Archive for the ‘What I'm Doing’ Category

How Is It Wednesday Already?

February 1, 2012

I’m working on three different blog posts, including a super-dandy write up about the awesomeness that was my weekend trip to Chicago for Skepticamp. Things have been pretty crazy though and I’ve barely had had time to sleep, what getting back to Minneapolis late on Sunday, having to save unconscious humans from demons on Monday night with my roleplaying group (GURPS this time around), trying to pull together an interview script for this Sunday’s Atheists Talk radio show with singer-songwriter, Shelley Segal, putting together guns for this weekend’s EPIC Nerf War (yeah, there’s a photo that goes with that below), offering up a red dress to the Blogess’s Traveling Red Dress Project, and reading this hilarious blog (casually and frequently dropped F-bombs may make it NSFW) that I just discovered. So I haven’t actually gotten to any photo editing or writing, and I wouldn’t foist crappy writing off on this blog.*  But I haven’t even had time to pull together crappy writing because I’m too busy loving my life. Don’t you hate when that happens?

So until things calm down, here’s a couple of photos of people making funny faces:

Here’s Jeremy from the ever thought-provoking, humorous, breathtaking, snarky Le Cafe Witteveen. I was pleased as punch to be able to catch up with Monsieur Witteveen at Chicago Skepticamp on Saturday. In this shot he’s giving me his best grumpy old man face.

Come and get some! The Hubby shows off our new firearms for what is promising to be an epic Nerf battle at Supercon this weekend. Yeah…they’re battery operated and fully automatic.

*That’s a BIG FAT LIE. Crappy writing is one of the many services offered here at Biodork.

Calculus: The Musical

December 8, 2011

On Tuesday a friend invite me to join him for a show at Huge Improv Theater called Calculus: The Musical. It was a small production. Two actors portrayed many different characters, there was no intermission, and there were several frenzied costume changes during the show. Both actors played guitar at points, and one had several pieces on an electric keyboard. It had all the elements that I love in a musical comedy: Witty characters, fast-paced dialogue and action, a dash of slapstick, various overdone accents, a multimedia presentation, a blending of musical styles (from classical to rap and a lot in between), and a man playing Sir Isaac Newton talking to a little action figure of himself (“Little Isaac”) and then having the action figure answer back in a higher-pitched version of his true voice. Okay, that last was specific to Calculus: The Musical and not at all something I look for in musical comedies.

As the name might imply to those among you who are particularly quick-witted, it was about calculus. As a mathphobe who never made it all the way through a calculus course I was worried that all of the jokes would go right over my head. I did miss some of them; several times my friend’s giggling indicated that something humorous had transpired on stage after some dialoguey gobbledygook about derivitives, functions, limits and infinite series. But the writer managed to incorporate calculus without making the storyline completely unintelligible to the uninitiated.

You can listen to songs from the musical at maththeater.com. Here are the lyrics from the only song that I can actually claim to have understood entirely. It’s called 5 Sizes of Numbers:

There are 5 sizes of numbers,
Big Infinity and small Zero,
And the Finite in the middle,
They’re the ones, I’m sure you know.

But now we look between Finite and Zero.
To numbers so small, they’re nothing at all,
But still a little larger than a Zero.
Their name is Infinitesimal.

On the other side of Finite,
There are numbers too large to say,
Infinites are what we call them,
They are big, in every way.

But they will never quite be Infinity,
They’re not quite as big, not even close.
We’ll use all of these numbers in Cal-cu-lus,
The numbers, I love the most.

It only gets nerdier from there. They have a song about Bernhard Reimann in the style of Eminem’s Without Me. Just sayin’.

Calculus: The Musical has been touring nationally for six years, and it stopped in Minneapolis only for a couple of days. But they have shows scheduled from now through May of 2012 in different parts of the country. I had a good time, maybe even learned a thing or two, and it reminded me that I really need to stop procrastinating and start reading that copy of Jennifer Ouellette’s Calculus Diaries that I got for Christmas and have left languishing on my bookshelf for the last year!

Twin Cities: First Snowfall 2011

November 21, 2011

Winter is here, and so is winter driving! Or, as one friend likes to call it: “The Season During Which Minnesotans Relearn Physics.”

Well, we knew we couldn’t avoid it forever. But man, things change fast up here! I mean a day prior it was a typical sunny, cool, fall day. And then on Saturday it was all like:

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Photos in order are: 35W South, Driving Across the 35W Bridge, Downtown Minneapolis and the Stone Arch Bridge, Near Hwy 7 & Hwy 100 in St. Louis Park, Lake Calhoun, Uptown, Our Front Yard, and The Hubby in the Snow.

Yuck! But there are a couple of awesome things associated with the first snowfall of the year:

1) I made an appointment to get snow tires put on my car on Friday evening. If I was a day trader I would so have been buying stock in tire companies in Minnesota at the end of last week. I don’t know how Discount Tire in Eden Prairie managed to fit me in, but they did. Off came the worn, barely-acceptable-for-dry-summer-roads tires, and on went shiny new Michilin X-Ice 2s! Considering what the roads looked like at the end of Saturday afternoon, I felt really lucky to have gotten this chore done just in the nick of time.

2) We managed to get the motorcycle put away for the winter on Saturday morning just as it was starting to snow. We didn’t really make it to our storage garage in Mounds View before it got gross out, but we did manage to minimize the damage.

I was the driver for this little expedition and had to get all winter-geared up for the 15-mile drive in 25°F, lightly snowing weather.

I’m wearing thick socks, insulated ankle-high workboots, jeans, carhart overalls, a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, my leather motorcycle jacket, a carhart coat, lined leather gloves, a neck wrap, a fleece hood that covers my nose and mouth, and my full-face helmet.

I’ll start out by saying that we made it to Mounds View without incident. But the ride overall…what’s the word…oh yeah – sucked. The Hubby rode behind me in the car and I slowly made my way up 35W on the light layer of fresh, blowing snow. One thing that I discovered right away is that the snow was heavier and wetter than I had anticipated. I had to keep wiping snow off of my face shield, and near the very end of the ride it started icing over and had to be scraped off. Blergh. But, like I said, this was earlier in the day, so the snow hadn’t started to really accumulate yet and clog up the roads. And now it’s done.

That’s about it. The snow stayed overnight and through the weekend. It hasn’t melted yet, but the temperature is supposed to rise up to as high as 50°F by the week’s end, which should make Black Friday shopping a bit more cheery!

Jury Duty

November 14, 2011

So, I pulled jury duty for Hennepin Country, and today I’m starting a two-week term of service. I was originally on the call-in list, but I guess Hennepin County is feeling a might criminally and civil complainty this month because our group was called in on Day 1. Now we’re no longer on the call-in list; we’re in the active pool. This means I have to show up to the Government Center in downtown Minneapolis and report to the Jury Assembly room (or a courtroom) every. day. for the next 10 business days.

But – there is no court on Thanksgiving or the day after Thanksgiving (thank FSM that my Black Friday consumerism won’t be hindered by a sense of court-ordered social obligation!), and being on jury duty is a pretty easy gig.

I show up, check in, and then lounge around in a comfy room with comfy chairs. There are lots of tables, electrical outlets and pretty decent WiFi, which means that I can use the internet and charge my phone and laptop throughout the day. There is *nothing* to do if I’m not actively on a jury panel – and I mean that in the best way possible. I can read, play online (maybe catch up on some of my 2,626 twitter favorites that I’ve got racked up), play games on my phone or iPod, listen to music, watch movies or TV on my laptop, talk on the phone, and I can eat or drink in here. They also have a TV room and office. I could even pull up work email and documents if I run out of other amusements!

Missing work is the only part that is frustrating. I’m in the middle of a couple of big projects, and while work is understanding, there are still things that I need to get done in the next two weeks. Which means I’ll end up doing work at home and possibly have to go in on the weekend to play catch-up. Ah well, it’s a good job; I enjoy…hrm…perhaps that’s too strong… I *appreciate* what we’re doing and it’s worth it.

So, I may be around the interwebs a bit more than usual in the next two weeks. Say hi! And if you’re downtown (I’m looking at you Heidi and Alicia!) and want to catch lunch, I do get noon-1:30pm free if I’m not assigned to a panel.

Let the court-imposed sort-of vacation begin!

Upcoming Show: Atheists Talk with David Silverman

November 12, 2011

Imma be on the radio again tomorrow! I’m actually pretty excited to sit in on this interview; we’re speaking with David Silverman, the current president of American Atheists. He’s going to talk about the upcoming Reason Rally in Washington D.C., which is an event that the Hubby and I are considering attending next March. From the Reason Rally website:

The intent is to unify, energize, and embolden secular people nationwide, while dispelling the negative opinions held by so much of American society… and having a damn good time doing it! It will be the largest secular event in world history. There will be music, comedy, great speakers, and lots of fun… and it’s free!

The three main goals of the rally are:

  • To encourage attendees (and those who can’t make it) to come out of the closet as an atheist, or at least a supporter of secular values.
  • To dispel stereotypes – there is no one “True Atheist” no matter what your pastor or parent may tell you. We will have non-theists from all political persuasions, ethnicities, genders, and backgrounds. We will show that there are atheists in every American demographic.
  • Legislative equality. We want to show the country that atheists can run for office and adequately represent theists, just as theists in office can represent atheists proudly and openly. We deserve a seat at the table just like theists, and we hope this rally can put our values in the radar of American voters, who may one day elect an atheist to public office.

The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey estimates that 12% of Americans identify as atheist or agnostic. According to google.com/publicdata there are 307,006,550 people in the United States. 12% of that is 36.8 million people who identify as atheist/agnostic.

That number sounds large, but it still seems pretty lonely being a non-believer when I’m outside of the internet or my close circle of friends. I feel a bit sad when I hear coworkers talking so freely about going to church on Sunday or going to a Bible study this or that evening, while I hesitate to share the exciting news that I’m a radio show host! because the next comment is “Really? For what?” And then there’s that sinking feeling when I realize that I’ve just shared a secular viewpoint that is not appreciated by the majority of people in the conversation. Also, there are the often innocently asked but ultimately silly or annoying or frustrating or laughable or offensive questions revolving around my atheism. Like the question I received from someone at work when I told them that I had visited Asissi, Italy. They looked confused and asked “But why? You’re an atheist. What did you do there?” 

I know a handful of people who think that they don’t know any atheists (hah!). Heck, I spoken to atheists who think they’re the only atheist they know!

If we can get a large enough number of people to the Reason Rally, not only do we have a fun time at a secular event with other non-theists, but we show the world that there are more of us around than they may think. We show them that people they know are atheists. We show them that we’re happy, healthy and not afraid or ashamed to tell the world that we don’t need a god to make us good, moral, upstanding human beings. We show them that we can know joy, exhilaration, peace and love without any sort of supernatural presence or interference. We show them that there is an entire group of us who are willing to fight to keep religion out of our government. And I imagine we’ll suprise the heck out of ourselves when we look around the mall that day and think…oh wow – there really are a lot of us!

So yeah.

Reason Rally. David Silverman. This Sunday, 9am on 950AM KTNF. You can listen to the show live or find us on iTunes under “Atheists Talk”.

Nerd Trash Talk

November 9, 2011

I headed right up to the lab when I arrived at work this morning, which is a different pattern than I’ve had over the past several weeks. My most recent project has been a long-term study that I’ve been testing it in the later part of the day just because it’s a simple assay that I can throw on as I’m walking out the door at night. But usually I can be found in the lab at all hours of the day or night.

A relatively new coworker (and also my office mate with whom I get along well) saw me in the lab this morning and commented.

Him: What are you doing in the lab? You usually don’t stroll in until sometime after noon.

I’m in work mode and tend to make science jokes because I have a receptive audience here.

Me: Hey, buddy! Your observational data set of my behavior is dangerously small to be making any assumptions.

Him: Hey…I can only work with the data I have.

So, a relatively benign, forgettable, nerdish exchange. But I later realized that I had just asserted – in probably the geekiest way EVAR in all of recorded history:

“Bitch! You don’t know me!”

And I’ve been giggling all morning over that.

Weekend Nerd Updates and New CUP Photo Info

November 6, 2011

1) I saw Lazer Tag in Macy’s. I wanted it. Badly. The Hubby didn’t agree to the purchase. I almost had a temper tantrum in the store like a two year old.

2) Later at Target we were walking through the 50% off Halloween aisles, and I managed to convince The Hubby to try on this Batboy costume. He didn’t let me buy it for him, but I was actually okay with that.

3) We actually did buy this from the Target 50% off Halloween aisle and made the dog wear it. There’s a special kind of hell waiting for people like us.

4) I found this cartoon of Dumbo with stretched earlobes on poorlydressed.com and have been trying to find a way to work it into a blog post ever since.

5) While grocery shopping I saw this jumbo pack of lunch-size chips, and the first thing I thought was “Eat ALL the chips!

6) My new shirt came in from lolshirts.com!

7) The Hubby and I each bought funny looking shoes.

8 ) The Hubby and I played Dodgeball with a bunch of grown adults and had a BLAST. We’re going again next Wednesday. You know, if we can walk again by then. So…much…pain! Not from getting hit with dodgeballs (they’re foam, not rubber), but we’re trying to recover from the aching shoulders, spasming back muscles and burning knee and hip joints from the overexertion! Also, I have a blister on my big toe *sniff*.

Close-Up Photo Contest

I’ve had several people remind me that we’re not done with the CUP Contest. I love that you guys love it so much. So here’s the deal: Starting on Tuesday November 8th, I will be posting a new CUP EVERY DAY at noon (12pm Central Standard Time). We’re going to play every day until somebody reaches 1000 points. After that I’m thinking about keeping it as a regular feature, but we’ll have individual winners for each photo entry. So, keep your eyes open – somebody is going to win the CUP Contest very, very soon!

Delta Airs Anti-Vax Advertisement

November 4, 2011

I haz a sad.

I like flying Delta. There’s a huge hub here in Minneapolis. I have the Delta SkyMiles card so I can rack up points and fly places for free (well, freeish, but that’s another post), and I’ve generally had very good experiences on Delta flights.

So, I was sad when I saw this in my Twitter stream yesterday:

It turns out that Delta and In-Flight Media are presenting a nearly three-minute ad that trivializes the flu and tells the audience that:

  1. You don’t have to worry about preventing the flu – FALSE.
  2. Most illnesses that present with flu-like symptoms are not the flu – TRUE.
  3. Washing your hands is a good way to help you stay healthy. – TRUE.
  4. Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze is a good way to minimize spreading germs – TRUE.
  5. Drink water to keep your body hydrated – TRUE.
  6. Get the right amount of sleep and reduce stress levels to decrease your chances of getting sick – PROBABLY TRUE.
  7. Vitamin C and D – found in nutritious food  – are effective, natural preventatives – FALSE.
  8. Regular exercise helps keep your immune system strong. – TRUE.
  9. The flu shot is an option. Research the different types of flu vaccines your doctor may recommend. SURE, WHY NOT?

Who would advocate against being an informed consumer? I applaud people who are willing to research their health care options. But, when considering the source (psst – it’s one of the country’s biggest anti-vaccine organizations), and considering the place that they direct you to research flu vaccines (psst – It’s their hugely anti-vaccine propogranda-laden website filled with misinformation about all sorts of vaccines), the little alarm bells in your head should start to ring, buzz, sing, or talk – whichever you’ve got your alarm set to.

Elyse Anders – the president of the  Women Thinking Free Foundation and driver behind the Hug Me I’m Vaccinated Campaign brought this story to my attention via her article on Skepchick.org. Elyse has a list of things that you can do to help protest to Delta and the associated organizations that are allowing this ad to run.

  1. Sign the CHANGE.ORG petition. Add your name to those of us who would like Delta to remove the advertisement. Change.org works, and it’s an easy way to make your voice heard.
  2. Tweet: “#fludelta @DeltaAssist @Delta If you’re so concerned about safety, stop running potentially deadly anti-vaccine ads http://wp.me/pbblq-6qu
  3. Facebook/YouTube: Add your comments about the video here. The content has been removed from Facebook, but you can still see it on YouTube. The owner, In-Flight Media, has disabled commenting, but you can still downrate it.
  4. Share Elyse’s post on Facebook and Twitter.
  5. Tell your friends and family about the campaign and get them involved!

The last time Elyse was involved in a campaign against vaccine misinformation advertisements by this group placed in Times Square, the ads were pulled. With all of our help, hopefully we can make it happen again!

Mississippi River Adventures

November 2, 2011

Last Friday Aaron and I road-tripped down to Wabasha, MN to see two friends embark on a sailing adventure that started in a tiny Wabasha marina and will end in Belize, Central America (You can follow the adventures in photos and written stories at their website, Sailing to Belize). We left at 4:30am and rolled into Wabasha at about a quarter to seven. We got a tour of the boat and were treated to a really beautiful sunrise. The goodbyes wrapped up and the guys set sail. Those of us who had traveled down to see them off headed into town to warm up and get some breakfast.

After that Aaron and I split off to explore some of the landmarks along the Mississippi River. We started at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha. It’s a very pretty building with several exhibits that educate about eagle habitats, behavior and representation in current and historical cultures. The highlight of the museum is a viewing area with five of the center’s permanent eagle residents. The viewing area is open air; the eagles are tethered to an small area around their perches and visitors stand behind a low barricade only feet away from the birds. The eagles – four bald eagles and one golden have all been injured and are unable to be returned to the wild.

This eagle had been hit by a car and never regained his ability to fly. The National Eagle Center gives him a home and helps people learn about eagles.

Next we crossed the river into Wisconsin and drove south to Alma where we visited Buena Vista Park. It shelters many different kinds of songbirds and is kind of breathtakingly gorgeous.

Just a little pretty. Panorama stitched together by cleVR. Click to enlarge.

And since we were there we made a quick stop at Lock and Dam #4 in Alma. We were hoping to see some bald eagles hunting the fish that get injured by the dam, but all we got were a bunch of ring-billed seagulls. Pbth! But I did get cool shot of the dam.

Chatty three-eyed aliens!

The next stop on our list was Rieck’s Lake Park, which is north of Alma and not quite to Nelson, Wisconsin. It is a large lake and flat, open marsh. We saw tons of Canada Geese,  Mallards, and Teals, but weren’t lucky enough to see any Tundra Swans. The view, however, was incredible.

Ducks and Geese hanging out in the lake.

Some small mammal hut – muskrat? Reick’s Lake houses beavers, mink and muskrats.

View from the Reick Bridge site.

After that we went in search of Tiffany Bottoms Wildlife area. Tiffany Bottoms is largely undeveloped and has a great and varied population of birds. We found a parking lot a few miles past Nelson on Highway 25 and started hiking. We never made it to any of the rivers that run through the area (other than the Chippewa, which our path ran parallel to), and we didn’t see a lot of birds, but we found some other forest inhabitants and a set of overgrown train tracks.

Fall Forest Trail 

Eastern Comma Butterfly

Dragonfly

Leopard Frog

Overgrown Train Tracks

After Tiffany Bottoms we headed back to Minneapolis. We had been up since 3:30am and the day’s adventures did us in. We did stop for dinner in Stockholm, Wisconsin on the way back. What a cute touristy town! We walked around a little and shopped at the trinkets stores. And then we went home. What a day!

Upcoming Show: Atheists Talk with Alex Rosenberg

October 27, 2011

I had (great intentions for conceiving and writing) an awesome post for yesterday, but instead spent most of the evening (you know, after cooking dinner, preparing lunch for today and eating dinner over some Mythbusters with the Hubby; I totally knew those breast implants weren’t going to expand at high pressures!) writing up my first-ever Atheists Talk radio program notes for the MN Atheists website! And then I had to muddle my way through navigating the website for the first time. I admit, there were a few frantic emails between me and the other administrators last night and this morning (frantic on my part, not theirs), and at least one header that included the plea “HALP!”. But I finally got all of the content in the right place and in a format that I’m almost happy with(dadgummed HTML!).

On Sunday we’re interviewing the American philosopher Dr. Alex Rosenberg about his new book, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions. I’m currently halfway through it and I’m enjoying his writing style. It’s a lot of science and deep reading, but every so often Rosenberg will slip in some completely unexpected humor and I’m reminded that, oh yeah – this is actually really fun stuff! 

I’ll be interested to hear the interview because there are a few things in the book that I’m not completely on board with, and I’m excited to hear Dr. Rosenberg expound on his ideas. This will only be my second time hosting, so I’m still allowed to be a little star-struck about our guests, right?

If you want to learn more about the upcoming radio interview on this Sunday October 30th at 9am (and see my shiny write-up!) visit mnatheists.org


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