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Comment o’ the Week and Upcoming Events!

It’s Friday once again, and my have we had an exciting week. Reports from Las Vegas, a new Teen Skepchick site in the works, possibly a new TV show, and on a sad note, we lost George Carlin, a true heathen hero. Speaking of comedians, there were a ton of comments this week that made me laugh (and let’s be honest, that’s the main criteria for winning COTW). I’ll get to the winner in a second, but first I want to mention a few upcoming events that you should keep on your radar. See the Skepchick Events Calendar for more details.

Pittsburgh: Your first Drinking Skeptically is tonight! Have a good time, let me know how it goes.

New York City: Whoops, apparently none of those NYC Skeptics bastards sent this in to be on the Skepchick Events Calendar, but Facebook just told me that tomorrow is their big summer picnic!

Boston: Hallelujah the Hills is one of my favorite local bands, and they’re playing Sunday at Great Scott in Allston. I’m going to try to make it and I want to encourage others to check them out, not just because they rock so hard but also because they were kind enough to allow me to use their music on Curiosity Aroused (RIP).

Atlanta: You lucky dogs! Not only do you have a ton of great events coming up (Skeptics in the Pub July 12, the gorgeous Lori Lipman Brown July 13), but you also have our own Masala_Skeptic there to chat with and adore. There’s a bunch of other Georgia stuff happening, so check out the calendar.

Washington, DC: Now this is something to get excited about: Atheist Days is going to be like Woodstock for nonbelievers. August 15 — 17, get ready to camp, hang out, party, and listen to great music with tons of other heathens. I told the organizers I’d help with this and I’ve done approximately nothing, for which I am deeply sorry. So go, buy your tickets! I’m hoping to make it, myself.

Also in DC, the biggest Anonymous vs. Scientology rally yet is happening there on July 19. Have you ever seen a thousand kids in Guy Fawkes masks rickrolling the National Mall? No? Well, now you know where to go.

Plenty of other events are happening throughout the summer, so go see if there’s one near you.

Okay, on to the COTW!

Improbable Bee nominated all the Porn Army jokes in this Quickie post, but there was one other comment this week that trumped them all:

Blake StaceyNo Gravatar // Jun 23, 2008 at 11:03 pm

I loathed everything about Vegas except for TAM and the sandwich I had at the Peppermill last night. It was an exorbitantly large sandwich, but I had missed lunch and was able to do it justice.

Next time, I’m going to have to bring hallucinogens and do TAM the gonzo way. We were watching Michael Shermer’s PowerPoint presentation when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying, “Holy Jesus, what are these goddamn text dumps,” and then the lecture hall was full of flying Pigasi, swooping and diving around the audience, and a voice was screaming, “We can’t stop here, this is Rand country!”


Congrats to Blake Stacey for an objectively hilarious comment. Blake, your prize is this: the next time we’re traveling together on a red-eye out of Vegas, I promise to actually speak to you out loud instead of using G-chat.

PS: Apparently this is the 1400th published Skepchick post. Hooray for pretty round numbers!

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Hallelujah the Hills (outside of Curiosity Aroused, of course), but that sounds like fun. I’ll probably go.

    The whole Rand Country aspect of TAM kinda bugged me. How could those people seriously applaud Penn’s comment about abolishing public schools when nearly all private schools are religious? I mean, yeah, my private high school was pretty great, good education, taught evolution in biology and everything. But my private elementary school did all their teaching out of fucking A Beka Books and had us memorising Bible verses for a grade and doing “sword drills” once a month.

    Fucking Randroids.

  2. You know, not all of us NYC Skeptics are bastards. I happen to know for a fact that Michael indeed knows who his father is!

    We promise to keep the skepchicks better informed about our goings-on in the future. For anyone making it out to the picnic, Skratch “the Skeptic Dog” will be making an appearance as well, so it is definitely an event not to miss.

  3. Okay, MWare, I guess you’re not ALL bastards. I’m really sad I’ll be missing the picnic — you know how much I love Skratch and will always cherish that beautiful night we spent together, spooning.

    And oh man how I wish your gravatar was animated.

  4. The whole Rand Country aspect of TAM kinda bugged me. How could those people seriously applaud Penn’s comment about abolishing public schools when nearly all private schools are religious?

    Not to take too many liberties, but I don’t think Penn meant to get rid of public schools and leave only the current set of private schools. I think he meant the education system would be stronger in a free market setting. Treat it like business. It would create competition, and the better schools would thrive while the crap schools would fade away.

    Having said that, I love the term “Randroids”.

  5. A-wha? Tonight of all nights is the first Drinking Skeptically in Pittsburgh? I guess I should have been watching the events calendar more closely. Of all the nights to be working…

  6. I wish I’d heard about the first Drinking Skeptically in Pittsburgh sooner. I’d like to go, but probably won’t be able to on such short notice.

  7. You people are killing me. Check the calendar! Ha. Once I have more time/energy, I’ll try to make it even easier on you all. I know a number of people have signed up for Skepchick email updates, so those will start going out with regional event info. Plus, we had talked about working event alerts into the Quickies, or possibly a very short Skepchick post every time the calendar is updated.

    That said, the calendar is being updated as often as possible thanks to the efforts of Masala_Skeptic, who documents every date that comes in via our contact form at the top of the page. Thanks, Masala_Skeptic!

  8. Sam, I appreciate your trying to be charitable, but these guys go for the straight libertarian dogma every time. Here’s a direct quote from another interview P&T did:

    If you could change one thing about education in America, what would it be?”

    Penn: No public schools!

    Pretty unambiguous. In the same interview, he says he wants to write a textbook called Learn Without School and Teller says that schooling shouldn’t be compulsory…

    As for the whole free market thing, there’s no reason to think that competition will make schools “better” in the sense of teaching kids things they need to know. More likely, it’ll just lead existing schools to pander to what rich donors think they should be teaching. (Tuition is not the only revenue source for private schools. Not by far.) It also assumes parents know what their kids ought to be learning and which schools teach those things most effectively, which isn’t necessarily true. (In fact, in the vast majority of cases, it probably isn’t.)

    Not saying that public schools are perfect (the Hawaii school system, which I avoided but my brother didn’t, in particular is a steaming turd of suck and fail), but at least they have some kind of accountability and a requirement (as enforced through decisions like Dover) to be at least nominally reality-based.

  9. I found it just a little weird when Penn Jillette said that we should abolish the public school system and make ’em all private and then turned around to complain about what Hearst did to commercialize, sensationalize and ruin the press. Little tree-huggers like me must have tofu clogging the part of our brains which could process the logic at work here.

    It also bugs me that, when giving his reasons not to be sympathetic to environmentalism, Penn complained about Al Gore. Never mind the fact that what matters is not the man who makes a documentary, but the evidence. It’s the ice cores, stupid. Both the magician and the politician are just cheerleaders for science.

    In his favor, he was pretty up-front about admitting he could have blind spots on political issues. I wouldn’t trust other celebrities to do the same.

  10. Yay! Pittsburgh is on the Drinking Skeptically map! Literally! There is a map and we’re on it!

    Okay I’m done geeking out. Now I will pimp out my group:

    That is our facebook group link:


    Date: Friday, June 27
    Time: 7:30 pm

    Come on down and help us plan a regular monthly event – be a part of starting one of Pittsburgh’s premier skeptics groups! And come have a beer!

    Email me: [email protected] if you want more info :)

    Hope you can come! If not, join the group and check back for more info.

    Other Pittsburgh stuffs:
    Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers

  11. Also in DC, the biggest Anonymous vs. Scientology rally yet is happening there on July 19. Have you ever seen a thousand kids in Guy Fawkes masks rickrolling the National Mall? No? Well, now you know where to go.

    I’ll be there, but where the hell do I get a Guy Falkes mask?

  12. If there’s one thing I will NOT tolerate at NYC Skeptics, it’s being bitched out by Rebecca. Rest assured, all our future events will be on the calendar…

  13. “I’ll be there, but where the hell do I get a Guy Falkes mask?”

    Re: Penn ‘n Teller

    I generally like the libertarian viewpoint; it isn’t anarchy; it’s just a fundamental belief that more regulation beyond a certain minimum isn’t beneficial.

    Going private would work, but you’d need some ground rules to verify kids are actually learning (as mentioned above, how do you measure success? particularly over the long feedback times)…and *not* the No Child Left Behind nonesense.

    Something along the lines of placement tests used to test out of/into college courses, but that feeds back a skill level rather than a letter grade or a pass/fail. I vaguely remember taking something called the Iowa Placement tests every year, which would determine the level of next year’s curriculum.

  14. Of course, you’re right. If you monitor the schools for quality and set a skeleton curriculum, you could probably make an all-private system work. But who would administer it? The government is the only entity with the resources to do so, and many libertarians (especially the Randroid types) won’t have anything to do with it unless somebody breaks into their house and steals their guns.

  15. Err…I think the characterization of libertarians is a little unfair, Joshua.

    I consider myself a libertarian, and yet I would nominate the government as the entity to to monitor quality. Keep in mind, libertarians are not for *no* government, they’re for *limited* government…as in, as much as we need, but no more.

    Government is a social construct to help individuals and groups get along well together. *We* (in a libertarian world) build the government; the government (again, in a libertarian world) does not build us.

  16. Re: P & T and Schools. Did anyone actaully learn anything at Secondary school?

    No, seriously think about it. I’m not suggesting that you didn’t learn anything from the age of 11, far from it, but rather anything you did learn was probably picked up from TV (or something on TV lead you to look something up in the local library)

    Most of the “everyday” stuff, reading, writing, practicle maths, you already knew at 11 when you left primary school.

    You can’t make kids learn. If they want to know stuff they’ll find out on their own.

    Fact is, secondary school is just a holding pen for teenagers until they get to 16 when they either go to college or get an aprenticeship (and to be frank college is just a different type of aprenticeship)

    In the UK even the Calculus isn’t touched upon until post-16 AND the students need only passing grades in the subjects they wish to study to get into uni, e.g. many many MANY students drop maths at 16 and never do another sum again, but easily go on to get 1st class ‘Arts’ degrees.

    Having seen two 21yo English students spend 20min trying to work out how to divide 75p by 3 people, I can’t help but wonder if we should make some courses compulsory to get a degree

  17. What the hell doesn’t anyone West of the Mississippi, particularly in California do anything fun? Why should all the East Coasters have all the fun?

  18. Oh and lets not forget the Cadet Corp. Anyone old enough who went to a “Good” School in the UK will have suffered 5 (or more) years of practising to be a soldier.

    5 years of f*cking marching in the rain, walking in the rain, sleeping outside in the rain, being shouted at in the rain, crawling through mud in the rain, being made to strip naked and stand in line while being perv’d at by “Leaders” in the rain and church f*cking parade (and it usually rained in through the B*stard roof)

    And now Brown et al want to role it out to all the schools. Really useful stuff, all that soldiering practice, (it’s all sold as camping, hiking, map reading, survival skills) why you’d be virtually trained up by the time you’re 18.

  19. Damn you and your easy answers! Well I guess I first would have to find out how many people in the Southern California area would be interested, and then from there a meeting place. I guess we could decide what kind of sacrifice is to be made on the actually date… It could work! Anyone interested?

  20. teambanzai, I have no doubt that many people would be interested! Are you anywhere near San Diego? If so, I think we might have some Skepchick news on that front in the next few days . . .

  21. Did anyone actaully learn anything at Secondary school?

    I did not actually learn calculus in any meaningful sense until I took the AP class on the subject and was thereby forced to work through the problems. Upon occasion, as the girl says in American Beauty, “I too need structure and fucking discipline.” I certainly benefitted greatly from stuff I read outside of school, and perhaps half my high-school math classes were wasted time — I’m pretty sure I could have learned as much or more in two years instead of four — but anybody with a pet proposal for fixing the schools is going to have to prove to me that it will actually solve that problem.

    If one defines “libertarianism” sufficiently broadly, it encompasses Jeffersonian democracy, Lockean government and the Enlightenment tradition of classical liberalism. I don’t see the point in playing that game. What matters to me is that (a) some people who self-identify as libertarian consistently propose loopy ideas which they attribute to their ideology, and (b) their party lets ideology come before reason.

    The following is an honest, non-rhetorical question: did Penn, Teller or Shermer complain about the 2008 Libertarian National Convention inviting Richard “face on Mars” Hoagland to talk about his lunatic conspiracy theories? YA RLY. That’s what I call, “Your anti-government bile has filled up your head and shut off your critical-thinking faculties,” or in Lewis Black’s terms, stone cold fuck nuts.

  22. “What matters to me is that (a) some people who self-identify as libertarian consistently propose loopy ideas which they attribute to their ideology, and (b) their party lets ideology come before reason.”

    Ding ding ding! Gotta agree there. I think, though, you can replace “libertarian” with pretty much any ideology.

    How many thinking people who self-identify with *any* particular ideology actually believe in every particular aspect of it? Or even agree on the definition of that ideology? I don’t mean people in general, I’m referring to people in this forum…we’re skeptics at heart, or we wouldn’t be here.

    “but anybody with a pet proposal for fixing the schools is going to have to prove to me that it will actually solve that problem.”

    Again, agree here. This is a “do teh maths before yah buildz it”.

  23. Hey, guys, would you like me to post a Penn/libertarian/education related entry on the main page, so we don’t bog down this thread and so we can get others in on the discussion? Or is it playing out?

  24. No worries. My suggestion was more so folks who may not be reading this thread could join in an interesting discussion. I don’t think Rebecca minds the OT comments, but if there’s a chance to get more people talking, we can post a main entry.

    But if the discussion is played out, I’ll hold off.

  25. Michael: Thanks. It might takes some planning, since the BART is not running late because of the fire a while back, but I’ll see what I can do.

    I wonder how I missed that?

  26. You guys? *sniff* Don’t read the calendar?



    Seriously, though, read the freakin calendar. And also, keep those submissions coming!

  27. Hhm, I think I will stay away from libertarianism/P&T/public schools topic because I don’t think I could stop at less than 500 words. I don’t want to devote the time to write on that, and I don’t think many want to read it.

    What I did want to ask is what Rebecca meant when she said she helps start Skeptics at the Pub groups. I was thinking of starting this here in Chambana. One of my grad students is definitely interested and has friends who would be interested. I certainly find it no problem to get people to go to the pub, but I am not sure how to make it at all related to skepticism.

  28. Cygore:

    There should be soon. June got cancelled because the only weekend I could put anything together happened to be when my husband came down with shingles (which for some reason I thought was a disease only pirates got). I felt bad leaving him to go drinking.

    I was going to post something next week to see if people will be around to do something in July.

  29. Cygore & Elyse:

    You both from IL? I didn’t realize any SkepChicks were around here. I grew up in Rockford, live in Champaign-Urbana now.

    BTW, were you thinking of scurvy Elyse?

    Lastly, I have to say your pic was my fav in the calendar and I was looking for you to sign it at TAM. Not that it would have mattered anyway. Let’s just say my wife was much less of a fan of the calendar. :-)

  30. SkepGeek:

    Thank you :)

    I’m from the suburbs. I’ve been trying to get a Chicago meet-up together every month. It would certainly not suck if you were able to make your way up here! If you bring your calendar, I’d be happy to sign it for you, too. If you bring your wife, you could get her a SkepDude calendar and maybe Hemant could sign hers. Then you’ll be even.

    As for the shingles, I didn’t get them confused with scurvy. I thought scurvy, shingles, cholera and dysentery all traveled together with pirates and pilgrims.

  31. Elyse:

    It would certainly be great to come up and meet some of the Chicago area skeptics, though I wouldn’t make it every month (2 small children = limited time, fuel costs = limited money).

    As for the calendar, I had better just give it to a friend. I made the mistake of being to rational and neglecting the fact that feelings need not be rational. I figured that since it was tasteful and no one was exploited, my wife would not mind. She agreed with those facts, but said she did not like the idea of me “looking at other women”. I quipped back with out too much thought by saying, “We haven’t been together for 13 years and have 2 children because I have never looked at an attractive woman.” :-) Anyway, I realized afterwards that it is really just a self-esteem issue which is really sad to me. She is a sweet and beautiful woman, and I hope I have not contributed to her self-esteem issues. Anyway, I need to be sensitive to them.

  32. Hey, guys, would you like me to post a Penn/libertarian/education related entry on the main page, so we don’t bog down this thread and so we can get others in on the discussion? Or is it playing out?

    Probably a good idea. As you said, there might be folks interested in that discussion who aren’t reading this thread. And I also think it’s something important to talk about, since the libertarian wing of the skeptical movement clearly isn’t going away. So we should probably have these discussions in the hopes of finding common ground on these sorts of topics where ravingly liberal skeptics such as I think libertarians are a bit loopy.

    I think if we do have that thread, the discussion should be opened up to include Shermer’s bit about liberalism (he never said the word, but it was plainly obvious that’s what he meant) as a logical fallacy, as well.

  33. russelsugden

    Re: P & T and Schools. Did anyone actaully learn anything at Secondary school?

    Are you for real?
    The failure of the American educational system is not due to government control. Some governments have a lot more control over their school system, and they seem to be able to teach students a lot more. I think the problem with American schools is parental control.


  34. Because, you know, when the kids are copying the answers to their English test from the foreign exchange student whose native language is NOT English, that’s a clear sign that something is very, very rotten with the curriculum.
    And then I can understand questions like “did you actually learn anything in school“. But to blame the government for that is just ignorant.

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