Skepticism

Get to Know Your Skepchicks: a.real.girl

As one of the newest Skepchicks, I am eager to get to know my new co-bloggers better. Some of the gals I know A B Kovacspretty well from cyber stalking, oops, I mean facebook and twitter, but some of the Skepchicks I just don’t know enough about. It occurred to me that many of our readers and commenters might be curious and have questions for the Skepchicks as well. When the opportunity to photograph the super-fantastic A B Kovacs (aka a.real.girl) presented itself, I jumped at the chance! I got the opportunity to ask her some of the burning questions that just wouldn’t fit in 140 characters or less and I have posted the interview and a few of the “glamor photos by Amy” for your enjoyment.

1. What is with your name? Be honest, does the A really stand for awesome?

While it does not stand for anything at all, really, I stand for Truth and Justice. I would also say “and the American Way” were it not so implausibly jingoistic. (I mean really, Superman was an alien afterall.) I am not opposed to other people thinking it stands for awesome. And, let’s be honest, it is easy to spell.

2. What is your favorite skeptical topic?

I am fascinated by the ways skeptical people intersect with a woo-filled world, and how we deal with it. What do you say to your co-worker when they offer homeopathic pills to soothe a headache? (my business partner is an exceptional, skeptical woman, so I don’t have this issue.) How do you handle being faithless if you come from a faithful family of origin? Do you buy organic? Take vitamins? Those things fascinate me. I think the major skeptical issues of our day are certainly important, but I think real transformation of opinions can happen in a grass roots kind of way at this level.

A Skepchick3. Who would you want to slow dance with at an all skeptics prom and what song would you want to be playing?

Carl Sagan, but you know, back in the day when he was alive and turtleneck-wearing. If this fictitious skeptical high school where the prom is really existed, we’d all recite the words from Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot each morning in homeroom, like the Pledge of Reality Allegiance. And, probably would like to dance to Beth by old-school Kiss. Rawk.

4. You have enough argyle polyester fabric to dress one skeptic. Who is it and what outfit is s/he wearing?

Duh, George Hrab, wearing only a bow tie and an interrobang. Because only Geo could pull off argyle polyester and make it the hotness. We all know this to be true.

5. Would you rather make out with Ben Stein or eat a molten chocolate cake dipped in chocolate fondue?A Kovacs

Surprisingly, the chocolate on chocolate option is the one for me. I’m not a fan of chocolate by any stretch, but know I like the way chocolate tastes more than how old men smell.

6. Who would you bet on in a fight- Headset Vince or Sparkle Ed?

Headset Vince- easy. Even with that headset on, he floats like a butterfly. He’s got the moves when he’s in the groove. And if you act right now, he might even sting like a bee.

7. Would you recommend Viagra for erectile dysfunction?

Although I am not qualified to recommend any medical treatment, I know Viagra helps lots of folks with genuine sexual health concerns. But more than that, I love that we live in a world that concerns itself with quality-of-life problems in addition to quantity-of-life concerns. Erectile dysfunction never killed anyone, but fixing it sure makes lots of folks happy. And I’m endlessly proud of having been some small part of that process.

AB Kovacs8. Who would you rather spend all day with- Sylvia Browne or Jenny McCarthy?

Jenny McCarthy, provided she was still in touch with Chris Hardwick, who was her co-host back in the Singled Out days. Chris Hardwick is dreamy, funny, skeptical and half of the exceedingly amusing and talented Hard n’ Phirm. I saw him perform at the Improv last year, and he came on stage wearing a “Stephen Hawking is my homeboy” tee shirt. Also, he can recite pi to an impossibly large number of decimal places. Plus he’s awfully polite, and friends with the ever-dreamier Wil Wheaton. Wait, what were we talking about? Oh, right, Chris Hardwick…

9. What one skeptical topic do you wish there was evidence for?

I wish ghosts were real, no question. I miss my Nana every day, and I’d love to still have her around.

10. When we live on our own private Skepchick island, who would you recommend as a cabana boy?A B Kovacs

Assuming this is a senior position, I’d recommend my friend Lee Oeth (@Lee_Oeth on Twitter), who’s the resident skeptic on the 347steps (www.347steps.com) podcast. He’s suave, charming, and makes a killer mixed drink. These are essential ingredients for a successful life on the islands. He’s also wicked smart, and no doubt has a great hat and extra sunblock for protection from the damaging rays of the endless Skepchick sun.

11. Why do you think skeptics are great?

They’re human. Flawed, ingenious, resourceful, hopefully merciful humans. At least most of them.

This was SO much fun! I had a great time spending the afternoon with A and I hope the interview helped you to get to know her a bit better. I plan on interviewing and photographing a new Skepchick every few months so if you have any questions you wish I would ask a Skepchick in the future please let me know in the comments below.

A special shout-out to Elyse for her question contributions!

This has been the first installment of Get to Know Your Skepchick hope you enjoyed!

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics. She is the fearless leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+. Tip Jar is here.

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35 Comments

  1. I dealt with A a little in putting together this current skepdude calendar (Mr. December, if you can’t tell), and I met her at Tam5.5 and last year’s Dragon*Con. So I can verify that A does indeed stand for awesome.

    Also,I’d like to second Elyse’s RAWR.

  2. well aside from the focus on skepdudes we find HAWT (and really how can we stop thinking about them?) it was a lot of fun!!!

    But my favorite answer is the Viagra one. It wasn’t funny, it was touching, and it made me think …and in the end agree with her. A society that can worry about acne and erectile disfunction and hair loss is a society that is very lucky indeed.

  3. @snarp:
    Organic food and vitamin supplements are not as batshit-crazy as homeopathy but there are a lot of common misconceptions associated with both products.

    Basically, organic food is no better or worse than traditionally grown food, it’s just more expensive because of smaller crop yields. Here is a skepchick post by Tracy that you might be interested in that touches on organic food: http://skepchick.org/blog/?p=1191

    As for vitamins, unless you have a specific condition that requires vitamin supplements as recommended by your doctor (scurvy for example) and if you eat a normal diet, odds are you really don’t need any extra vitamins. In some cases vitamin supplements can be dangerous (you can overdose by ingesting toxic levels of certain vitamins) and at the very least most supplements are a huge waste of money.

    @Sam Ogden: I’m seeing flying monkeys now!

  4. @Amy: Sorry if this is too off topic, but saying organic is no better because it has equal nutritional content is missing the main point of organic food. I for one prefer to buy organic when possible first to avoid any potential environmental impacts of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, second to avoid the impacts on the health of the people who use those pesticides and fertilizers, and third to limit the amount of those pesticides and fertilizers that make it into my stomach. As for parents making healthy choices, obviously choosing fruits and vegetables is important, but the organic label is rarely applied to say, big macs or snickers bars. Buying organic usually implies buying fruits and vegetables. As for vitamins, I go back and forth on this. We have to ask what a “normal” diet is, and how many people actually eat one. In the case of my son, I can hardly get him to eat a vegetable, so it seems like a good idea to give him children’s vitamins to ensure he gets those nutrients.

  5. @snarp:

    Organic vs inorganic, like Amy said, and vitamins are not TOTAL BS… but your motivations behind them might be based on total BS. Which makes it an interesting conversation to have with skeptics.

    And while vitamins for someone who is vitamin deficient are a good thing, most people do not need them. It really has nothing to do with a subjective “normal” diet, but rather whether you are getting the nutrients you need. If you son is not eating any vegetables at all, then it probably is in his best interest to take something… my son doesn’t like to eat much at all, so I give him a daily vitamin.

    The problem with vitamins is that taking too much of a given one can have serious adverse effects not to mention that vitamins are not regulated… so what you think you are getting might not be what you’re getting.

  6. The biggest benefit of organic food is the feeling that we are in some way doing something good. We aren’t but it can make you feel like you are. Vitamins are mainly passed in the urine so they don’t do you much harm except for the ones that build up in your fat and can make your sick or dead. If you aren’t experiencing any health problems caused by a lack of vitamins or your doctor doesn’t think you need vitamins you should probably just save your money.

  7. Funny, my Dr. put me on a supplement and a woo-believing friend tried to convince me that vitamin supplements are the great “panacea of all” because a simple mineral so impacted my life. I take magnesium glycinate to combat a lifelong problem with night terrors. Works rather well. If I run out or forget to take them, the night terrors return within a few nights.

    My friend never could get the key concepts in my case: doctor, bloodtest, deficiency, continued monitoring, etc. I think she’s just upset that I don’t see dead people every night. I knew they were hallucinations, but she thought I had “the gift.”

  8. @snarp: I can’t bring myself to buy organic foods. I can’t bring myself to be concerned about the fertilizers and pesticides, as organic foods involve fertilizers crawling with a myriad of nasty bacteria that can and will give you food poisoning or worse, while synthetic fertilizers and pesticides alike tend to have very short half-lives in the human body, meaning that you’d have to ingest a sizable amount of them to even notice an effect on your health.

    Not to mention any “non-organic” food I buy, I wash thoroughly before ingesting, which is enough to remove any discernible amount of fertilizer or pesticide left on it.

    I guess I’m mildly concerned about the impact on the environment by the fertilizers and pesticides used, but, I’d rather support finding *better* pesticides and fertilizers than cutting them out entirely. Not to mention that I do have to put humans first ultimately, as shifting away from the “non-organic” foods mean less crop yields and less people get fed.

  9. @bug_girl:
    Aren’t there other nasty parasites ,like worms,that can be obtained from eating fecally contaminated stuff? I was only half watching a show a few weeks ago about a kid who they suspected ate dirt that had raccoon dropping contamination. He had some parasite that got into his brain I believe. I think it was a roundworm , I can’t remember they had several different cases in the episode and I may be confusing them. Anyway I’m pretty sure they said it was common in raccoons. There are raccoons that come around here every night. I feed the birds and forget suet, they will get the whole block one way or another. My neighbor has a garden and occasionally gives me stuff. I’ve seen the raccoons rooting around in there. After seeing the show I don’t know if I want any of that stuff.

  10. sorry Amy and A.Real.Girl for turning this into a thread about organic food. I want to set a couple of things straight. First, organic food is no more likely to have bacteria than food produced with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Composted manure in the soil is not going to infect your tomatoes, it’s untreated sewage and runoff from animal waste ponds that are more likely to infect your produce. Or, in at least one case apparently, birds that fly into a factory and poop in the peanut butter. Second, it’s important to remember that the “green revolution” (not the one in Iran) that increased crop yields dramatically occurred before the advent of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It involved irrigation, mechanical plowing, and other techniques. I don’t think we need to worry about feeding everyone as long as we’re getting fat and throwing. It’s not likely the lack of genetically modified seeds or chemical fertilizers that are causing starvation elsewhere in the world. Many of these people are still practicing hand agriculture. Improving techniques and investing in infastructure and farm equipment could to more to end world hunger than shipping out round up ready corn and soybeans. OK, better get off my soap box now.

  11. @JOHNEA13:
    There’s a difference between fecal contamination of [fill in just about anything here] and soil, in its natural state.

    Contamination is common, which is why you wash food, if possible, before eating it. In most places in the US, it is not safe to drink from any open water source because of fecal contamination. That is because we don’t do a good job of maintaining our natural systems which filter shit out (literally), rather than an inherent danger.

    Racoon roundworms are rare–unless you are a kid eating poop dirt, or a hunter, you are unlikely to be at risk. You have to both touch the contaminated stuff and then stick your fingers in your mouth.
    http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dpd/parasites/baylisascaris/factsht_baylisascaris.htm

    Of course, these worms can go through your skin…so wear shoes :)
    http://membracid.wordpress.com/2008/04/09/ask-an-entomologist-larva-migrans/

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