Atheists, drive by bb gun shootings, donuts, and a balloon

That summarizes my most interesting night at the Secular Student Alliance annual conference. I should clarify this adventure happened after the end of the final official event of the night, which was socializing at Buffalo Wild Wings. Which also means I and everyone else over the age of 21 were a bit inebriated during these shenanigans, which explains a lot of the situation.
I was going to write up what happened, but my friend Ryan, the protagonist of this adventure, has already done so in a hilarious fashion:

[…]A group of us were walking back to the dorms where we were holed up for the weekend, when someone with a couple of ranks in Knowledge:Local pointed out that there was an Insomnia Cookies a few blocks away.

“Oooo… Insomnia! We have to get some!” said Jen (who is not to be confused with Jenny), because she always gets nostalgic after a few drinks.

So we walk down the street, and as we approached the UDF o’er on the corner of Walk and Don’t Walk, this blue beater sedan slows down — CRACK — then speeds off.

I grab the side of my left leg.

“Uph. I’ve been shot.” I said. “Pretty sure it was just a BB gun though.”

Jen looks back and smiles, thinking that I was recounting one of my wild stories to someone else, unaware that one was happening right then, and that she was a character in it. [Jen Note: I so didn’t hear you say anything about a BB gun! That’s why I thought you were just joking around after tripping or something! D: ]

It felt like being cracked with a giant rubber band, like in high school we tied rubber bands to other rubber bands repeated the process again and again then tied knots in the end until we had some 30 foot rubber band to crack jokers with. The shot didn’t hurt that bad, and that terrified me. I learned that the more horrific the injury, the less it hurts. A shoulder dislocation feels several orders better than a Charlie horse.

[…]Anywho, since my friends had no real intention of stopping, I hobbled on for another two blocks or to Insomnia Cookies, but it was closed, just like how it’s not supposed to be. We were all pretty depressed. Then whoever had Knowledge:Local pointed out there was this stomp-ass donut shop a few blocks away. I look at my leg and don’t see a giant blood stain, so I hobble along.

We get to the donut shop. I buy peanut-coated donut for $0.95. It was totally clutch. I ask if they have a bathroom, they send me to one in the back of the kitchen. I drop trou to get the lay of the land.

Sho’nuff, there was a hole in my leg, right where the hole in my pants was. It seemed bigger than a BB; in fact, it looked to be the right size as a .22, and that’s bad. There was bleeding from the surface, but it was a slow creep, like a scraped knee, or a road rash. There was blood on my underpants, but interestingly enough, the only holes were the ones placed there by the manufacturer intended for my legs. Since the shot went through my pants, but not my underpants, it became clear to me that it had to be a BB, because they don’t sell any bulletproof shit at K-Mart.

You really need to read the rest of it. It involves ambulances, the Saddest Photo Ever taken by Hemant, me being generally worthless after four drinks, and Jessica Ahlquist’s adorable idea.

I have to give it to Ryan for staying cool during the whole situation. I would have been crying instantly and liveblogging the whole thing. Instead I was tipsily tweeting cryptic messages that nearly gave Lyz Liddell of the SSA staff an ulcer, asking people to be Meat Shields for the Important Bloggers, and whining about how I really wanted Insomnia Cookies. I am apparently a horrible friend when drunk.

Resurrection was the only solution

I’ve bitched about American Airlines before on my blog, and had issues with them that I didn’t bother to whine about publicly. Compared to other airlines I’ve flown (which is many), AA is the most frequently delayed and has the absolute worst customer service. I found another example of that today, but thankfully it didn’t happen to me – I only had the all too common annoyance of a middle aged guy who felt the need to take up half of my seat in addition to his.
I was about to board my flight from O’Hare to Seattle. My gate was in an oddly isolated corner of the airport, and was the only one boarding. As I was getting on, I heard a commotion to my left. An approximately four year old girl was wailing near a garbage can, little brother standing nearby, and her mother was in a yelling match with one of the AA employees at the desk.

I paused long enough to figure out what was going on. Mom was holding a plastic mesh container that once housed this little girl’s pet. Either a mouse, hamster, or gerbil – I couldn’t tell. I say once housed because the little brown rodent was now very dead, and Mom was lifting his limp body to throw him in the trash can. The AA employee was yelling that she couldn’t just throw the pet away, but Mom yelled back that she needed to make this flight, but AA wouldn’t allow her on the plane with a dead animal.

At that point I had to board. We ended up sitting in our seats for an extra 15 minutes or so – I wonder if debates about dead animal disposal were going on outside. But I never saw the mom and children get on the plane.

I can understand having regulations about not being able to just put dead animals wherever you want…but seriously, could they not have come up with a better solution? Were they hoping for a miracle and Fuzzy would spring back to life? Couldn’t they have turned a blind eye and claimed the pet died during the flight? Or offer to dispose of the pet themselves so the family could make their flight? Or attempt anything to make an already traumatizing experience for a four year old a little less traumatizing?

Boo hiss, American. I don’t know what happened to the family, but I hope they got home alright, with or without a proper burial for Fuzzy.

The cherry on top of my AA hatred was that Katie, the main organizer of Skepticon, also just found out that my flight from Missouri to Seattle got messed up. You remember – the one you guys helped fund so I could have a direct flight and arrive at a reasonable and safe hour? Yeah, they just changed it to include a three hour delay, so I’m not getting in until 1am, after the public transportation is closed. Which I could have done for $130 less.

I jokingly suggested that she should email AA insisting that they upgrade me to first class because her speaker is a Very Important Prima Donna who insisted on a direct flight and has angrily blogged about how terrible AA is in the past and would surely do it again. Then she actually did, because why not. At best I’m expecting a drink coupon. At worst they’ll stick me on the wing.

I’m alive!

Sorry that I haven’t blogged since Thursday – I apologize for all of your withdrawal symptoms. I was at the Secular Student Alliance annual conference and was too busy having an amazing time. I pretty much didn’t sleep for four days straight and I sound like a chain smoker because I’ve lost my voice from all of the various merriment.
I know this is more of a meta-post, but I just wanted to let you know I’m still here. I’m currently sitting in the Columbus airport – if I decide to splurge on wifi for my flight from Chicago to Seattle, expect some posts this afternoon.

So….anyone care to fill me in on what world news happened since Friday? Or what internet news? Consider this an open thread.


I am so freaking excited about this.
Which I’m sure will confuse some people, what with it’s promises of obscenity and offense. For which I have to say: Context.

Anyway, I’ll be dancing the night away in my little black dress whether people understand or not. Wooooooo!

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas

Unless it’s wacky or interesting shenanigans at TAM9, in which case it’ll appear here. Not sure when though – I may be too busy at the conference (aka sitting in the hot tub and drinking beer) to update.

It feels like JT is the only atheist blogger who’s not coming, so keep him company. Or, check him out when you realize you have no blog posts to read because we’re all living it up.

I land at 6pm tonight, and I’m seeing Penn and Teller for the first time at 9! So excited for this whole conference.

If you’re coming, make sure to say hello!

The “Don’t Send Jen to Georgia” Fund

Speaking of Skepticon – one of the reasons why I agreed to be part of their photo shoot is because I’m going to be speaking there! Woohooo! So add Springfield, Missouri to my list of exciting travel destinations.
You know what I don’t want to add to that list? Georgia.

A bit of an explanation (and an attempt to quell the rage of my Georgian readers): Skepticon is a free conference. They do a lot of fundraising to try to keep it as cheap as possible. This is all the more impressive because it’s run by a student organization at MSU. Unfortunately, I am also a student, so it means we have poor students trying to buy poor students plane tickets.

So here’s where I turn to you, good readers. As it stands, the cheapest flight from Springfield to Seattle involves not only arriving way past midnight, but having a layover in freaking Georgia. It’s bad enough that I’ll have to brave public transportation alone in the middle of the night. But flying to the complete opposite side of the country is too illogical for me to handle. Especially after attending a skeptical conference – my brain may well explode. Apparently not many Seattle people need flights from Missouri.

So if you have a couple bucks to spare and want to help Skepticon (while keeping me sane), consider donating to the For The Love of FSM Please Don’t Send Jen to Georgia fund:

EDIT: Goal reached! Well, goal surpassed, actually! You guys are awesome. Not only did you just make my life easier, but you just helped fund other conference stuff too. Thanks so much!

On a serious and less whiny note… I fly out to these things without asking for honorarium and often accrue costs from various odd things (taxis, food). Not to mention the less time I’m flying, the more time I have to catch up on my research that I’m already missing from traveling. So I seriously would appreciate any help you could give.

My upcoming adventures

I’m going to be a busy little atheist the next couple of months. If you’re coming to these events, make sure to say hello! I don’t bite, I swear. And if you’re not coming to these events…why not?
Wed, July 14 to Sun, July 17
The Amaz!ng Meeting 9
Southpoint Casino – Las Vegas, NV

I am so excited for TAM9! In addition to seeing all of my old skeptical friends, I also get to meet Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye. Bill. Nye. His show is one of the main reasons I fell in love with science as a kid. I’m pretty sure all I’m going to be able to do is flail at him.

And I’m not just going for fun (though I totally would). I’m going to be on the panel Getting Things Done (For Science and Skepticism) at 9:30am on Saturday. Because I apparently get shit done, or something. …Can I say “shit” on the panel? Or worse, the Hoosier in me may unleash and say “Git r done.” This may be difficult and embarrassing. I’ve also got lots of touristy things planned for Vegas too. I really want to visit a casino since I’ve been playing online gambling games for a while now (check out this website here). I’m getting quite good at slot machine games so I’m definitely going to be spending some time in the casinos. I also want to do shopping when I’m in Vegas. I can’t wait to go!

I’m sure there will be other fun shenanigans at TAM (Pssst, Phil, you know you want to do Skeptics in the Tub again). But one that I’m really excited about?


Anyway, I got my ticket. Join me, Greta Christina, Sara Mayhew, and other skeptics in ushering out the era of Potter. I have my Ravenclaw shirt ready. I will probably cry. And then be unable to wake up for the beginning of TAM on Friday. Whoops.

Fri, July 29 to Sun, July 31
Secular Student Alliance annual conference
Columbus, OH

Okay. This may not be in Vegas or have 1,500 attendees…but I’m not going to lie, I’m just as excited for this conference as I am for TAM9. …Maybe even a little more. Because I’ve always had the best time hanging out with fellow student leaders in the movement. I’ve made so many close friends coming to this conference. (And to be honest, it’s the one con where I’ve experienced no sexual harassment, stupid sexist comments, or plain ol’ awkward crap) Plus it’s great for networking and getting ideas for running your student groups – I always leave feeling super motivated.

And the speakers are always awesome. Dan Barker, Greta Christina, PZ Myers, Hemant Mehta, David Silverman, Jamila Bey, Debbie Goddard, JT Eberhard, (me), and high school activist Jessica Ahlquist? Why aren’t you coming yet?!?! You don’t need to be a student to enjoy this!

Did I mention Friday is a big video game party? You know you want to have me crush you in Mario Kart.

Fri, Aug 12 to Sun, Aug 14
Midwest Humanist and Freethought Conference
Omaha, NE

Have you not successfully escaped the Midwest like I have? Then you likely need something to restore your sanity. That’s why you need to come to this conference, where you’ll see me, Hemant, Greta, JT, Fred Edwords, Mr. Deity, and Sam Singleton talk about…stuff. I’m not sure what I’m going to talk about yet, but I’m sure it’ll be awesome, right? Maybe I’ll title it “How you too can move to the Pacific Northwest!”

And that’s it for now. Hopefully. So I can actually get some research done.

My day with Mensa

On Friday I drove down to Portland for the Mensa Annual Gathering, a conference of nearly 2,000 Mensans. I was invited by the Mensa Atheists group (thanks Darlene!) to give a talk on my visit to the Creation Museum.

I’m not going to lie – I had no idea what to expect speaking for Mensa. I had been warned – by Mensans – that they tend to be quite the eclectic, eccentric bunch. But as a nerd who’s visited her fair share of atheist/skeptical/biology/anime conventions, it wasn’t too odd for me. In fact, it reminded me a lot of my experience at TAM – being surrounded by really bright people, remarking on the occasional odd personality that makes the night more interesting, and skipping talks to go drink alcohol instead.

But there were certain instances of nerdery that really stood out. For example, walking through the hallway and finding a Star Wars photo op:People in Star Wars costumes

Or the ginormous selection of games in their 24 hour game room:Three tables with hundreds of board games on themThe most odd and intriguing bit of Mensa culture to me was their sticker system for the name badges.

Green = Hug me!
Yellow = Ask me first
Red = Don’t touch me
Blue = Single
Ring = Atheist (the hole represents our lack of souls)

Some people’s badges got fairly intricate (Red over green = hug me if you know me, but not if you don’t, etc). I originally didn’t put any stickers on because I had no idea what they meant, but after being hugged out of nowhere by a complete stranger, my badge quickly looked like this:My name tag with two red stickers on it
I giggled at this at first, but honestly, it’s not a bad idea. Especially in a group of highly intelligent people, where some may not be the best with social graces. Just think how this could reduce drama at atheist meetings. Seriously considering making a “Now you can flirt with me” pin for TAM.
Saturday was my talk. I was a little nervous going in, since this was my first time talking about the Creation Museum to a group that wasn’t explicitly atheistic. I could tell from flipping through their event program that Mensa was an eclectic bunch. While there were talks on science and forensics and godless people going to creation museums, there were also Bible studies and talks on spirituality and climate denial.

But it ended up going great – the audience was super receptive. And man, did they pack in. There were only 56 chairs, but probably 100 people squeezed into the corners, sat on the window ledges, sat behind me, or spilled out into the hallway. This photo doesn’t even catch about 20 people hanging around the sides:
A crowded room full of people
Some people had to be turned away, and a bunch even asked me if I would repeat the talk again later for those who couldn’t fit – but unfortunately I had to get back to Seattle soon after.

I’m not going to lie – it was a pretty nice compliment having people from Mensa asking when I’m going to write a book (When I have time, so probably never) or when I’m going to join Mensa (when someone comps my fees because I’m a graduate student). Though honestly, I don’t really feel the need to join Mensa, even though my past test scores could get me in. I understand why people do – but I get my fix of intellectual interactions through atheism, skepticism, and biology.

…And a lot of those don’t charge a membership fee. Yes, I’m cheap.

Thanks again to Mensa Atheists for inviting me! And hello to all the blog readers I got to meet, hang out with, and destroy at Carcassonne.

I hate American Airlines

I want to preemptively state: #firstworldproblems

Now that that’s out of the way…I hate American Airlines.

My flight from Chicago to Seattle was supposed to leave at 8:35 pm. We boarded the plane at the right time – and then sat at the gate for an hour and a half. We had no idea what was going on for the first hour, until finally someone made an announcement that the maintenance crew was checking something on the plane before we could go. At 10pm they said we flunked the maintenance check, and had us all get off the plane and head to another gate for a new plane. We finally took off at 11pm.

Now, I understand that shit happens. I’d rather be on a functioning plane then shuffled out on a malfunctioning one. And I won’t bitch about the three hour delay in my flight from Seattle to Chicago, since that was due to weather and out of the airline’s control.

But you’d think American would try to do something to make us a little less cranky, right? I mean, people are missing connections and getting home in the middle of the night. I had to shell out $58 for a taxi because all of the public transportation ($0 for me) was closed by the time we finally landed. I’m easy to placate. Maybe a free drink, or some pretzels. Maybe a coupon code for the ridiculously overpriced in-flight internet ($12? Really, gogoinflight? Fuck you, I don’t need to blog that badly).

We got complimentary head phones if we wanted them. Whoop-didoo. Who doesn’t have their own headphones already?

Oh well. I made it back to Seattle in one piece eventually. And I sat next to the Mayor of Tukwila on the plane, which was kind of neat. At least this happened when I was just coming home and not in a particular rush, instead of when I’m running off to speak somewhere. …And good thing I don’t believe in jinxing things.

I love Canada

I had a blast at the Imagine No Religion conference in Kamloops, BC. The organizers did a fabulous job, especially considering it was the first time this area tried to organize a conference. There were over a hundred attendees and the talks were very high quality. I was particularly moved by Nate Phelps‘s talk about what it was like growing up in the Westboro Baptist Church, how hard it was to leave, and how it affected the rest of his life. Absolutely stunning – you could have heard a pin drop.

Thankfully there were some funny talks in the afternoon, since the WBC is alwa
ys a bit of a downer. Brian Dalton (aka, Mr. Deity) had a fun presentation about his show (which I love) and being a Formon (Former Mormon), and PZ Myers gave a great talk about the benefits of laughing off religious craziness. More impressively, he didn’t get lynched for starting his talk near the end of the Canucks hockey game. Though not everyone was totally attentive… I guessed some people were probably busy making alterations to their fantasy hockey teams so they could maximize their returns, I can’t be sure though. It’s still a little surreal being a speaker at these conferences. It’s odd having people want to get a photo with me or have them sign their shirt, when I’m still squeeing over getting to have dinner with PZ and Mr. Deity. You’re fangirling over a fangirl!But it’s still pretty awesome, and I’m so thankful for all the people who approached me after my talk to share some kind words. I had a hard time even refilling my coffee or going to the bathroom because I was stopped so much, haha.

Thanks for the great conference!

Back to Canada!

Tomorrow I’ll be leaving for Kamloops, British Columbia to speak at the Imagine No Religion Conference. It should be a lot of fun! It’s a smaller group than a big national conference, but still has awesome speakers like PZ, Mr. Deity, and Nate Phelps. And some blogger chick who’s going to rant about misogyny in religion, or something like that.

I’m not sure if I have any Canadian tradition I forgot to check out when I spoke in Vancouver. I mean, I ate poutine and learned about Canadian politics – what more is there do to? Though I hear I probably shouldn’t bring up Canadian politics right now, ahem… Hey, at least your conservatives aren’t as bad as ours, right?

Anyway, I apologize that I haven’t been producing as many substantial posts lately. The end of the quarter is approaching, which means things are a little crazy on my end. Have a presentation next week, need to finish my research, then make a presentation for that, then choose a lab that I’ll be in for the next four years… Just a tad bit busy. But fear not, my real posts will return soon!

Speaking of speaking…

One of the new speaking events I’ve added recently is Mensa’s Annual Gathering in Portland, OR. I was invited by the Mensa Atheists, who apparently have at least one of my blog readers as a member (hello!).

I’m pretty excited to give my Creation Museum talk to an audience that isn’t explicitly atheistic or skeptical. They’ll probably have heard less about it than a room full of atheists, and I’m curious to see how they’ll react.

But I’m also excited to poke around a non-godless conference for a change. It looks so wonderfully eclectic. My talk is at the same time as “How to Create a Successful YouTube Channel,” “Ireland and the Grail, or: Yes, Sophie, ‘The Da Vinci Code’ is Wrong!,” “Near Death Experiences 101,” and “Space Vanguard: How Some of Us Are Preparing for a Brighter Future.” And that’s not even the oddest stuff – you should really skim the program if you have the time.

Maybe I’ll be able to get some good ideas on how to improve our atheist conferences. I was told that Mensa AG has a 24 hour game room and that speakers can get free booze all day in a hospitality room. Are you listening, TAM and Skepticon?!