geeky

Come see me at Nerd Nite Seattle!

I am living the dream: I’ve been invited to give a talk of extreme geekiness this Monday:

Pokébiology 101
There may not be a Pikachu Genome Project, but the unusual biology of the Pokémon Universe can teach us about biology in the real world. How do Pokémon species differ from species here on Earth? What does genomic imprinting have to do with breeding? Can an organism like Eevee actually exist? You won’t need to be a Pokémon Master or geneticist to catch the concepts, so come, have fun, and grab a beer – it’s super effective.

Nerd Nite Seattle
Monday, January 21st
7:30 Talks (Doors open at 6:30)
$5 Cover
LUCID Jazz Lounge

If you drop by, make sure to say hello!

PAX is almost here!

As you probably know, I’m a huge gamer and geek. I also live in Seattle. Which means over the next three days, I will be in absolute glee at the Penny Arcade Expo. I’m going to try my luck in the Mario Kart: Double Dash tournament and have a  blast checking out all the new and indie games. I might pass on the Pokemon League this year, since I’m not sure if I want to get my ass handed to me yet again. A lot of the panels seem interesting too. There are two – two! – panels on transgender gamers and game characters, a sex and gaming panel, a harassment panel, and I’ll be sure to check out “On God and Gaming.” Maybe I should make a protest sign along the lines of “BUT RELIGION BY DEFINITION HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH VIDEO GAMES! SPLITTERS!”

Is anyone else going to PAX? Make sure to say hello if you spot me there!

Geek Girl Con was a blast

This is only the second year for the completely volunteer-run Geek Girl Con, and I had a great time. There’s something liberating about going to a geeky con that recognizes your existence in its programming and its demographics. It actually feels strange for me to walk around a geeky con being part of the majority gender – a strange sense of security knowing that my odds of being randomly harassed or creeped on are greatly decreased. The most interesting part was probably listening to Anita Sarkeesian talk about the awful flood of harassment, rape threats, and death threats she has received…all because she made a Kickstarter to examine gender stereotypes in video games. I loved meeting random blog readers – thanks for saying hi!

I bought this delightfully geeky skirt from a blog reader, Tea Time Inc.

Pixel approves. I think.

I also bought some artwork from The Gorgonist Illustration:

 I ran into Seattle superhero Phoenix Jones:

And this little girl’s costume had to be my favorite:

What if our family tree was still around?

Sometimes I wonder what our world would be like if our evolutionary relatives were still around. How would things be different with intelligent cousins like Neanderthals in the mix? Would we just be perpetually trying to kill them off, since that’s probably what helped them originally go extinct? Would there be nations of Neanderthals or would we intermix? Would their be stigma with interbreeding (which we know sometimes happened) or general species-ist stereotypes? Would there still be tension from the genocide we inflicted on them ages ago, with reparations to current Neanderthals or monuments to those who lost their lives?

Would less intelligent cousins who still had primitive language, like Homo heidelbergensis, be relegated to a lower class? How would we treat our even more distant cousins like Austrolopithecus? Would we grant them some special rights above other animals, like we sometimes do with intelligent animals like dolphins and chimpanzees? How would the ethics of genetic testing work when trying to get samples from our cousins who are not intelligent enough to consent, but are still more intelligent that what we currently research?

…This is what a human evolution researcher with a penchant for science fiction daydreams about. I guess I’ll add it to the list of “Books I should write but probably never will.”

GeekGirlCon and other weekend debauchery!

If you’re in Seattle, this weekend is packed with a lot of fun, nerdy, godless, feministy things for you to enjoy.

On Friday the 10th I’ll be joining the Seattle Atheists to see my friend Rebecca Watson give a talk on “How Girls Evolved to Shop, and Other Ways to Insult Women with “Science.”” Tickets are $15 but include dinner. I’ll be trying to convince everyone to go get drinks at the Narwhal afterward, because what can beat fruity drinks in a carnival themed bar filled with pinball and arcade games? Did I mention it was called the Narwhal?

On Saturday and Sunday I’ll be at GeekGirlCon! Here are the two panels I’ll be on with other fabulous ladies:

Saturday, 4:30 PM – 5:20 PM

Misogyny Online – RM205
Moderated Roundtable Discussion

Women who speak out online are often the targets of very nasty misogyny. Harmful, threatening, and degrading comments are all too common when a woman posts opinions in social media outlets or even on their own blogs. This panel will discuss how it happens, why it happens, and how to deal with it. An essential panel for women who have or want a strong Internet presence.

Presented by Jen McCreight, Rebecca Watson, Amy Davis Roth, Sophie Hirschfeld

Sunday, 3:30 PM – 4:20 PM *

Women and Skepticism – RM303
Moderated Roundtable Discussion

What is real and what isn’t? A panel of renowned skeptics will analyze some of the current claims marketed to or directed specifically at women. From psychics to super-antioxidant juices, this panel will show you how you can use the tools of skepticism to protect yourself, your family, and the contents of your wallet from pseudoscience and scams.

Presented by Rebecca Watson, Amanda Marcotte, Desiree Schell, Ericka Johnson, Jennifer McCreight, Cloe Ashton

I’m sure I’ll have absolutely nothing to talk about on that first panel after my last couple of posts.

Will I be seeing any of you there? Make sure to say hello if you spot me!

Feminism and Sansa Stark

Warning: This post contains Game of Thrones spoilers, especially for the first book/season. There are vague spoilers for books 2 and 3, but I haven’t read past that yet.

I recently read an interesting piece titled “In Defense of Sansa Stark” that viewed the character from a feminist perspective. The author argued that Sansa is so widely hated as a character because she’s a feminine pre-teen girl:

“As a massive fan of Sansa, even I must admit that she is difficult to like at first. She’s spoilt and a bit bratty. She fights with her fan-favorite sister and trusts characters who the reader knows are completely untrustworthy. She is hopelessly naive and lost in dreams of pretty princes and dashing knights. She acts, for all intents and purposes, like the eleven year old girl that she is. Most of us were pretty darn unbearable to older people at that age (and that’s fine, because they were also pretty unbearable to us). Robb and Jon, although older than Sansa, are similarly misguided and bratty, with Jon’s constant “poor me, I deserve so much more” attitude at the Wall, and Robb’s clumsy attempts at being the Lord of Winterfell. But these mistakes are only reprehensible to readers when they come from a girl, interested in girly things and making girly mistakes. Because viewers have been taught that “girly“ is automatically bad.”

You should read the whole post if you’re interested in the series. I think it could apply to some fans who hate Sansa – I haven’t exactly chatted with every A Song of Ice and Fire fan. But as someone who initially hated Sansa nearly as much as Joffrey, I have to say that’s not why I hated Sansa.

Sansa originally contains every quality I loathe. She’s incredibly spoiled and a giant brat. She’s gullible and demonstrates absolutely no ability to think for herself – she just parrots whatever she’s told and never applies any critical thinking. She’s naive to the point of delusion, where she refuses to admit that the world around her isn’t a perfect fairy tale, even when provided with ample evidence. And worst of all, she has no moral compass. Instead of standing by her sister Arya, she lies because marrying a prince is more important and leads to the death of an innocent child and her pet wolf. Instead of standing by her father Ned, she tattles on him and ultimately leads to his death. She has no loyalty or honor.

And frankly, I’m miffed that the author thinks this is all okay because that’s “the eleven year old girl that she is.” The assumption that all eleven year old girls are vain, gullible, boy-crazy brats with no shred of ethics is just as sexist as someone hating Sansa because she likes dresses and is good at needlework. I certainly wasn’t that way when I was an eleven year old girl!

I don’t hate Sansa anymore. She’s grown a lot as a character through books 2 and 3. She’s become kinder and stronger, and it’s impressive that she deals with the daily torture she receives. If I were in her shoes, I would have jumped off a high castle wall long ago, or tried to stab Joffrey with fork knowing I’d die trying. I still don’t like her, though. She’s still gullible and not the brightest tool in the shed. And she’s so passive – instead of actively trying to improve her situation, she basically sits around waiting to be rescued. Cersei, Daenerys, Margaery and Catelyn  are all feminine characters, but they’re proactive about their situations.

But while I no longer hate Sansa, I still dread reading her chapters. Is there a single Sansa chapter where something goes her way? It’s depressing to read about her getting screwed over for the umpteenth time. I feel like her only role in the story is to be a victim, which just depresses me.

This is post 39 of 49 of Blogathon. Donate to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Microbiology haikus

Commenter VeritasKnight requested a post full of haikus; Joe McKen asked for them to be microbiology themed.

Peptidoglycan
damn you, I am positive
You blue my cover

It was chilling there
Before genomes went mainstream
The retrovirus

S. cerevisiae
The brewer, not the screwer
Fuck C. albicans

Ten percent human
The rest, essential strangers
Am I really me?

And for those who are curious, the themes (in order) are gram staining, endogenous retroviruses, baker’s yeast versus the species that causes vaginal yeast infections, and the human microbiome.

This is post 34 of 49 of Blogathon. Donate to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Nerds go waaaaaay back

Sometimes I wonder what ancient people used for birth control. I have my answer now that I’ve put two pieces of evidence together. This SMBC comic:

And this auction for a Roman 20-sided gaming die from 2nd century AD:

This is post 31 of 49 of Blogathon. Donate to the Secular Student Alliance here.

What video games are you looking forward to?

I’m absolutely itching to play the new Civilization 5 expansion, Gods and Kings. I’m such a fan that I’ll buy almost anything Civ craps out, but I’m legitimately excited about  this expansion…because it brings back religion.

I know, I know. It’s a little ironic for me to be excited about religion. But I love winning the game through peace and manipulation instead of all out warfare. I just find wars tedious and not as fun as developing my nation’s culture and infrastructure. Religion is a great way to spread culture, make money, and manipulate other countries into being your friends (or enemies). And this time you get to customize the traits of your religion to fit your needs, instead of all of the different religions being effectively the same.

I’m also dying for Skulls of the Shogun to come out, but who knows when that’ll be released. I played it at PAX last August and it’s still not out!

And while this isn’t a new game…I’m newly addicted to Tropico 4. What can I say, I love strategy games. Not to mention it has one of the best soundtracks ever. I’ve caught myself humming the songs all the time.

What video games are you looking forward to or currently addicted to? Do you have any suggestions for a new game my boyfriend and I can play together? We’ve beaten just about everything there is to beat in Dungeon Defenders. …Well, except that stupid Genie expansion level, because seriously, fuck that level. It’s not even Fun Hard…it’s just stupidly irritating.

This is post 24 of 49 of Blogathon. Donate to the Secular Student Alliance here.

This is why I haven’t been blogging

My new distraction: Draw Something for iPhone.

My favorite part: Taking way too much time to draw something where a stick figure would have conveyed the message. For example, my drawing for the word “Obama”:

This is what I did for “alone”:

Feel free to add me – the username is jennifurret.

This is kind of awesome

One clever 6th grade teacher (from Indiana!) turned his classroom into a role-playing game, complete with leveling up for completing certain tasks, unlocking achievements, having random encounters, and forming alliances with other students.

Many students were thrilled right off the bat. It was mainly my group of athletic boys, who are constantly driven by competition to do well. The fantasy/sci-fi aspects of ClassRealm drew in other students as well. It didn’t matter why they cared. I just wanted them to care.

[…] Participation skyrocketed on the first day. I had students I never heard from volunteering to answer questions they didn’t even know the answer to. Students who normally wouldn’t even care were going out of their way to get XP from class participation. Every one of my students pushed themselves to focus during the day’s assignments and behave. One student, who earned a bronze level achievement, was even applauded by the entire class. It blew my mind. The amount of XP I was going to give out was undetermined, so I just let them come naturally. Share your maths answer with the class? XP for you. Let a classmate borrow your dry erase marker? XP for you!

I am completely and utterly jealous I didn’t have this when I was in middle school. Hell, I’m jealous I don’t have this in grad school. I totally would have leveled up my “Paper Reading” skill today. “Dissertation Defense” would be the final boss. Sidequests all involve finding as much free food as possible.

I’m not going to lie. I think my favorite part is the Friday quiz battles that are done to Pokemon battle music. Maybe I should just have video game battle music playing constantly at my desk…

RIP Borimor

Borimor the Apprentice

1/15/2012 – 2/14/2012

The video game gods are cruel when they take away our characters before our time. My boyfriend and I hoped dear old Borimor would pass away peacefully from old age (aka when we lost interest in Dungeon Defenders), but no. He was snatched away from us just shy of his 40th level, all because of an accidental bump of a controller and poor menu design. He will be fondly remembered, even though my boyfriend always called him Boromir by mistake.

Seriously though, Dungeon Defender’s menu designs are just awful. The game is fun enough that we’ve been totally addicted, but I could really do without the insane menus. Especially when the difference between selecting your character and deleting your character is a single click on the joystick.

Thankfully after a day of mourning, we moved on. My boyfriend started a new Archer, I started a new Monk (named Mendel). And because we’re dorks, we keep my old Squire on a third controller because we need his blockades in order to beat the levels.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about…just nod and move along.