heaven will cease to be immutable.”

“Perhaps they should change a little,” mused Saam-Firuze. “They have been perfect for so very long. The scansion on your shoulderblades – ah! lovely. But so old-fashioned.”

For the third time, Auzh-Aravik asked her twin: “Where is my skin? Where have you hidden it? You were never so acquainted with scansion before now; you must have looked quite closely.”

“Oh,” said Saam-Firuze, smugly, “it is around here somewhere. But everything is so very dark. I am never sure exactly where I am, or you are, or anything else.”

Auzh-Aravik, incensed, stood up on the darkness – insisting with all her diminished power that the darkness was a thing on which to stand – and shouted. “You are a liar, Saam-Firuze!”

“Well, yes,” came the reply. “Of course. And – thank you for the door!”

Auzh-Aravik turned around and saw her sister scuttling up the inside wall of the slate cliff like a spider composed of the absence of light. She came to the red and white door and clambered through, folding up all of her many delicate limbs to fit into the mortal world. When she was on the other side, Auzh-Aravik saw the flash of her teeth as she smiled; the shine of the sun on her lips as she pursed them, wetted them with her tongue, and spat.

The door unbecame a door. The god Auzh-Aravik, Ornament of Heaven, keeper of righteousness and order and the orbits of the stars, was surrounded by the unformed dark, skinless, and all alone.

Keep reading.

Saturday Storytime: How the God Auzh-Aravik Brought Order to the World Outside the World

“Secular Lobby Day”, Monette Richards on Atheists Talk

One of the goals of the atheist movement is to have our voices represented and heard in the halls of power. Until we’re elected in any great number, one of the best ways to do this remains lobbying our elected representatives. Before we can do that, however, we need to know how to lobby.

For the past four years, Monette Richards of the Center for Inquiry–Northeast Ohio and Secular Woman has organized a Secular Summit in Ohio. The Secular Summit combines training in lobbying with hands-on practice in talking to politicians. That includes talking to politicians who disagree with you. Monette joins us this Sunday to talk about what goes into lobbying and what we get out of lobbying together as atheists.

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.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

“Secular Lobby Day”, Monette Richards on Atheists Talk

The Reading List, 2/11/2016

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

  • The Quest for Social Justice in Secular America is a Real Thing“–“The conference was a great vehicle to connect secular people of color and allies who have been in the trenches of social change. The participant’s roll is a who’s who of secular leaders of color.”
  • Creating a Welcoming Fannish Community“–“We are a diverse group of people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, and no two of us will give you the same answer. But if you are committed to creating a convention culture that is inclusive in deeds, not just words, then here are some things you need to consider.”
  • #SSJCon What’s Next: How can secular women of color help our communities?“–“We can do this for ourselves, and seeing the beautiful faces at #SSJCon simply reinforced this reality. I had never been in a space filled with so many atheists of color, much less atheist women of color.”
  • In Iowa, Hillary Shows She’s Learned Something About Running While Female“–“This is a paradigm; it’s why Mom is the disciplinarian and Dad is the fun guy, why women remain the brains and organizational workhorses behind social movements while men get to be the gut-ripping orators, why so many women still manage campaigns and so many men are still candidates.”
  • Ted Cruz’s radical supporters: He won Iowa on the back of the scariest Bible-thumpers in the business“–“This Jesus-walks act of Ted Cruz’s worked like a charm, as Cruz sucked up a veritable rogue’s gallery of every creepy straight guy who claims he loves Jesus but has his eyes fixed firmly on the crotches of America.”
  • Why Liberals Always Win the Culture Wars“–“Work themselves into a lather, rinse, repeat.”
  • Accessibility Checklist for SFWA Spaces“–“The SFWA Accessibility Checklist is provided for the use of conventions and other gatherings who want to ensure that their event is fully accessible by all attendees.”
  • 9 Ways to Be Accountable When You’ve Been Abusive“–“But the truth is that abusers and survivors of abuse do not exist, and have never existed, in a dichotomy: Sometimes, hurt people hurt people.”
  • The Secular Social Justice Conference and the Progressive Atheist Movement“–“We—organizers, panelists, and participants—came into the space with the implied virtue of atheism and knowledge of the adverse effects of certain religious ideologies. Rather than reaffirm or hover over these conclusions, SSJCon displayed a refreshing evolution beyond the mainstream agenda and complacency I’ve encountered many times previously.”
  • Yes, Our Lives Are Intersectional: Reflections on the Secular Social Justice Conference“–“It didn’t surprise me that as I live-tweeted so many important words being said and conversations taking place during the conference, we received negative feedback from a small number of our followers on Twitter. But I couldn’t help but feel shocked by the hate behind the words”
  • Coin-toss fact check: No, coin flips did not win Iowa for Hillary Clinton“–“Gone unmentioned so far is that even if Clinton won that Miracle Six — and there were no other coin tosses — it would make little difference in the outcome.”
  • Chicago Professor Resigns Amid Sexual Misconduct Investigation“–“Before he was hired, molecular biologists on the University of Chicago faculty and at other academic institutions received emails from an anonymous address stating that Dr. Lieb had faced allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct at previous jobs at Princeton and the University of North Carolina.”
  • ‘You Need Some New Friends!’“–“Finally, the ‘get new friends’ response concerns me because it’s so reminiscent of the ‘not all _____’ response, which is weird because it’s usually coming from fellow marginalized folks.”
  • The One-Percent Difference“–“While this person and I agree on most matters, he disagrees with me about the wisdom of Dawkins’ promotion of callous misogyny.* But more importantly, he disagrees with me about how big a disagreement that is.”
  • Sexual Ethics 201“–“One of the difficult things about being in relationships is that oftentimes just saying what we think or feel or want is not enough to make sure everyone comes out of an interaction feeling good.”
  • Ask Polly: Why Did My Dream Man Dump Me?“–“There is nothing whatsoever wrong with being a sexy badass, as long as you can keep that shit up forever.”
  • Minnesotans talk fast and get the hell off the phone, says science“–“Now, here’s where it gets interesting. In the category of who speaks the most, total, Minnesota ranks second-to-last, meaning we say the second-fewest words when on the phone with a business.”
  • At last! White History Month is here!“–“In fact, I feel kinda sad that white people don’t have an entire month to learn more about their history. It really isn’t fair. Therefore, in response to the calls for fairness that I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter year, after year, after year, I give you White History Month.”
  • Problems with Pre-Pregnancy“–“Everyone should have access to healthcare that focuses on them and their needs, whether those needs include treatment for drug addiction, smoking cessation, access to birth control, or help getting or staying pregnant. Preconception healthcare takes the focus off the real patient right in front of doctors, and moves it to a figment of the imagination.”
  • Is That a Threat?“–“Then I realized that I was afraid to sound ‘whiny’ in writing about strangers physically threatening me. That’s how deeply ingrained these ideas are.”
  • How abortion opponents secretly bought a Va. abortion clinic to deceive women“–“Nothing indicates that the abortion clinic is closed except a locked door. The clinic’s Google ads still pop up, and the phone number still works. When women dial the closed abortion clinic, the call is forwarded straight to the pregnancy center.”
  • Hillary Clinton Told the Truth About Her Iraq War Vote“–“‘Because bipartisan support for this resolution makes success in the United Nations more likely and war less likely—and because a good faith effort by the United States, even if it fails, will bring more allies and legitimacy to our cause—I have concluded, after careful and serious consideration, that a vote for the resolution best serves the security of our nation.'”
The Reading List, 2/11/2016

Bernie Sanders and Revolution Betrayed

The revolution will not be organized, and it turns out I’m a bit angry about that.

This post is about why I’m voting against Bernie Sanders for Democratic nominee. I’m afraid that to be taken seriously doing that these days, particularly as a woman, requires a political autobiography. Credentials required lest someone think I am merely voting genitalia.* So here they are.

The first presidential election I recall having any feelings about, much less strong feelings, was the Carter-Reagan-Anderson race of 1980. I was for Anderson, mostly because I found the Carter administration weak and too easily mired in scandal. I was wrong, because I didn’t understand how major third-party candidates worked against the candidates they were closest to politically in our system, and because I didn’t understand how the press manufactures the image of an administration, but it didn’t much matter. I couldn’t vote. I was barely ten when the election happened.

I grew up political. I also grew up Gen X, particularly that little slice of Gen X who knew that nothing we did was going to matter because Reagan was going to get us all killed with his macho, anti-communist, bullshit posturing before we got to see any significant slice of adulthood. It turns out we were wrong about that too, though not because of Reagan. An awful lot of people worked to keep us all from dying.

It took a long time to grow out of this idea that nothing we did mattered. Continue reading “Bernie Sanders and Revolution Betrayed”

Bernie Sanders and Revolution Betrayed

Producing The Humanist Hour

Those of you who are friends on Facebook know that I recently became the producer for The Humanist Hour, the American Humanist Association’s podcast. Bo Bennett decided he wanted more time to work on his personal projects, and in a whirlwind 48 hours of good timing and good credentials, I applied and was hired to take his place.

Bo’s been building up the team of interviewers over the last few months. If you’ve followed the show in the past, you know Kim Ellington. Peggy Knudtson and Jenn Wilson are recent additions. I’ll do the occasional interview as well as producing, because I know I can’t help myself when there’s a good guest whose brain I can pick. We’re all excited to bring you solidly humanist content.

What does that mean, and how will the show change? The biggest immediate change is that the show is moving to a biweekly schedule. Will it will stay that way? Stay tuned. We’re very enthusiastic about this show.

Otherwise, you can listen to Jenn interview me in my first podcast, where I talk about our plans. Even if that doesn’t interest you, listen to the rest of the show. Kim attended the Black Nonbelievers anniversary celebration in Atlanta last month, and she talked to a fascinating array of authors you probably haven’t heard of but should. Really, give it a listen.

Producing The Humanist Hour

Reproductive Justice: Activism on the Sidewalk

I don’t have any new stories from clinic escorting for you. Two weekends ago, I was out of town for Secular Social Justice. This weekend, I was still recovering from con crud.

You don’t need me, though. Instead, have Niki Massey, who’s been doing this far longer than I have and who inspired me to start escorting. This was her talk at Skepticon, given on about ten minutes notice on Sunday morning when another speaker couldn’t appear. She volunteered without thinking when she found out about the problem, and neither I nor the organizers gave her any time to change her mind.* You can see why.


* I did make sure she was well taken care of after the talk. I’m only so cruel.

Reproductive Justice: Activism on the Sidewalk

The Reading List, 2/7/2016

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

  • Why the calorie is broken“–“Humans are not bomb calorimeters, of course, and we don’t extract every calorie from the food we eat. This problem was addressed at the end of the 19th century, in one of the more epic experiments in the history of nutrition science.”
  • If You Don’t Take Women’s Harassment Seriously, You Don’t Want to Understand The Problem“–“Every few months stories like these make it into the news cycle, even though related harassment and assaults are happening every day in the US and elsewhere.  When stories do surface, people express surprise, sadness and outrage, all of which seem to dissipate in a heartbeat.”
  • Navajo water contamination more horrific than Flint Michigan’s“–“Navajo water has long been contaminated by Peabody Coal mining on Black Mesa, uranium spills, strewn radioactive tailing from the Cold War uranium mining, and recently the EPA’s poisoning of the Animas and San Juan Rivers.”
  • Pregnant, Sick With Zika—and Prohibited From Getting an Abortion“–“Of the countries that have called on women to avoid pregnancy, only Colombia allows for abortion in cases of fetal anomaly, and the vast majority of nations in the region don’t permit abortion in such cases. Even in Colombia, 99 percent of abortions are clandestine, because so many women are turned away by doctors who won’t perform the procedure.”
  • 10 Things I Hate About Sex (Scenes)“–“You know what two words NEVER belong in a sentence together? Nipples and scissors.”
  • Female Shark Wins Seoul Aquarium Turf War, Eats Male Shark“–“Despite her best efforts to make a meal of the male shark, the female shark is expected to at some point regurgitate the remains of her former roommate.”
  • free memberships to CONvergence (& many other cons)“–“The following SFF con memberships are newly available, first-come first-serve, to fans of color/non-white fans”
  • UrsulaV explains the Oregon Occupation“–“Here’s what I don’t understand about the Oregon militia, and because I’m me, I will use Star Wars as a metaphor.”
  • Against ‘Don’t Read the Comments’“–“The fact that we joke about it documents an acceptance of a culture of abuse online. It helps normalize online harassment campaigns and treat the empowerment of abusers as inevitable, rather than solvable.”
  • NECSS and Richard Dawkins“–“First, many have pointed out that if we had such reservations about Dawkins we should not have invited him in the first place. This is a fair point.”
  • Feminism isn’t a side issue, it is a central issue in any movement with a pretense to rationalism“–“Feminists tend to be natural allies of the atheist movement, except as we’ve been seeing lately, when self-proclaimed leaders of that movement use their pulpit to dismiss their concerns as minor disagreements getting in the way of the great cause.”
  • ‘Hundreds’ of masked men beat refugee children in Stockholm” (warning: auto-play video)–“Before the attacks, the mob handed out leaflets with the slogan ‘It is enough now!’ which threatened to give ‘the North African street children who are roaming around’ the ‘punishment they deserve’.”
  • The readers’ editor on… handling comments below the line“–“As a result, it had been decided that comments would not be opened on pieces on those three topics unless the moderators knew they had the capacity to support the conversation and that they believed a positive debate was possible.”
  • Let’s Talk About The Other Atheist Movement“–“I don’t want to talk about Richard Dawkins. Not today. I want to talk about the amazing, indispensable atheists I work with, and all the positive changes they’re making in the world.”
  • FOMO for Writers: in which bad puns are mostly avoided“–“If you want to make a career of this, you really need to go to cons. Or man, it sure does help. And then when you get back you have something to talk about on Twitter, with the people you now know. Unless you’re bad at Twitter, and you can’t afford to get to a con.”
  • Observations on the Nebraska Walk for Life“–“It was around this time that his friend in the green coat turned around, got a couple of inches from my face and said, ‘I love you. I love you and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ I told him that was creepy.”
  • Dawkins insults feminists, complains when feminists feel insulted“–“Here’s a link to the video, but if it you don’t want to watch it I don’t blame you in the slightest. I didn’t want to watch it either, but did so that I could provide this transcript”
  • To the Ghosts of the Past I Left Behind“–“In one case, I had known a particular friend for over twenty years, but I knew all too well how the conversation would go if they found out — in fact, I knew because we had discussed evangelism tactics over lunch once in the past.”
  • A question for straight people“–“From lobotomies and workplace harassment to bullying and violence by the state, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have long experienced unique forms of discrimination tied to our sexual orientation and gender identity. It is because of that discrimination that Pride is important and is the reason why Pride exists.”
  • The left must speak uncomfortable truths about migration and sexual violence“–“The truth is this: Asylum-seekers, refugees, emigrants and immigrants are people, human beings in a full spectrum of behaviours and qualities.”
  • Please Don’t Eat Your Placenta“–“Neither of these functions is even remotely relevant in a modern human context. Unless, that is, you gave birth in a forest full of hungry wolves.”
  • World Fantasy Con 2016 doesn’t care about your harassment and accessibility concerns“–“The screengrabs show that the people behind WFC 2016 were told repeatedly that they needed these policies, and that it is unfair to not have the policies up before the lower registration fee deadline passed.”
  • Police swarm Katherine Clark’s home after apparent hoax“–“Clark said she assumes she was targeted because she has spoken out on the issue. She is the sponsor of the Interstate Swatting Hoax Act, which would make it a federal crime to spur an emergency response by any law enforcement agency without cause.”
The Reading List, 2/7/2016