Saturday, December 31, 2011

Science Saturday: The Radioactive Boy Scout

I'm taking a break from documentaries for this installment of Science Saturday.  Take a look, it's in a book!



The Radioactive Boy Scout started as a simple article for Harper's, but Silverstein decided to flesh it out into an entire book.   In the early 90s, David Hahn (the Boy Scout in question) attempted to build a nuclear reactor in his shed.  He managed to get pretty far, too.  Police stopped him in an unrelated inquiry into some tire thefts, and found a whole box of radioactive material in the trunk of his car.  Eventually this led them to the much larger cache of radioactive material in David's backyard science lab—so radioactive, in fact, that the EPA declared it a superfund site and carted everything off to a nuclear waste containment center.

The good: The Radioactive Boy Scout is an incredibly quick and easy read. Silverstein goes into both the human interest aspect and the science aspect.

The bad: The anti-nuclear editorializing gets kind of old.  Nuclear energy isn't as dangerous or as awful as some people make it out to be.

One interesting fact: After its initial discovery (and before people knew that radiation was bad for you), people used radium for all kinds of novelty things, mostly glow-in-the-dark clock and watch faces.  It was even marketed as a snake oil type cure-all pill for years.

Would recommend?  Sure, from the library or a friend.  It's sort of  a "once and it's done" type of read.  Still interesting, nonetheless.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Music Monday

A pause from the thirty day meme to post my favorite Christmas songs (all of which don't get a lot of play over here in South Korea):






The Kinks, "Father Christmas"








John Lennon, "Happy Xmas, War is Over"




(Not the original music video, since that one's kind of NSFW with gory war images and all.  You can watch in public at ease.)






The Jackson 5, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"



(The only version of this song I actually enjoy, because it's funky enough that I can ignore the creepy/emotionally abusive lyrics, though there's no small amount of irony in the fact that it comes from one of the most exploited child stars of all time.)



Savatage/Trans-Siberian Orchestra, "Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12-24)"




What are your favorite Christmas/wintertime holiday songs?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Science Saturday: Do We Really Need the Moon?

The answer is yes, of course, but there's a whole myriad of reasons why.   Do We Really Need the Moon? investigates a whole slew of them and comes to a conclusion: life on Earth would not be possible without the Moon.

Unfortunately this is the rare instance on DocumentaryHeaven where people don't seem to have their act together; the first clip in the playlist (about the phenomenon known as a "super moon") is unrelated to the rest of the piece and seems to be spliced in there from another show entirely.

Taking off my science nerd hat and putting on my sociology nerd hat, it's nice to see this BBC documentary narrated by a woman of color, Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who would be cool and inspiring even if she weren't talking about the moon. (How many women of color in the sciences can you name? Yeah, thought so.) She seems to be Britain's version of Neil deGrasse Tyson, which is to say: a total rockstar for science. A teacher tried to dissuade her from becoming an astronaut, but Aderin-Pocock basically told her to sod off and promptly got her A-levels in math, physics, chemistry, and biology.  While being dyslexic.

When she's not hosting documentaries about space, running her own company, or encouraging boys and girls of every race and class to pursue the sciences, Aderin-Pocock works on rockstar things like missile defense systems, landmine detectors, and telescopes.

The good: Dr. Aderin-Pocock is an engaging and charismatic host, and again the BBC ensures the footage is of high, professional quality.  She also takes interesting little tangents (like the myth[?] about crazies coming out on the full moon) that are just as interesting as the hard science stuff.

The bad: Like The Core, Do We Really Need the Moon? sometimes leans a little too heavy on the melodrama.  Perhaps this is a trademark of the BBC's approach to science in general?

One interesting fact: The moon influences the Earth's orbit and keeps it from wobbling and tilting like crazy.  It's possible that without the Moon, the Earth would rotate on its side, like Uranus!

Would recommend? Yes!  Though, if possible, purchase it from the BBC or torrent the entire thing, as the version on DocumentaryHeaven.com cuts out the first part (and the end of the second clip and the beginning of the third clip overlaps quite a bit as well).

Did you watch it?  What did you think?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Music Monday

Day 28 - A song that makes you feel guilty


Any song in Russian immediately makes me feel guilty for not applying myself harder to my Russian classes in college.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Science Saturday: The Core

A few years ago, I set a goal for myself to watch one documentary and read one non-fiction book a month. I've slacked off once in a while, but the net result has been that I've seen a lot of neat documentaries I wouldn't have seen otherwise! All of the ones I'm going to mention here are available—for free!—on DocumentaryHeaven.com. So you, too, can watch at your leisure!


First up: The Core

Just what is inside our planet? Not to be confused with the shitty Hollywood movie, this is a slick BBC documentary that slices off the crust and takes us as close as we can get to the Earth's molten center.

The good: Always very interesting and engaging. I mean, I think the molten core of the Earth is already super interesting, but I think they did a good job of making it accessible and entertaining for people who don't think so. Plus sometimes there are explosions!

The bad: There's a bit too much in terms of attempting to create "dramatic tension" or whatever: an over-acted sense of urgency in the narrator's voice, melodramatic music, and so forth. It got kind of cheesy.

One interesting fact: At the molten core of the Earth is an inner nickel-iron solid core. Due to the intense heat and pressure at the center of the planet, this nickel-iron solid is most likely in the shape of HUGE crystals multiple kilometers in size!

Would recommend? Yes!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Etsy Finds: chainofbeing

When Etsy rolled out the whole "circles" feature, there was a huge uproar.  I don't get why, as without it I would have never found this AWESOME necklace.  I love it.  I love it so much that I might go and buy it RIGHT THIS SECOND. It's everything I love and try to accomplish in my own jewelry: geekery, subtlety, and style.


But wait! There's more!  She also has variations on the planets and their moons!  I have always had a soft (red) spot for Jupiter.  It's a hangover from my pet hobby of astrology (science nerd that I am, I also am fascinated by ancient esoteric symbol systems), where Jupiter is the planet of good luck, fortune, expansion, and all-around good times.  Some people theorize that Jupiter also does a lot to protect our little spaceship Earth by diverting incoming asteroids via its massive gravitational pull (when, you know, the two planets are even remotely close to each other, anyway).


I cannot get over what a cool idea this is.  Can. Not.  Christmas present to myself?  I think so!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Music Monday

Day 26 - A song that you can play on an instrument



I have yet to find a version on YouTube that I really like, but this one's pretty good.  Like every piano player, I think my interpretation is the superior one, but until I get around to recording myself for YouTube, this will have to do.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Music Monday

Day 25 - A song that makes you laugh


 I am a snob about my musical comedy.  I don't really care for Flight of the Conchords or Jonathan Coulton like everyone in my demographic seems to.  Two of the better contemporary musical comedy groups today (aside from Weird Al) both hail from Australia, and since I can't pick one, today is a two-fer.

Dark Side (Tim Minchin)



What Would Jesus Do? (Axis of Awesome)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Design Doldrums




Having nothing better to do on a Saturday night, I gave the blog a bit of a sprucing up.  It's much lighter now, and I'm happier with it, though it will go through some tweaking before I can really call it "done." At some point I will have to either do some graphic work (or get the Boy to do some graphic work) and get a nice, proper header up there instead of plain text in a green box.  Among other things.

I have been notoriously and shamefully quiet on here, except to share music. Apologies, internet! I am in the thick of National Novel Writing Month and thus have few braincells to spare.  Once I finish, I hope to be back to a regular posting schedule.

In the mean time, there are some great posts at What. No mints? Sasha put together for her science week.  I meant to contribute (really I did!  I was even going to go on about helictites, the coolest speleothem EVER) but got sucked into my novel project instead.  Be on the lookout for an upcoming Science Saturday post on the topic!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Music Monday

Day 24 - A song that moves you If I ever change my mind about weddings (that is, take them seriously) then I might have to change my previous answer to this one.

 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Music Monday

Day 23 - A song that you want to play at your wedding




My desire to get married waxes and wanes pretty much at random.  Weddings, such as they are, seem to exist for the sole purpose of gushing over how beautiful the bride is.  Even the cute quirky hipster weddings your friends have, about a thousand people will tell the woman (or women, if they're cute quirky hipster lesbians) how beautiful they look.  As if what women should want more than anything else is to be beautiful.

On the other hand, a giant party with all of my friends sounds awesome.  If I do get married, I'll probably skip the "getting married" part and just hold a wedding reception instead.    And the first dance with the boy will be this, because it's Swedish and campy and yet also kind of appropriate.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Music Monday

Day 22 - A song you listen to when you're sad.


I don't often feel sad, but when I do, there's no better tonic than Janis.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween!

Remember that time I dressed like Athena for Halloween?  Well, I did it again.  And this time I have picture proof of my endeavor!




The owl (whose name is Owloysious) was a big hit with all of the Koreans at the party. "So cute!" Not pictured: my spear. But I have one, I assure you.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Music Monday

Day 21 - A song that you listen to when you’re happy Most of my music tends to be happy because I'm more or less a happy person. At the least, I'm well-grounded. You could choose just about any song from my library and it would answer this question. For this one, I opened my media player and chose the next song that came up on random. And yeah—I do listen to this when I'm happy.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Music Monday: The Apropos Edition!

Day 20 - A song that you listen to when you’re angry.

This one's been on my playlist lately.  Especially since my last day at a terrible, soul-sucking job was this past Friday! Hurray!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cameo Love

Oreo cameos.

The world's best cookie meets one of today's most under-appreciated art forms.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Music Monday

Day 19 - A song from your favorite album


It may speak to my age and talkin' bout my generation, but it is really difficult for me to think of a favorite album because it's really difficult for me to think of, in toto, any album at all.  The ones I do think of, while obviously I really like them, I find hard to categorize as a favorite anything.  Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, for example, will forever remain in my music collection.  Those are albums that are almost too good to be sullied by association with me, a mere mortal.  They are among my favorite, but in a detached, intellectual way.  Not in the same way that  "Again, Again" is my favorite Lady Gaga song.


Eventually, by defining "favorite album" as "album with the best ratio of tracks I like to songs I skip," I think I had to settle on either Simon and Garfunkel's The Concert in Central Park or CCR's Willy and the Poor Boys.  CCR eventually won because it served me well on a train ride from Pennsylvania to Florida; one of my fondest memories of that particular trip to Disney World had nothing to do with the park and everything to do with being curled up on the train, drifting off to sleep, listening to John Fogarty's rendition of "Midnight Special."  I couldn't have been more than 10 or 11 because I was using a bulky old Discman that ran on half a dozen AA batteries (it came with a wall plug!) that had to be retired early into middle school.  Think about how much bigger the first generation GameBoys were than later iterations like GameBoy Color: that was about the size difference between this Discman and contemporary standards.  The Concert in Central Park had loads of tracks I ended up recording to mixtapes for other vacations, but at the end of the day I didn't sit and listen through the whole thing all too often.

"Fortunate Son" is the one that always gets quoted off of this one, followed closely by the title track.  They're definitely good songs, but this is the one that will always have a special place in my heart.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Music Monday

Day 18 - A song that you wish you heard on the radio


I've spent many hours of my life listening to the local adult contemporary station (one of the curses of working retail).  There's a whole litany of songs I would love to hear on the radio, but I think if this one came on, it would make my day.  That said, due to the lyrics, it will never make it on the radio (at least the adult contemporary station).

That said, apparently there is a clean version, which is what he performs in the music video.  While it's a good video, I like the song better with the F-bomb, so here you go. (First thirty seconds are NSFW, fair warning.)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Science Saturday: Skateboards, STEM, and Harvey Mudd

This is awesome.  Awesome to the point of wanting to be an undergrad again.  Sometimes I wish I had gone the Comp Sci route in school.  (Maybe I'll go enroll in Harvey Mudd?)  Then again, other days I have dreams of becoming an English professor.

Maria Klawe skateboards and triples female enrollment in computer science. Oh, and she's 60.







As Harvey Mudd College President Maria Klawe strolled her Southern California campus recently, she stopped to talk with Lillian de Greef, a senior eager to discuss her plans to pursue a graduate degree in computer science. De Greef entered Mudd as a technology novice and, like a growing number of women at the school, she’s now fluent in multiple programming languages. “I just really enjoy learning about all this stuff, writing the code,” she says.

De Greef’s enthusiasm is a testament to the quiet revolution waged by Klawe, 60, since she arrived in 2006 from Princeton University, where she was dean of the engineering school. On her watch, the percentage of female computer science majors at Mudd, one of California’s prestigious Claremont colleges, has more than tripled, to 42 percent. Nationally, women account for 14 percent of college graduates in the field, according to the Computing Research Association.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Music Monday: Chuseok Edition

I've missed a few Music Mondays (and Science Saturdays) because, well, I work too much. But I have a doozy of a one for you now! This past Monday was a pretty special day here in Korea. It was August 15th (according to the lunar calendar), or Chuseok.



Often called a Korean Thanksgiving, Chuseok is a day of being with family, games, celebrating the fall harvest, food, and honoring ancestors. August 14th, 15th, and 16th (again, lunar calendar dates) are all days off: one for traveling, one for celebrating, and one for traveling back home. I had off from work, so I went to Gyeongju for a few days at Golgulsa temple. This Music Monday comes from that experience; the regularly scheduled music meme will go back on schedule next week.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day Trip: Bongeunsa

On Saturday, my friend Breda and I, and her friend Bo Seul, went to Bongeunsa temple. It's kind of deep in the heart of Seoul, right across the street from COEX (of the aquarium fame). Despite being in the middle of one the loudest, busiest, most crowded cities in the world, Bongeunsa still retains a very quiet and isolated atmosphere. I'm pretty sure there's some kind of force field (powered by super secret Buddhist voodoo?) keeping out all of the sound and chaos of the city around it.















This is part of a display in the main courtyard of the temple. The white flowers are left in memory of people who have died. The other plants are left with wishes. On the other side, you can light an incense stick and leave it burning there as a wish. I guess the idea is that the smoke or the scent carries your wish up to heaven?



Pretty sure this is related to some expression about enlightenment and the tail of a tiger or some such. Too lazy to look it up.






While we were there, they started the call to evening prayers.






After a couple hours of traipsing about the temple grounds, we sat here for a rest and a bit of zen.





And we ended the visit with spring water from a fountain.


We wandered around the long way to find it. Even though all the signs at Samsung Station point you towards exit 6 for Bongeunsa, it's probably easier just to walk all the way through COEX. Bongeunsa is right across the street. And best of all, it's free to visit. All in all, a great way to spend a free afternoon!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Science Saturday: Zombie Rats?

More like mind-controlled. The parasite Toxoplasma gondii actually alters rats' brain chemistry so that they'll be eaten by cats.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Music Monday

Day 16 - A song you used to love but now hate.

This is tough because my taste in music doesn't really radically shift over time, merely expands. As far as I can tell, this may be the only song I know that fits this criterion. (And, it's Celine Dion. I'm sorry in advance.)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Music Monday

Day 15 - A song that describes you.

There's any number of songs that capture what I would like to be, or what I hope people would want to say about me, like this one.




But that actually describe me? I typed "lyrics I don't give a" into Google to see what would come up, because I guess the best way to describe is that I don't give a $noun. This is the first hit, and I have to say, I'm surprised I didn't think of this myself.





Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Great Pierogi Reckoning

One of my kindergarten students went to a farm over their three-day hagwon vacation and picked some potatoes. ("On my vacation, I found out what it was like to be a day laborer!") Her mother, in a gesture you see far more often in Korea than in the US, gave both me and her "homeroom" teacher a giant shopping bag full of potatoes from the trip.

potatoes
Mmm...


And as far as I'm concerned, there's only one thing you do with potatoes: starchy Eastern European goodness! Unfortunately, my kitchen in Korea is pretty much a short corridor with a fridge, four burners, a microwave, and a sink that takes up all the counter space. Making anything in large quantities is a bit of a challenge.

While I can more or less make pierogi by heart, I did keep this pierogi recipe open while I worked. It's extremely detailed with lots of tips, and recipes for a few different fillings as well.

Step 1: Assemble the other necessary filling ingredients.

The above-linked recipe recommends making the filling on one day, and then making the dough and packing up the little pierogi on the second. In addition to things like bowls and a hand mixer, on my first trip to HomePlus I picked up two important other ingredients for the filling:

onions

cheddar


Step 2: Filling Prep.

Chop onions, grate cheese, peel potatoes. Peel a lot of a potatoes.

peeling potatoes


Yes, I am doing this on my stove. I wasn't exaggerating when I said I didn't have any counter space!

This part took the better part of my day.

Step 3: Dough prep.

This is probably the easiest part: nothing more than flour, water, an egg, and some salt.



Step 4: Putting it all together.

For most labor-intensive step, this and prepping the filling are just about tied. This part is definitely the messiest, though, which is why I only have a picture of the final product (which will stay frozen for now):



Twenty down, one hundred and eighty to go!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Science Saturday: The Science of Food!

The Exploratorium (where I've never been, though I desperately want to) has a really slick page on the science of cooking just about anything; I've been perusing the bread section in preparation for The Great Pierogi Reckoning this weekend. They also have some cool experiments you can do at home, like this yeast activity.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Music Monday (on Wednesday):

Day 14 - A song that no one would expect you to love.

This one is tough. I don't think there's any ONE song that no one would expect me to love. Under the right circumstances, I could be taken for a fan of ANYTHING: Christian rock, Norwegian death metal, salsa, acoustic lesbian folk balladeering, etc.


I guess this is one that might be the most surprising, in that it's so old and kind of obscure.




And I do love it, because it's cute and also because of this amazing gag in my personal favorite Marx Brothers movie, Monkey Business:



"No, I'm Maurice Chevalier!"

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Science Saturday: Fluorescent Animals

Korean scientists have developed a fluorescent puppy.

south korea glowing dog


Not just a novelty, the glowing pooch (a female beagle clone named Tegon) expands horizons for research into diseases like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. Instead of artificially inducing fluorescence into a dog (which is only useful if you want to take your pet to a rave), scientists involved with the study can also artificially induce any number of the 268 illnesses we share in common with dogs. The good news? They can also turn off the fluorescence (or the disease) with drugs as well—meaning Tegon doesn't have a lifetime of fluorescence or Alzheimer's to worry about.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Music Monday

Day 13 - A song that is a guilty pleasure



The song really starts at about the 20 second mark.

I have no good reason to like this, I know....but it's just so damn catchy!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Science Saturday: Benny Frank Goes to Space

Or well, part of the The Franklin Institute, anyway.



Ferguson brought this small piece of the Franklin Institute to the space station and back. The 5-pointed 4-inch star from the Franklin Institute’s Fels Planetarium dome will be put on public display for the future enjoyment of millions of kids of all ages.



Chris Ferguson brings science museum to orbit.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Music Monday

Day 12 - A song from a band you hate

It's really difficult for me to pick out a band I dislike enough to use the word hate. But then I thought back to my days of listening to "adult contemporary" radio and a personage bubbled to the surface: Adam Lambert.




I'm sorry to inflict this upon you all.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Elevatorgate: A Belated Perspective

While I was away from the Internet (apologies; I owe a few Music Mondays!), drama erupted in the atheist/skeptic/science community, Internet and otherwise. Interestingly enough, pretty much on the one-year anniversary of the Sexy Scientists kerfuffle—and yet again it is gender and feminism drama.

This is multifaceted and unfolded over a few days.

1. Rebecca Watson posted a video on her blog about, among other things, boorish behavior of some men at skeptic/atheist/science (which I'm just going to abbreviate as SAS from now on) conventions. Specifically, while she was on the elevator to her floor, a man who had heard her already voice complaints about being sexualized and objectified, who had heard her say she was tired and going to bed, asked her back to his room for coffee at four in the morning. The whole Mythbusters, Robot Eyes, Feminism, and Jokes video is up.

2. A few posters on the blog and YouTube channel were summarily dismissive of the situation. Some video rebuttals appeared as well. Friends of Rebecca's mention that they've seen similar attitudes on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

3. Watson disagreed with these dismissals of the situation and mentioned a few commentators by name in a talk she then gave at the CFI Student Leadership Conference. Most notably, she quoted a student (Steff McGraw) as part of her presentation on the Religious Right's War on Women.

4. People became incensed that Watson would quote Ms. McGraw's post and mention her by name specifically. The Internet exploded with bile.

5. P. Z. Myers decided to weigh in and took Rebecca's side, arguing that a good skeptical thinker always names names and that she was justified in feeling weirded out in the elevator. People posted comments.

6. Richard Effin' Dawkins showed up in the comments on Pharyngula and basically commented that Rebecca should stop complaining because, "You weren't violently assaulted! It wasn't that bad!"

7. Shit just got lost all over the place.


Got that all sorted? Great. Time to put on the Social Awareness Goggles!

Now, how many problematic (or potentially problematic) things can you spot in this picture-find? I found:

1. The original "ElevatorGate" incident in question (i.e., one man's act of propositioning a woman whom he knew at the least to be tired, and probably also knew was skeeved out by unwelcome sexual advances).

2. People's defense of Elevator Guy.

3. Watson's decision to call out an undergrad student by name, without permission or at least forewarning.

4. Dawkins' (and not a few other anonymous Internet commentators') opinion that Watson should stop complaining because she doesn't have it that bad.




1. The original "ElevatorGate" incident in question.

This one splits into two sub-problems. First, there's the problem of threat. Simply put, similar scenarios to this (late at night, enclosed spaces, invitations to private quarters) can and do lead to rape. It's not unreasonable to be nervous in this situation. An invitation to really private quarters (a private hotel room) for a really illogical reason (coffee? at 4 am? when she wants to go to bed?) only escalates that. At the very least it's a sexual proposition. And if her gentleman companion is an angry, violent drunk, for all she knew he might have reacted violently.

The second sub-problem is totally separate from the rape issue. It would be an issue even without the threat of rape, and it's the issue of this: disregarding stated desires. He had been present in the bar and had heard Watson declare her intention to retire because she was fatigued. He had probably also heard the talk she had given about not being sexualized and objectified at SAS conferences. Certainly this fellow had access to enough data to know that really, truly and seriously, Ms. Watson just wanted to go to bed and was not looking for any attention from him.

A really great article on both of these sub-problems (in a general sense, not related to this specific incident) is Schrödinger's Rapist (or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced).

My advice to you, ElevatorGuy and all men who might find themselves in this situation some day, is this: get some business cards. Cards with your name and cellphone number. Should you stumble upon an attractive, intelligent, funny, intriguing young woman in an elevator, don't ask her back to your place in fumbling desperation to see if maybe she's The One. Instead, hand her the card, with a brief explanation. "I think you're really interesting, maybe we could meet for coffee and brunch tomorrow morning," for example, is a good one. It leaves the decision in her hands, and it moves the encounter away from a potentially dangerous private space to a much safer public space (thus making her more amenable to agreeing).

("But I'm not a rapist!" you whinge. "She's judgmental and wrong to think so!" Too bad, so sad. Once rapes stop happening, she'll have no reason to consider you a potential rapist. So maybe talk to your fellow men about their behavior.)

But I don't think the biggest problem here is ElevatorGuy. On a scale of one to five Cups of Coffee, I give him a one and a half.


2. People's defense of Elevator Guy.

A lot of men (and some women) have chosen to focus on the Elevator itself, defending Elevator Guy from imaginary accusations of being a rapist. As if Rebecca is somehow at fault for not appreciating an unwelcome sexual advantage, or at the least for publicly mentioning a most-likely sheepish-feeling fellow's failed attempt to get into her pants. I call this the "Won't Somebody Please Think of the Men?" argument. Can you see the invisible sarcasm tags around that?

In other words, this argument is based on the assumption that in this situation, the man's desire for sex somehow trumps the woman's desire to be treated without regard for baby-making parts, or at least her stated desire to be left alone. If a man wants to have hot 4 am atheist sex, why does he need to proposition a woman who has clearly expressed her disinterest in anything except sleeping? If his desire is so great, he can satisfy both Rebecca's desire to be left alone AND his desire to get laid by asking someone else

Also,to outline the larger paradigm that I think contributes to this assumption: men's desire to not be considered potential rapists somehow trumps women's desire to not be raped (and sometimes killed). If we stop acting like there are potential rapists out there, sure you get to feel better about yourselves, but then we also get to be raped more. What?

I mean, I'm sure Elevator Guy was probably just awkward and drunk and desperate, and I do kind of feel shitty for him because now his faux pas is all over the SAS community for people to laugh over, but there's still no good excuse for his actions.

Now we're getting into the problematic territory. I rate this one three out of five Cups of Coffee.



3. Watson's decision to call out an undergrad student by name, without permission or at least forewarning.

Watson justified her decision on her own blog, saying that she did it because basically she would expect it out of someone quoting her in a presentation; that she expected Ms. McGraw to be mature enough to be adult about it; and also pointing out that they had all linked and quoted her specifically when disagreeing with her.

I think these are all good justifications, and I can see how if Watson were quoting another woman of her own caliber on stage, no harm no foul. But we can't know that, and neither could Watson as she was writing up her presentation. If you are a badass skepchick, you can forget what it's like to be younger, more sensitive, more unsure of yourself. What it's like to see someone you admire (or at least someone with more renown and more social sway in your community than you currently enjoy) shut you down.

Plus, McGraw and stclairrose were posting about Watson on the Internet. On the Internet. It's quiet on the Internet, and if you are attacked or mentioned in a debate on the Internet, you have the capacity to respond, in real time, and in equal merit in front of your audience. Not so when your post is up there on the stage. In that moment, the power dynamics of the situation were all about Watson. If McGraw were giving a presentation herself later in the day, it would be another matter entirely. But she wasn't; McGraw was a student attendee.

But again, this is hardly the biggest problem here. One and a half Cups of Coffee out of five.


4. Dawkins' (and not a few other anonymous Internet commentators') opinion that Watson should stop complaining because she doesn't have it that bad.

And finally, where everyone lost their shit (myself included). This is the coveted five out of five cups of coffee.

I will admit that I am not the biggest fan of Dawkins. Truth be told, I think he's an asshole. I don't care how brilliant you are, if you can't bring yourself to play nicely, I have very little respect for you. Who you are is more important than what you do. This is a bone of contention with The Boy, who is a huge Dawkins fan despite acknowledging he's made some pretty significant missteps. (What you do trumps who you are.)

But for a man who advocates for women's rights elsewhere in the world and who makes passionate arguments against things like female genital mutilation or stoning adulteresses; who talks about having more women in science; there is some serious cognitive dissonance in him telling Wagner to basically be quiet and deal with it. No, seriously. Phil Plait over at BA quoted the meat, if not the entirety, of Dawkins' response in that entry.

I mean the argument that "some women have it worse so stop complaining" is totally fallacious. Not only that, but if Dawkins wants more women in skepticism and science, guess what? Boorish behavior on the behalf of some men needs to be addressed. You don't just snap your fingers and get equality, Dawkins. You don't just wake up one day and suddenly there's just as many women there as there are men. They're not joining the sciences and the skepticism movement solely because they're somehow too dumb or too ignorant, they're not joining because you're not making it a very comfortable place. You generally but also, with the that comment, you specifically.

Mr. Dawkins, you enjoy a certain position of power within the SAS movements. While people are free to disagree with you, you influence the way many of the people in the think about issues—probably doubly-so when the people in question are involved in a debate they normally don't think much about. It's a bit lazy of them, yes, but you're otherwise intelligent and it's generally accepted that the views you hold are rational and well thought-out. Especially for someone whose nerdery is more about evolutionary biology than about sociology and feminism, could they really be blamed for simply towing the (Dawkins) party line? And the truism holds just as much for you as it does for Spider-man: "With great power comes great responsibility."

I can already hear the outcry. "But skepticism and free-thinking is all about challenging authority! Science is all about objectively looking at the data and not who says it! We're not just dumb sheep!"

Reality check: we're all human; we're all inclined to put people on pedestals and forgive people mistakes we would not allow from others simply because we like them better. Crow about your objectivity all you like, but at the end of the day it's still that unreachable calculus limit.

Dawkins' ill-thought, unnecessarily snarky and condescending brush-off of the incident in question (and Rebecca Watson's hysterical audacity to even feel uncomfortable in the first place!) has the net effect not only of alienating countless "skepchicks" (who doubtless looked up to him to begin with) with his words alone, but also to encourage and justify prevailing attitudes of other persons not quite so celebré—who in turn continue acting in ways that alienate women.

This incident casts an unfortunate pall over at least some of Dawkins' words and writing about Western women and the sciences. It seems more and more that for him, "More women should study the sciences" really means, "Why can't a woman be more like a man?"

Hopefully, Dawkins will have the same grace, tact, and self-awareness that Luke Muehlshauser exhibited about the "Sexy Scientists" debacle and offer up an apology. (Note: not an explanation or a rationalization, but an apology.) And hopefully in the future, he'll take issues like objectification and male entitlement seriously, even if no one's stoning us to death or permanently mutilating our genitalia.