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Things to do …

Well, summer’s officially over. Even here in the South, the weather is cooling and the leaves are starting to turn. The season we call ‘Football’ has officially begun. And, if you’re like me, you find yourself looking at it all and feeling an overwhelming sense of… boredom.

Fall is the season of change and death and I think it’s natural to get a little depressed in the fall. In addition, as the weather gets colder, your outdoor options become more limited in many places in the Northern Hemisphere. (Curse you and your ‘SPRING’ Australia!)

As you may know, I maintain the events calendar on Skepchick. (Got an event coming up? Submit the bugger!) So, I thought I would take on the task of providing you Five Fun and Skeptical things to do to Combat Boredom this Fall.  Look for them, after the fold.

  1. Attend a skeptical event! Oh come on, you knew I wasn’t done with the plug…  Seriously though, the events calendar is full of awesome stuff going on around the country and indeed the world.  Just this week, I added a new Skeptics in the Pub startup for Calgary, Alberta and a meetup at the new California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.  And there’s lots more. Check out the calendar or to get the scoop, then get out there and meet some fellow skeptics. And, New Yorkers, you lucky lucky bastards… Randi himself is going to be at the next NYC skeptics talk, plus you don’t want to miss the live SGU event in Connecticut in a couple of weeks. Dammit, why don’t I live in New York again? Oh yeah, because I like being able to pay rent…
  2. Ok, so you’ve been to the calendar and realized that you live in a black hole of skepticism and there are no events in your area.  What to do? Don’t just sit alone in your apartment, hiding from the Mormons pounding at your door and drinking colloidal silver! Start one up! Here’s a quick primer on how to start Skeptics in the Pub:
    1. Find a pub
    2. Pick a date
    3. Tell people
    4. Show up
  3. Seriously, it’s that easy.  We started Skeptics in the Pub almost a year ago and we had about 8 people show up (6 of whom were friends of mine that I dragged there).  The past two events we had, we completely filled up the room and are out of space.  In November, we’re moving to a room twice the size.  And we really didn’t do much to kick start it.  Give it a shot. You’d be surprised.  Oh, and if you don’t drink?  Don’t do it in a pub.  We have groups meeting for coffee, in parks, at museums and restaurants.  Teatotalling is not an excuse.

  4. Volunteer.  One of my pet peeves is when I hear non-skeptics and theists talk about all the good that theistic organizations do. Secular organizations and skeptics do lots of volunteer work but often it isn’t heard.  Stay tuned for more on that topic in the upcoming months (It’s a REALLY big pet peeve of mine) but for now – go do some good.  There are billions of organziations looking for people to help – walks, runs, fun events where you can meet people and maybe show that skeptics aren’t self-involved cynics who want to harsh the world’s mellow.  Look around – there are plenty of opportunities in your area.
  5. Find science! Visit a museum, science center or planetarium. Check out the programs in your area. Go learn something new about the world around you. If that doesn’t refresh you and give you a new perspective, nothing will. 
  6. Stay home, watch TV. Yes, believe it or not, I am giving you an excuse to watch TV.  There are a few fun skeptical shows out there and a lot of them are starting up for the new season.  Of course, Mythbusters can’t be beat but there are other, fiction shows that display quite a lot of skepticism and science.  Among my favorites: The Big Bang Theory, Psych and How I Met Your Mother (check out last season’s finale where one of the characters refuses to believe in miracles).  And starting up TONIGHT on CBS is The Mentalist – a drama about a man who used to pretend to be a psychic but now uses his extremely keen powers of observation to help the police legitamately.  I just watched the series premiere and I have high hopes for it. And not just because Simon Baker is 6 kinds of hot. Oh, and if you have kids, check out Sid the Science Kid – the new Henson show on PBCS.  Hmm… I just realized that three of those shows are on CBS.  Could the Survivor network be positioning itself as the Skeptical Network?  Nah…

I sometimes find myself stuck on the Internet, reading the same things and hearing the same arguments and getting annoyed about the same stuff over and over.  It’s exhausting and the only solution is to tease my mind with a new challenge and activity.  And so I give this challenge to you all – go forth and learn. Meet people, look at stuff, enjoy the world around you.

And, if you have other suggestions for things to do – share them in the comments so others can do the same!


Maria D'Souza grew up in different countries around the world, including Hong Kong, Trinidad, and Kenya and it shows. She currently lives in the Bay Area and has an unhealthy affection for science fiction, Neil Gaiman and all things Muppet.

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  1. Depressing? Autumn? Really?!?

    Autumn has always been my absolute favorite season.

    …Probably because of the associations I have with school starting. New ideas, new people… a veritable cornucopia of ideas!

    Oh my. Did I just say that?

  2. So..the Mentalist is just Psych when Shawn and Gus grow up?

    and I have to agree with JRice fall is awesome, pretty colors, pretty scarves and sweaters, all the wimpy tourists get off the trails and campsites, and Halloween!

    I can cannot get behind the start of school though. A woman needs to have principles.

  3. Yea, Fall is my favorite season. I love the weather and Apple Cider and starting to have fires, and Fall Sweeps. But yea it got could instantly over here in Asheville, NC, last Friday it just suddenly got colder and its been pretty constant since.

  4. What is this nonsense. Fall is when I really start feeling the most happy and energetic. Without the constant heat and humidity bearing down on me, it is actually comfortable to go outside. The decreased moisture in the air means the skies are clearer and brighter, and the sunlight no longer has that ugly milky coloration. There are more photographic opportunities in the fall than in the summer. The cool crispness of the fall air really perks me up, and puts me in a good mood all day. Summer is oppressive and usually depressing. Fall rocks!

  5. Yep, I think I’m one of those people whose SAD kicks in sometime in April and only begins to fade in mid-September.

  6. Ride your bike in the woods & stay out past dusk.
    Apple Cider w/ an ABV of 10%.

    Not necessarily in that order.

  7. fall is the best season +1. also science minded skeptics might also enjoy Eureka! on Sci-Fi. The only TV show I watch and i feel like the 45 min. investment every week is always worth it. they have all the old episodes on Unbox too.

  8. When I lived up north, Fall could be depressing because it meant that summer was ending, school was starting, and winter was coming.

    Now that I live in Florida, it symbolizes the end of hurricane season, the beginning of nicer weather, and the holidays.

    So now I love it.

  9. You people are nuts. Fall is when:

    — it starts to get cold, so the roaches and spiders move back indoors

    — school starts up and traffic sucks while everyone gets settled into the driving patterns

    — I have to put on more than a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops to walk the dogs

    — the dogs roll around in leaves and pine straw, getting covered in pee, poo, and slugs

    — the interesting movies are mostly finished until Christmas

    New Englanders are brainwashed to love fall because of the leaves changing color. From here, it’s just a symbol for a slow slide into wintry death.

    But “The Mentalist” wasn’t half bad last night.

  10. I love fall. The weather is finally cool enough to go outside without fear of bursting into flames. The air is less likely to kill you. Halloween. Hiking. Biking. Running. Hot spiced cider. Mulled wine. Hot buttered rum. Fires. Fire, Fire. Good movies finally start to show up again. Fall rocks.

  11. Count me in as another one glad to be done with heat and humidty. The weather has been gorgeous here, lately, with lots of sun and cool breezes.

    But I do hate the shorter days. I’m going to weep profusely when daylight savings ends and it’s dark when I get out of work.

    Will be testing out pubs this weekend for a Skepchick meetup in my area.

  12. I love fall. Hiking, Biking, Camping. I can sit out on the deck without bug spray to keep away the mosquitos. Fall maybe the best time to go Camping.

  13. Our winters are your falls, guys! We won’t really feel any significant cooling until late October/early November. Last year it was more like mid-November. It was still way too hot last Halloween.

    Winter! Winter! Winter!

  14. I started this comment this morning and then lost it in the innertubes. Then @phlebas covered a lot of my points. And I got tied up with that stupid work thing. But here’s an abbreviated version.

    Ah, I see you have all fallen into the cultural brainwashing to resolve the cognitive dissonance around this evil season. See, I grew up mostly in tropical countries so I never had to hear all the excuses for fall. Here’s the harsh truth IF YOU’RE WILLING TO HEAR IT:

    1. Everyone talks about the wonderful fall weather. Bullshit. Do you know what ‘crisp’ means? It means COLD. Fall is winter disguised as spring. You think it’s gorgeous, not too hot, not too cold, the sun is shining. And just when you get comfortable… WHAM. A nasty chill breeze that leaves you pissed off, outside without a jacket. You can’t wear shorts or sandals outside anymore. You want nice weather? Check out spring. All the warm, none of the evil north wind.

    2. Fall colors. Now I’m the first to admit that being in an area where the leaves change is very beautiful. Until you realize it’s just the final death throes of the world around you. And you’re in for barren, cold, desolate winter. (On an odd side note, I think I actually like trees in the winter the best – I love seeing the shape of bare trees when all the leaves are gone. It’s like their inner selves are being exposed. We should all have a season where we are forced to show the world what we are really like underneath.) But fall – that’s all distraction and camouflage to stop you from realizing it’s really just all dying for the year. And again, spring kicks fall’s ass when it comes to colors.

    3. School starting – now I know that for a lot of you, that’s a good thing. I don’t have kids so all it means for me is traffic. @phlebas covered this already but when school starts, my 30 minute drive turns into a 50 minute drive, if I’m lucky. On a bad day, it’s an hour and a half.

    Oh, don’t get me wrong – there are some nice things about fall – ya’ll have mentioned several. I love Halloween and apple cider. But those things are just ways to COPE. That’s right, I said it. CANDY CORN IS A CRUTCH. Don’t believe the fall propaganda, people. It’s a season of DOOM! DOOM I TELL YOU…

    Ok, maybe I had a bit too much coffee this morning. BECAUSE IT’S COLD OUT! SEE HOW THAT WORKS?!

    Bah. Anyway, this thread has cheered me up immensely. Eureka! Blood drives! Good stuff! Tell me about more stuff you’re doing this fall to pretend you’re enjoying this hideous excuse for a time of year…

  15. I like the cold weather. I regularly go out in the snow barefoot and shirtless to start the car and let it warm up. I have gone out in snow storms naked and reveled in the sheer joy of seeing steam come up off my skin.

  16. I love fall. Oh, how I love fall. The air finally has a wee bit of humidity (less nosebleeds! Yay!), the beautiful colors of the leaves, daughter goes back to school (W00T!), busting out the wool for spinning, my birthday…

    And after almost 20 years, I’ve gotten used to football season. I don’t like it, but I’m used to it.

    I saw The Mentalist last night and really liked it. Even the ultra-straight Spousal Unit said he thought that Simon Baker was a good looking guy. And it was nice, for a change, to see at least a little skepticism on network TV.

  17. Yesterday it was cold enough that I made chicken and dumplings for dinner. This weekend I might do some baking. Pumpkin bread or maybe a cherry pie. It is finally cool enough that I can bake and not make the house unbearable. I can cover the grill finally.

  18. I’m actually on board the Candy Corn Love Train. I don’t know why — they taste like raw sugar and have the consistency of dry pudding skin. But I could eat them with a ladle.

    For truly evil food, you have to turn to spring and the Marshmallow Peep. This is another infraction against humanity I drop at the feet of the Christians and their Easter. (Next time I see my fundy brother, I must remember to say “If Peeps are the price we pay for the resurrection, Jesus should have stayed dead.”)

    I love my football, despite the LSU game last weekend. But besides that, fall is pretty sucktacular.

  19. @Masala Skeptic: *grin* Since it’s going to be 104 today, I think I have a right to gloat about our fabulous winter weather. LOL! And hey, if I want to see snow, I can just drive to Flagstaff, which is less than 3 hours away!

    AND BOO FOOTBALL. OMG. I am already sick of it. I WANT MY BASEBALL BACK. :( lol

  20. @Phlebas

    it starts to get cold, so the roaches and spiders move back indoors

    What are you on about now? Fall and winter is when bugs dies off. I have significantly less insects entering my house during the colder months than during the summer.

    school starts up and traffic sucks while everyone gets settled into the driving patterns

    Well, I can give you that one.

    I have to put on more than a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops to walk the dogs

    When it gets cold, you can always put more clothes on, but when it is hot, you can never take all of your clothes off…


    Everyone talks about the wonderful fall weather. Bullshit. Do you know what ‘crisp’ means? It means COLD. Fall is winter disguised as spring. You think it’s gorgeous, not too hot, not too cold, the sun is shining. And just when you get comfortable… WHAM. A nasty chill breeze that leaves you pissed off, outside without a jacket.

    I know, isn’t it great? There’s nothing like a good blast of the cold north wind. It makes me want to stop what I’m doing and spread my arms out, so as to take the blast full-on.

    Also, the “desolation” of winter is beautiful. Some of my best photographs were taken during the winter.

  21. I will admit that I’m looking forward to making (and eating) my infamous potato soup… but you people who ‘love the cold’ are just nuts. That concept is entirely alien to me. I hate hate hate the cold. I’ll admit snow is pretty right after it falls and you can have fun in a big snowfall. But after that, it gets slushy and yucky and slippery and dangerous. Or, if you’re in Georgia, it shuts down the entire city with 1 inch, panics everyone and turns to ice storms which cause even more traffic problems.

    Also, can I nominate my own husband for COTW for “If Peeps are the price we pay for the resurrection, Jesus should have stayed dead.”? :)

    I don’t actually hate peeps. And I like candy corn and black jelly beans. But then, I’m a sugar addict. :)

  22. @Amanda: Sure. I love feeding people. And I prefer the type of cooking I get to do in colder weather. My kids are all excited that this Saturday brings the first clam chowder of the season.

    @Masala Skeptic: peeps and candy corn are disgusting affronts to humanity.

  23. …but you people who ‘love the cold’ are just nuts.

    Then color me a very content lunatic.

    The cold is great in and of itself, but it’s winter weather in general that makes it so pleasing. The perpetual overcast and *stillness* in the air never fail to make me happy. We don’t get much snow here in Texas (or my area thereof), but freezing rain/sleet is even better, so that works out nicely.

    Not to mention that, come winter, I have 3/4ths of a year before I have to clean up the goddamn leaves again.

  24. @Elyse: C0ld enough. We don’t get snow but we get ice storms and it gets down to the 20s on a bad year. I’ll admit that’s nowhere near as bad as it can get up north but that’s why I left the north :)

    And anyone who likes freezing rain/sleet is just batguano insane.

  25. @Elyse:

    Cold in Atlanta = being able to see your own breath

    I don’t expect people north of here to relate. We get more pollen every year than we do snow, if you’re counting accumulated inches. Shit, last year we got more pollen than we got rain, Gov. Perdue’s prayers notwithstanding.

    But if you’re someone who loves chilly weather, you are probably not going to think “let’s move to Atlanta.” Mild weather was why I escaped my ice-bound hometown of Huntsville, Alabama :)


    I don’t know where you live, but I think our bugs have a different cycle than yours. It doesn’t get cold enough here to kill a roach, except for the deepest January freeze (normally Jan 18th from 2:30-3:15am). So they skitter indoors starting (by my estimate) about three weeks ago.

    Once they get in, they die soon. If there’s one thing Southerners know how to do, it’s kill things. If I see them before the chemicals take care of them, then I mentally put on a spaghetti western soundtrack and bring swift, rubber-soled justice.

    Oh, and if Masala and I ever split up, you guys remember: she said she liked Peeps.

  26. @Stacey:

    I understand about the end of hurricane season. The end of spring wraps up tornado season, which is a much bigger concern. (Or it used to be before hurricanes meant gas lines around here.)

    Where’s Tina? She can back me up. Colder weather = less satisfying SCUBA.

  27. Okay, since this thread has completely derailed, here are the reasons why fall is THE BEST (in New England):

    1. My birthday is October 18
    2. Perfect biking weather
    3. The scenery gets 5x prettier
    4. FOOTBALL!
    5. Sun
    6. That autumny smell
    7. Cold mornings in bed
    8. Pumpkin muffins
    9. Pumpkin soup
    10. Pumpkin scones
    11. Apple cider
    12. Pumpkin pancakes
    13. Pumpkin pizza
    14. Pumpkin ice cream
    15. Okay, everything else pumpkin. Let’s face it, it’s the best food item nature gives us.
    16. My birthday, again.

  28. @Gabrielbrawley: Yeah, I do the same thing… except regularly going out in the snow around here means once every five to ten years. I miss the snow something fierce…

    @Elyse: In fairness – you guys get a death toll when the temperature hits the triple-digit mark. We’re better adapted to our local weather conditions down here, I think. As I’ve said to many a Chicagoan in my life: Texas would kill you.

  29. …also, pumpkin pie is the greatest food ever devised by nature, and you can pretty much only get it Oct-Dec, so that’s a pretty big selling point for the end of the year in my book.

  30. @Gabrielbrawley:

    Oh Pumpkin Pizza and pumpkin pasta are devine!

    Come to my house and I’ll cook them for you!

    Then we’ll drink gin ’til the cows come home (which is like never because I live in the suburbs)


    I concede every one of your points except #2- I have no bike- and #4- I really hate football.

    I will replace #4 with playoff baseball. That’s when the real magic of baseball comes out… and in Chicago it’s an amazing feeling.

  31. @Rystefn: Man, you should see people who come to my home town to visit, mostly snowbirds and those looking to play on Lake Havasu or the Colorado River. SO many people fail to realize just how hot it gets. Then they go floating down the river when it’s 120+ out, with no clouds, and all the bring is beer. Then they get sent via helicopter to the hospital.


  32. @Elyse et al: What’s with all the football hate going on here! I like baseball as much as the next girl, but football’s where it’s at. Are you all saying you wouldn’t come cheer me on at my weekly flag football game??

    @Gabrielbrawley: Just a tinge of sweetness. Highly recommended that you pick up pumpkin ravioli, as that’s a bit easier to find than pumpkin pizza. Last year I made my own mini-pumpkin pizzas using English muffins, canned pumpkin, and pools of gruyere cheese. Nyum!

  33. I’ve seen a great of that sort of thing, both here, and during the year I lived in Arizona (I insist that the heat is so dry there and so damp here that the hottest day I encountered in Mesa felt like April does in Houston).

    The lack of respect so many people have for heat boggles my mind. You can literally cook eggs on the sidewalk here some days. If you’re not prepared for it, you can get mangled bad.

  34. @Rebecca: That does sound pretty good. All this talk of pumpkin has decided it for me. I’m baking a pumpkin pie this weekend. The last time I made one I used heavy cream instead of milk and it was great. I think this time I will use sweetned condensed milk.

  35. @Rystefn: If to many show up I’ll bake more. Heck the oven will be hot so it won’t take long. Everyone has to bring some wine though. I’ll feed ya but you have to booze me.

  36. @Rystefn: The heat is just different. What sucks the most, honestly, is when it’s 105 at 6am. We just don’t get any relief. My home town is weird, though … it’s in a weird little valley, and right on the water, so it’s 120 and 30% humid on some days. But it won’t rain. Ever. Weird little area called HELL!

    And I agree; people really don’t respect the heat. “Oh, it’s nothing!” No, it’s not! If you go hiking, bring plenty of water, and no, that 20 oz. bottle is not enough. If you go playing on the water, don’t drink and boat (stupid people), and don’t drink only beer; you will dehydrate and you will get sick.

    @Gabrielbrawley: I AM HUNGRY NOW THANKS A LOT!

  37. Clearly the football haters have exactly the kind of deranged minds that thing fall is somehow lovely.

    I will experiment with some of these pumpkin-based foods, though. If they don’t work out, a pumpkin would be an effective roach skwoosher.

  38. @phlebas:

    I live just outside Atlanta. I live in a very heavily wooded area, and almost 20 years of experience has show me that there are significantly less insects in my room during the winter than during the summer. Right now I have several sticky glue traps in the corners of my room, and all of them are covered with spiders, crickets, beetles, wasps, and even a few scorpions. This does not happen during the winter, ever.

    Also, during the winter, I never have to endure walking face-first into an enormous spider web. :D

  39. @LunarDelta: Oh, man, scorpions! I sometimes miss living in the middle of the desert, because we used to get some interesting bugs. Spiders galore, scorpions (they would hang on the outside wall, and we’d poke at ’em), snakes, huge lizards. Once my mom opened her front door and almost stepped on a snake. She was lucky it was fairly cold outside, or she may have been bit. The wild donkeys are the best, though.

    It never got that cold, but during the winter bugs and such were not around as much, for sure.

  40. This thread has completely derailed in the most awesome way. :)

    Rebecca – I would totally come visit you to watch your flag football. I like watching football live but hours and hours of it in front of a TV is dull. I actually think I trained my brain to tune it out years ago so now, even though I *want* to pay attention sometimes, I can’t. (Sorry @phlebas, love ya hun, War Eagle etc etc)

    Also, I am not a huge fan of pumpkin pie but I have not tried it in all these other forms, which sound intriguing. I’m willing to give it a shot but I don’t see why I can’t be warm and eat pumpkin stuff…

    Re: Cats and Bugs. My dogs are idiots and can’t kill bugs. They will freak out and bark loudly at them or attempt to kill them by rolling on them. This either gives me a dog with a live spider somewhere upon his person or a dog with bug guts on him. Neither is good.

  41. @Rebecca:

    Of course I’ll come cheer you on in your flag football games! Nothing sucks when it involves you.

    Football sans Rebecca, though… I’m just not that into it…and trust me, I’ve tried.


    I actually make pasta with pumpkin sauce… same with the pizza.

    We need to have a Skepchick dinner party!

  42. Noooooo!!! No cold!!! Booo!! I don’t want to have to kiteboard in a semi-dry suit and still be freezing!! Other people who do water sports or like living near the beach can relate- fall equals a 6 month stall in getting to go out on the water with some semblance of comfort. I like feeling my fingers when i’m latched in to a 9m kite that’s propelling me through water… :\

  43. @adrebellious: It’s not so terribly bad here… The waters in the gulf stay pretty warm year-round… part of the reason for our extremely uncold winters, as I understand. There’s been many a beach party we all ended up swimming because the water was warmer than the air.

  44. Another one of the many pluses I associate with proper seasons is that it actually gets dark enough to see the stars again. I was out for a run about 8 o’clock last night and by the time I staggered home 20 minutes later it was actually nightime under a beautifully clear (cold, crisp) sky. Lovely.

  45. I am literally considering finding religion if some nebulous God will deign to, please, make it cold.

    In Myrtle Beach, it’s damn-near 110 degrees every day during the spring, summer, and early fall.

    I was born in VA, but have lived in North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida (as well as SC) and nothing I’ve experienced compares to how horribly, awfully, disgustingly humid it is here. Wilmington, NC? Not that bad. Savannah, GA? Only slightly uncomfortable (aside from being a crime-ridden Hellhole). Jacksonville, FLA? Pretty bad, but not near as bad as Myrtle.

    When people ask what it’s like living here, I just say, “The jungle. Any jungle.”

    I can’t wait to put on a coat, step outside, and (hopefully) see my breath. After sweating off fifteen pounds in the past five months (and spending the duration with a seemingly constant state of swamp-ass), I really just want to freeze to death.

    And, good call on mentioning “Psych.” I’ve followed the show since the beginning, when I first heard the concept. I love it because it’s not your typical, boring, and endlessly-recycled “CSI” and “Law and Order” shows. It’s actually well-written and perpetually amusing, due mostly to the very funny James Roday and Dule Hill.

    It’s no “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” but, then again, what is?

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