Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Debunking yourself

I’m having a frustrating afternoon, so let’s talk about how cool we are!

I’ve got this new thing going on in my life. It’s a game I play with myself*.

I think of something I think I couldn’t possibly do or enjoy doing, and then I try to do it. It’s worked out pretty well, actually. I’ve taken up running. I’ve chopped off my hair. I’ve loaded the dishwasher. It’s this crazy realization that if I challenge myself, I can do things that are cooler than just sitting on the couch… and I can do most of them while still sitting on the couch! (Except the running and the dishes.)

I even went camping. Overnight. In the cold. And only brought one pit bull for a body guard. And took on 4 bears, mano-a-mano! Who thought I could do that?

Next, I might even try math!

What have you done that you never thought you could do? What do you want to do that you want us to motivate you to do? What’s the coolest thing/hardest thing/most daring thing you’ve ever done?

*no, not THAT game, perv.

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. Truthfully, the two things I want to do are lose weight and write more. Both are theoretically possible… I’ve written before, and I can do it again. I can also, in theory, drop down below 300 again.

    What I think it would really take is going to a 1986 IBM computer with a monochrome text monitor, and completely losing access to the internet or any games other than text adventures.

  2. I never thought I’d get around to be even halfway decent at starting a science/skeptical blog (and have wanted to do so for a while).

    About a week ago I decided it wasn’t going to write itself, and on the plus side it’s making me brush up on those research methods I haven’t had to use since high school as well has sharpening those tools in my skeptical tool kit. ( – shameless plug)

    I suppose I need some motivation to get a local SitP started – although the idea alone should really be motivation enough.

  3. Coolest thing I ever did: Bicycle across the USA. Never thought I’d ever do anything like that, and I did it as an overweight 38-year-old housewife.
    What I’d really like to do: Renovate/restore our 1942 Tudor house without going to the poorhouse. And learn to like gardening.
    Hardest thing I’ve ever done: be a parent. Now that my two kids are in college I can start to see that we did okay as parents, but it’s totally scary trying to raise kids when you have no idea if you’re doing it “right”.

  4. Cool Things Done:
    1) SurlyCon
    2) TAM London
    3) Camping (with Elyse)
    4) Started lifting weights, in my 40s

    Cool Things Yet To Do:
    Can’t think of any. Maybe have a Bloody Mary for lunch?

  5. “What have you done that you never thought you could do?”

    I have always (up to recently) been really bad at math. But I have learned that managing a budget is only simple arithmetic done in increasingly complex ways. Using spreadsheets is a bit of a cheat, I realize, but even so, excel can’t do all the work. It’s not algebra or calculus, but it is intimidating.

    At my job I kind of slipped sideways into managing the yearly budget for the department. If you told me when I graduated from high school, or even after college, that someday I would manage a one and a half million dollar budget and bring it in to within 1-3% each year I would have laughed in your face.

    “most daring thing”

    There’s a fine line between “daring” and stupid. I think I crossed that line a few times. I used to ride a bicycle through the streets of Manhattan. I ventured out to “Seal Rock” (in San Francisco) at low tide (powerful surf washing over slippery rocks. What was I thinking?!). I joined a sailing club in spite of a phobia born of a traumatic childhood boating accident. Do any of these count?

  6. 1) Ignite 8 in Boulder, CO — did a talk called “there IS such a thing as bad music, and it will be the end of us all”
    2) Got a job that puts me in a very Carl Sagan kind of position
    3) I can now do 150+ pull-ups a week
    4) I can now play along to — and keep up with! — Joe Bonamassa’s cover of “Just Got Paid/Dazed and Confused”
    5) I have been within 2 feet of Michael Shermer

  7. On August 23rd, 1967 I refused induction into the US Army at the fresh meat intake center on Broad St in Philadelphia.

    On January 5, 1971 the US government dropped all charges against me. I had stared down the most powerful nation on Earth and won, my only weapon was “No”.

  8. I suppose it depends on when I was thinking I couldn’t do something. I’m proud of the marriage partnership I’m in and that it’s going strong after nearly 25 years, and that my wife and I have raised two really nice kids. In ten years when the house is paid off and I retire and the marriage is still going strong and the kids are still good company and happy I’ll really be impressed with how my life turned out from the perspective I had in my teens and early 20’s.

    I’m not really the daring type and I tend to asses risks thoroughly before making big decisions. Then again many people might feel working in the mental health and child abuse investigation field is daring and I’ve been pulling that off for 27 years. And like many I’d love to have more motivation and discipline when it comes to exercise and cutting down on my calorie intake.

  9. When I was single, I decided that my goal was to be rejected a 1000 times in my search for a life partner. I joined an online dating service and commenced on my quest. I was only rejected four times before I met my future husband. My goal really made dating less scary. I really need to be ok with being bad at stuff I want to try.

  10. 1) I learned how to eat fire
    2) I moved to Israel when I was 17, on my own.
    3) I dropped out of rabbinical school when I decided I was actually an atheist
    4) I got both nipples pierced.
    5) I’m in the midst of a full back tattoo

    I think that’s enough for now.

  11. Coolest thing: Big Ben, London, Dec. 31st, 1999.
    Now, push my ass off this (wonderful, wonderful) site so I can get back to work sketching drafts for a graphic novel project.

  12. It’s a well known phenomenon in the BDSM community that when someone’s response to seeing a kind of kink-play that they respond to with “I could never do that!” they are bound to give it a try within a year. Some people do it faster than others, but since the fear and unknown is exactly what tends to get us off, we second guess those instincts constantly.

    Also, in my experience pit bulls are not all that useful when camping. Mine is a wuss about the outdoors, and keeps trying to escape into the tent or any vehicle available.

  13. Thanks to a series of scary experiences, I’ve been pyrophobic since I was a teenager. A few years ago, with the help of a lovely dear friend, I danced with fire. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done.
    Lately I am having a hard time getting anything done, I need a kick in the ass.

  14. I’ve had a great 2011! In Jamuary I got a 2-album deal with the Glasgow-based netlabel itsu jitsu:
    They launched Pink Toads – an ultraweird album I recorded with my daughter in 1998 – on Feb 1. It’s currently the label’s #1 download on sonic squirrel: My album Boogafoo Music – some Moog wankery I recorded in 1974 – will be published on 3/14 – .
    I continue to agent-hunt for my sci-fi novel Channel Zilch – while I collaborate on my poli-sci-fi chiller Palin/Cheney 2012 – with the game developer Casey Muratori – . I did a lot of research for my medieval-kids-vs.-aliens YA novel Castle Rising – . I’m disabled with epilepsy and Central Pain Syndrome and can no longer code games, so I pitched my game ChipWits – – to PlayScreen.

  15. @dougsharp: In 1997 I became totally disabled and couldn’t code or write for years. In 2004 I moved to a remote cabin in Wisconsin. The quiet here has healed me so that I can work on projects again. I lived many years not believing I’d ever be well enough to work on a creative project again, so I’m digging juggling multiple projects in 2011.

  16. I started running too! And it’s crazy hard, but so satisfying. The most awesome things I didn’t think I could do:

    1. Hike up a mountain. I took La Luz trail up to Sandia Crest, which I think is about 8 1/2 miles both ways. My next goal is to run up the mountain. I hope I don’t die.

    2. Public speaking. I gave a talk at Ignite NM about vaccines, and I thought I was going to die while doing it, but it was really well received. A lot of people came up to me after, thanking me for speaking out on the side of science. So I’m pretty proud of that.

  17. I can’t think of a single thing. I feel very boring today…
    Is travelling hundreds or thousands of kilometers to vacation with people you previously only knew online daring? Cause I’ve done that in Massachusetts, Washington, Canada and the south of France. Admittedly in Canada I was mostly on my own, just meeting up with lots of distant cousins and a couple of JREF-ers.

  18. I am taking a subject that was the only one I failed in college. I always told people it was because I had a bad professor (and I did, I went in for extra help repeatedly, and she told me that if I didn’t think in a certain way, she just couldn’t teach me).

    Now, fourteen years later, I am taking graduate classes in that subject. My first one was last semester and I feel like I really am starting to understand it (and I got an A).

  19. My biggest accomplishment that I never thought would happen is getting married. My track record with women was so bad that I quit trying for several years. I found a wonderful lady when I was 35 and we have been together for 7 years. On the one hand I am amazed that I pulled it off and on the other our personalities fit together so well that our marriage seems inevitable.

    Another tough thing I did was having a marketing job that required me cold calling potential clients and initiating deals. I am naturally shy and never liked doing it. I would sweat and palpitate at the phone while calling my way down the list, finding any excuse to take a break. I forced myself to do this for about 5 years. Luckily, I have built up enough of a business that generally my clients come to me now. So glad I don’t have to do that anymore.

    In 2008 I singlehandedly built a barn with no carpentry experience. It was very rewarding, but probably doesn’t count in this line of discussion. It was one of those things where I knew I could do it before I started.

    Another source of pride is that I have a career with a large physical component to my work. In school I was the kind of kid who got picked last for teams, and who brought up the rear when we were made to jog around the track. Despite a bit of middle age weight gain, I remain in decent shape.

  20. I wrote a novel just to prove to someone that I couldn’t. I’ve never worked so hard to lose a bet.

    Fatsplenda, saw your ignite talk online. It was fun. I did one on steampunk in Waterloo, Ontario.

  21. The best things I have done, are (mostly) listening to the beat of my own drum, and not reproducing.

    This year I want to have more well being in my life in a number of regards (weight, fitness, finances, complete projects) and to finish the two courses I am enrolled in with excellent grades if for no other reason than to show the ‘young-uns’ in the class that the old fart hasn’t completely addled his brain over the years.

    When I’m successful at whatever I set out to do, I’m not usually one to make much note of it publicly: I’d rather keep it to myself. When I don’t do it, there is some self flagellation, and much rationalising and excuse making.

  22. I’ve wanted to hike the AT ever since I was a kid, but for the last 20 years it seemed as unlikely as Jenny McCarthy understanding immunology. About 3 years ago, during an emergency root canal, my periodontist freaked when she measured my BP, and sent me off to find and visit a doctor ASAP. He put me on various BP and cholesterol meds (my HDL was way low, and trigs way too high), and I started exercising (mostly waking) much more earnestly. I started at 20-25 minutes 3-4 times a week (a mile+), and my doctor said “not enough”. I gradually worked my way up to 4-5 times a week, 40-45 minutes, which he was happier with, then to an hour (3+ miles) 18 months ago. Since last summer, I’m now up to 4 miles, almost every day (missed one day so far this month) on my SGU exercise program. I downloaded all the podcasts, and try to listen to at least one every day while walking. Just listened to #150 today. (I also listen to the new ones when they come out.)

    Anyway, bottom line… 11 days ago I had a check up… BP is now 121/81 (was 155/95), my cholesterol and triglycerides are good, and yesterday morning, I broke 230 for the first time since about 1984 (was 268.)

    Suddenly the AT doesn’t sound so unrealistic any more!

  23. I was over 40 before I did my first press-up. I actually followed the program and although I maxed-out at about 20, that’s still 20 more than I could do when I started.

    I also learnt to speak a foreign language fluently, something I never thought a science nerd like me could manage.

  24. @csrster: I’d love to be able to speak a foreign language fluently, but I must be too American. In 5th and 6th grade, we had 3 1/2 hour French lessons every week (a local educational TV show), plus 2 years of French in jr high and 3 years in high school, and then freshman year in college I took the language placement exam and ended up in … Introductory French. I managed to pass and fulfill my language requirement despite my terrible accent and forgetting all my verbs 10 minutes later.


  25. Coolest thing I have ever done? Properly exercising the process of differential diagnosis on myself and getting the RIGHT answer before my definitive test results came back. (I even felt my own glands. lol)

    Something I’d want to motivate myself to do? Really get on that wagon and finish my Japanese and Chinese studies.

    Something I’d like you guys to motivate me to do? Start a skeptic club of some sort at my school. Something with which we can aid the community in wonderful, logical ways!

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