PZ Myers dominates the Other category for Most Influential Female Atheist

I don’t know if I’ll ever “officially close” the Most Influential Female Atheist of 2009 poll, but this much is clear: PZ Myers is clearly dominating the “Other” category (though he’s still near the bottom overall). Or should I say, Ms. Paula Z. Myers. What I find most amusing is that he specifically asked Pharyngulites to not write his name in – seems like he doesn’t have complete control of his followers, after all. Our twitter conversation amused me greatly:

Me: @pzmyers is currently winning the “Other” category for Most Influential Female Atheist. Oh pharyngulites
PZ: I told them not to! RT @jennifurret: @pzmyers is currently winning the “Other” category for Most Influential Female Atheist.
So, @jennifurret , if I win…I don’t have to get That Operation, do I?
Me: @pzmyers Yes, yes you do. You better get control of your minions quickly, or I’ll be waiting for a photo of you in a dress
Me: @pzmyers Is still winning “Other” for Most Influential Female Atheist. When do I get the photo of him in a dress?
I think my mom has one. I’ll see if I can find it when I visit late this month RT @jennifurret: When do I get the photo of him in a dress?

And my favorite comment over at Pharyngula:

I’m not sure which is more intriguing: How Jen makes Little Pee Zed do it, or (assuming she succeeds) What Little Pee Zed then looks like. On the other hand, I’m not entirely certain I want to see pictures of either the convincing or the result…

The former will remain a mystery (insert evil cackling here). But joshing gets a million internet points for giving us a sneak preview of the latter:Excellent choice of dress, if I do say so myself!

Chicago atheist meetup was a blast

Just wanted to say thanks to all the cool people who came to the Chicagoland atheist meetup last night! We had 18 people total, and it was great talking to everyone.

Complete this joke: 18 atheist walk into a pub…

I think it’s a proven fact that dinner conversations with atheists are always more interesting. We decided that GodlessGirl, who claimed to have a “fever,” couldn’t show up because she’s actually Hemant – totally explains her mysterious nature and why they can’t be in the same room at the same time. We also developed a new show to pitch to the Food Network that is a total winner – Kinky Gourmet. Who wouldn’t watch an after hours show on romantic food, aphrodesiacs, and creative uses of whipped cream?

It was also pretty humorous when I first arrived with Mark and Bryan.

Waitress: Table for three?
Me: Um, well, we’re meeting some people here, I don’t know if they’re here yet *looks around for Hemant*
Waitress: Is it that guy over there? *points to guy I don’t recognize at a big empty table* What’s their names?
Me: Uh…well actually I don’t know. It’s sort of like…a club, so I don’t know everyone coming.
Waitress: What’s it for?
Me: Uhhh, atheists.
Waitress: Okay, I’ll go ask! *goes over to the guy*
Me: I really hope that guy is in our group.
Guy: *waves us over*
Me: Phew
Hemant: *appears, lip bleeding profusely, was apparently mauled by a bear on the way to the restaurant* Huwwo!

Oh atheist awkwardness. But the waitress and the restaurant were great; they let us take over the upstairs room so it was like we had a little private party. Definitely need to do a meetup again in the future!

Chicago Atheist Meetup!

Are you in the Chicagoland area? Do you want to have an awesome time eating, drinking*, and being merry with some pretty cool freethinkers? Look no further:

Date: Saturday, January 2
Time: 7:00 PM
Where: Palos Hills Village Club
9750 S Roberts Rd
Palos Hills, IL 60465-1470
Featuring: Hemant of Friendly Atheist, GodlessGirl, and Jen of Blag Hag!

What do you have to do to partake in such activities? Why, just show up! And, well, pay for your own food and drinks – sorry, we’re not rich, people. Just look for one of our smiling faces in the pub and come grab a seat.

If you’re fairly certain you’re coming, please RSVP in the comments. It’s not required, but it would be nice just to give us and the pub a head’s up. Thanks!

*Jen drinking will probably not occur lest her liver explode from complications with mono. However, feel free to indulge around me. I won’t be too jealous.

Some delicious evolutionary facts for Thanksgiving

There’s a cool post over at the Axis of Evo highlighting some fun, Thanksgiving-themed evolution facts. Here’s one of my favorites (had to pick the one that talked about sex, of course):

2. That turkey on the table, unless you got one of those expensive, frou frou free range ones, will probably be a Double Breasted. They get as big as 86 lbs. That’s 1 lb heavier than Nicole Richie was in 2006, by the way. They can’t fly, and they can barely run. Males are so supersized, in fact, that they are physically unable to impregnate the females anymore, and thus humans must intervene in the sex act with some rather simple equipment (if you are brave, you can watch some clips from Dirty Jobs: part 1, part 2; don’t). Compare this size to the maximum size of a wild turkey, its ancestor: 38 lbs. Artificial selection for bigger and and bigger turkeys has thus been hugely successful, and is a great table side demonstration of descent with modification. And there’s still room for growth…the elephant bird of Madagascar weighed 1100 lbs (can you image Mike Rowe wrestling one of them?).

Mmmm, I’m thankful for evolution, or we wouldn’t have such delicious food to eat!

Quick skeptical update

If you haven’t yet deduced from my manic tweets, I’m busy. Really friggin‘ busy. But the best thing to do when you’re busy is to procrastinate, so here’s a super quick blog update for you guys.

1. Ray Comfort is a douchenozzle. To secretly move the release of his sullied version of the Origin up a day for the sole purpose of avoiding counter events shows his true colors. He is a scheming slimeball who knows his side has no intellectual merit, and the only way to gain followers is to avoid the peaceful reply of his opponent. Oh, and no, his people did not pass out the Origin at Purdue. I guess we’re just already so religious and conservative that he didn’t want to waste his time here.

2. Guess what came in the mail last week, and what I wore today?Woooo! My PZ vs Ken Ham Creation Museum Memorial Shirt! It looks awesome on black (a little washed on on white, but still alright). If you have no idea why PZ is on a squid and battling Ken Ham on a T-Rex, you should probably go here, newbie.

Ok, back to writing my summary of the sex determining gene in chickens. WOO BIOLOGY!

Skepchicamp Speakers!

What the heck is Skepchicamp? I’ll leave that to my friend Don:

My name is Don Riefler, and I’m the speaker coordinator for Skechicamp Chicago 2010, a grassroots skeptical conference organized on the Skepticamp model. That basically means it’s run from the ground up, and all of our speakers are people who simply want to throw their hats into the ring and say something. It’s my job to find and coordinate those people.

The subject of the conference is science, skepticism, and critical thinking (with a feminist bent), and we’re specifically looking for women to help fill out the roster. If you think you might have something to say, and you can be in Chicago on Saturday March 6, please consider being a speaker. We’d love to have you.

If you’re interested, please contact me directly at as soon as possible. If you want to talk but aren’t sure what about, that’s fine. Most of us are in the same boat at this point.

Thanks for your time!

Don Riefler
Supreme Speaker Conjurer, Skepchicamp Chicago 2010

A skeptical conference powered by freethinking feminists?! I don’t think it can get any better than that! But wait…the Skepchicks will be there? Hemant will be there? I’ll be there!?! Oh my FSM, best conference ever!

Now you totally need to come. And ladies, please think about signing up to be a speaker! We’re still outnumbered by males. Come on, can’t we make a good showing for a skepchick-y conference?

Speaking of speakers…I still haven’t decided what my talk is going to be about yet. They’re supposed to be 10 to 15 minutes long, so my Creation Museum lecture isn’t exactly going to cut it. Any topics you really like hearing me ramble and rant about?

Mike’s Birthday Puzzle – Main Clue

This is a continuation of the puzzle I talk about here and here.

I actually received this in the mail a while ago, but I wanted to try to figure it out on my own before posting it. Here’s what I received in the mail from Mike (click for larger):I’ve already figured out a lot of it (and found some secret messages in the list of words)… but I’m not going to give any hints yet, so you guys can work together to figure it out. If it turns out inside knowledge is needed from me (I think it may be in a couple of places), I’ll chime in in the comments. Have fun!

Happy 6012th Birthday, Earth

This is slightly belated since I was busy yesterday, but Happy Birthday, Earth! According to James Ussher’s 17th century calculations, God created the Earth on October 23, 4004 BC. We had a mini birthday party at Wednesday’s club meeting, and I made brownies:I promise that I omitted Asia and Australia due to a lack of planning, not some deep-seated hatred for those continents.

This is all fun until you realize people actually believe this stuff. Many dates from the Creation Museum were taken from Ussher’s chronology. Because you know, one guy interpreting the Bible is so solid that nearly 400 years of scientific developments doesn’t really matter.

Flying Spaghetti Monster Jack-O-Lantern

I’m very proud of what’s adorning my balcony right now! My roommate purchased a nice sized pumpkin for Halloween – I drew the design, and she did the carving. I think it came out pretty nice!
Hurray for Flying Spaghetti Monster jack-o-lanterns!. His eyes are kind of falling apart, though. I blame the horrible infestation of lady bugs in West Lafayette (seriously, you can’t walk outside without being covered in them) that are apparently munching away at His Noodliness. Blasphemy!

Mike’s Birthday Puzzle – Clue #2

I just received an email from “Jnnfr Mccrght” – my name without vowels – from a gmail account that was obviously created by Mike. Here’s the message, no edits on my part:

Subject: X

a congress has senators
a parlament, owls
sooner or later
you’ll need to buy vowels
until that time comes
don’t over-think it
if my puzle is a cocktail
i wouldn’t yet drink it
but these index card clues
into your brain they’re tearing
i have a fish in my ear
so i have trouble herring
but don’t worry about them
if they make you bemused
in a few days or so
you’ll be even more confused
so until that time comes
prepare for what it’s in store
i should be a nice guy
but to confuse you some more:
i’m now eating my words
with a knife (not a fork)
wish you were here with me
in chapaqua, new york

Translated, I think it means “I think it’s hilarious how all of you people are over thinking things, wait until I send you real clues.” Of course, I’m still over thinking things, and noticing how Parliament is missing an “i” and puzzle is missing a “z.” Hmmmm….

EDIT: Got a follow up email:

“In the 7th-to-last line, “it’s” should be “is.” It was a genuine grammatical error and should not be considered a hint toward anything (seriously, my friend).

–Mr. Puzzle”

Move over Dan Brown – I have a better puzzle mystery

A couple of days ago I received a small envelope in the mail with unusual handwriting and no return address. Intrigued, I opened it and found the following note cards. Top note card was on the top of stack, left image is the front and right image is the back of each card. Click for larger images.
I think the initial reaction of most normal people would be, “What the hell, what insane serial killer sent me this?!” (okay, maybe not totally normal people). My first thought, on the other hand, was “Mike’s Birthday Puzzle.” I checked the stamp on the letter, and yep – from the town of his university. Nice try concealing your handwriting, but foiled by the United States Postal Service!

Mike is one of my best friends, and in addition to being hilarious and a brilliant mathematician, he’s also a Puzzle Master. I think he’s deserving of this title since he’s full of trivia (go on Jeopardy already, Mike!), always carrying around puzzle magazines, and has created unique puzzles that have been printed in said magazines multiple times. During our sophomore year of high school, Mike decided (maybe out of boredom) to create a puzzle filled treasure hunt that would lead to my birthday gift. I would have to figure out one clue to find out where the next one was hidden – usually somewhere in one of our classrooms – until it led me to my present. It was so fun, for both him and me, that it started a tradition. Every October since then I start getting puzzles, so by the time November 2nd rolls around, I’ll have found my gift.


See, the part that I didn’t mention is that Mike is way, way smarter than me. And while his puzzles seem to get better and better, I seem to get stupider and stupider. I generally have to resort to outside help and many hints, and I think he takes special glee in the fact that Mike’s Birthday Puzzle is infamous enough to deserve capitalization and a certain amount of fear. But I have the upper hand this year, Mike! I have a blog! So fair readers, I present you with the first clue of many in the puzzle – the note cards – and I will update you with whatever other information I receive.

That being said, I have no idea what those note cards mean. I wouldn’t put it past him if the whole thing is a red herring just to make me go mad. So if I have to go mad, you’re going down with me.

Going to see Dawkins tonight!

In an hour I’ll be leaving for Indiana University to see Richard Dawkins speak, woo! It’s a two and a half hour drive but totally worth it. About 50 members of the Society of Non-Theists are going, so we should have a decent sized group invading IU. I’m still a little miffed that our rival got to host him and we didn’t, but oh well. I’m bringing my copy of the God Delusion for him to sign, then going to a big pub gathering of atheists afterward. Should be fun!

Yeah, I really don’t have that much to say about it – just wanted to rub it in. Neener neener. Will post photos/review tomorrow morning.

Oh, and if anyone is wondering about the GRE, I did fine. Owned the math and did average on the verbal – I guess I’m your stereotypical scientist. The verbal is effectively a vocab test, where if you don’t know whatever obscure horrible word you’re given, you’re just screwed. Lovely. The hardest part of the whole exam was hand writing the paragraph in cursive about how you won’t cheat. Seriously, I haven’t used cursive since 5th grade – it looked like a 10 year old had written my statement!