01 March 2008

*mutter mutter mutter*

I hate memes. Have I mentioned how much I hate memes? Yes, yes I have. And yes I do. This is all ... someone's ... fault. *mutter*

1. Ever been in a relationship lasting over 5 years?


2. What was one of your dreams growing up?

To be a writer. That fell by the wayside in my teens when other people's dreams were forced on me, and then I fled those by going into science instead. Now I'm back to wanting to be a writer.

3. What talent do you wish you had?

Fast thinking. I'm very slow, the way Einstein was in school.

4. If I bought you a drink what would it be?

Some kind of soda.

5. Favorite books?

That's kind of a broad question...

As a kid, it was The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts.
As a teen, it was Strangers from the Sky by Margaret Wander Bonanno.
In my late teens it was Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams.
Nowadays, my favorite series is Glen Cook's Black Company, and anything Steve Brust has written for Dragaera. My favorite roleplay-related book is Demon: The Fallen. I also like Bill Amend's Foxtrot and have all the treasuries.

Addendum: Also, White Fang by Jack London. I went through a phase of liking stuff set in the Arctic. (Which in turn reminds me of Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, which leads me to discover that it was actually the first of a trilogy. Ooo...)

6. What was the last book you read?

Dzur by Steve Brust.
Next up is Old Man's War by John Scalzi. (Yes, finally getting around to reading something he wrote.)

7. Astrology: Menace to science education or entertainment?


Otherwise one could also claim that religion is a menace to science education. It all depends what people do with it.

8. Any tattoos and/or piercings? Explain where.


9. Worst habit?

Not enough exercise.

10. Best attribute?

My ability to resist peer pressure. -.-

Seriously: I don't believe that it's up to me to decide what my best attribute is. This is very much a case of "show, don't tell" in my opinion - I'll try to show you who I am, and you decide whether I'm loyal, empathic, or whatnot.

11. What are your favorite hobbies?

Hmm. Writing seems to be the main one at the moment. Also music, hopefully upcoming.

12. Do you have a negative or optimistic attitude?

I'm an optimist and always have been. In my teens it led me to realize that hope, not love, is the cruelest emotion. Then I became a cynical optimist for a while. But now I'm back to being an optimist.

13. What would you do if you were stuck in an elevator with me?

I'd watch you for cues on what you wanted to do. If you wanted to be quiet, I'd be quiet. If you wanted to engage in conversation, I'd try to oblige. If you wanted to climb out the roof and brave the wolves, well you might be on your own there.

14. Worst thing to ever happen to you?

Discovering myself pinned to my body.

15. Best thing to ever happen to you?

The shattering of reality. Which at the time sure felt like the worst thing, but then I rebuilt something stronger and better.

16. Tell me one weird fact about you.

No. :p This whole meme is about me telling stupid weird things, so you're just going to have to be satisfied with the other ones.

17. What if I showed up at your house unexpectedly?

Depends how long you stood there knocking. I might actually open the door if you were persistent enough. Otherwise I'd assume you were there to try to sell me something. If I did open the door, I'd probably look at you funny.

18. What was your first impression of me?

Since the first place I saw it was on Jim Wright's blog, I'll go with my first impression of him, which was "This guy is hilarious. I wish he had a blog." (This was a month or two before he started one.)

19. What scares you?

Dying a slow, painful death. Dying, not so much. But I don't want to go painfully.

EDIT: Upon further reflection - I fear dying more than I fear being dead. Also, death by drowning or asphyxiation more than any other kinds. I like breathing.

20. If you could change one thing about how you are, what would it be?

I'd add a ton of physical endurance. Somehow I suspect strength would naturally appear if I had the endurance first.

21. Would you be my crime partner or my conscience?

Depends whether I agreed with it.

22. What color eyes do you have?


23. Ever been arrested? If so, what for?


24. Favorite dessert?

Well, in terms of western-style dessert-like items, I'd probably go for ice cream. As desserts in general, I prefer the end-of-meal orange slices that come in Chinese restaurants. And in general in general, I don't eat dessert. At home there's no point, and at restaurants they're overpriced and I'm usually too full.

25. If you won $1000 today, what would you do with it?

Well, considering that one month of living expenses is $1200, it wouldn't be very exciting...

26. Tell me something you want me to know about you.

I hate memes -.-

Also see #16.

27. What’s your favorite place to hang out?

The internet.

28. Do you believe in ghosts? Aliens?


29. Favorite thing to do in your spare time?


30. Do you swear a lot?

Not generally in public. Within the confines of my own head, on the other hand, the words can really fly...

31. Biggest pet peeve?

People who talk me into doing memes.

32. In one word, how would you describe yourself?


33. Do you believe in/appreciate romance?

Yes, in the sense that I see other people being romantic and enjoying themselves at it.

I would probably appreciate it if anyone ever knew the right ways to approach me. Unfortunately, I don't follow the standard courtship scripts at all. I don't know how, nor do I want to learn parts that are completely unnatural and foreign to me. It's one of those brain wiring things that came with ... uh, the other brain wiring thing.

34. Most unusual place you’ve had sex?

Well, at least it wasn't under a turtle.

(which is an in-joke about my high school alma mater.)

35. Do you believe in an afterlife?

In the sense that there is more than nothingness beyond death, yes. In the sense of any versions of Heaven and/or Hell as defined by specific groups of people, no.

There. After all that, I hope you feel like you know me better.


Michelle K said...


You read "The Girl with the Silver Eyes"?! For years I thought I imagined that book, because I've never been able to find it at my parents house (I forgot the title)!

I LOVED that book!

PS I'm glad you caved and answered, and not just because I now know that book existed!

MWT said...

That was my favorite book for quite a long time. It was about someone who was different and didn't fit and also secretly had superpowers, which was exactly what I was and wanted to be. I went through a phase in my early teens of wondering when I was going to discover that I was actually from another planet, and when people from my home planet were going to find me and take me home. Or if I'd find others who were like me, trapped on Earth from another planet.

(Ironically I did find people like me, several times, but I didn't realize at the time.)

Also, at the time I wasn't really aware there were such things as Fantasy and Sci-Fi genres. I'd read everything in the Children's section of the library that was remotely fantasylike (the Oz books and Dark Is Rising being the closest things other than Girl with the Silver Eyes), and wasn't allowed to go to the grownup parts of the library.

Rebelcat said...

Hehe...I hate memes too. Fortunately, we know each other well enough that this meme is unnecessary.

John the Scientist said...

"Otherwise one could also claim that religion is a menace to science education. It all depends what people do with it."

Hmmm. I don't agree. Religion that makes demonstrably false statement about reality is also a menace, such as the YEC. Some guy was on the radio the other Sunday morning talking about how the Dead Sea Scrolls predicted Jesus. Sorry, he's a menace and his listeners are ignorant if they don't know the scrolls are roughly contemporaneous with Jesus. If you make demonstrably false statements and expect people to turn off their brains and believe them on faith, you are a menace to the spread of scientific reasoning in the general population.

Astrology makes demonstrably false statements every single day, people see the falsity, and keep on believing in it. That is why I say it degrades peoples' critical faculties.

bakho said...

John couldn't have put the distinction better (meaning that I totally agree with him). In my mind, there are religions and cults. Cults are purposefully and knowingly trying to deceive you. Religions are just trying to give the most sensible answer to those things which can't be grasped in the more usual ways (science).

MWT: I liked the meme, despite you hating it:D

Nathan said...

I can't decide if I hate memes or if I hate memes with 35 freakin' questions.

Janiece Murphy said...

That's cuz John's a big ole southern-fried SKEPTIC.

Eric said...

Well, I mean any of the rest of you could have, you know, lied about your answers. Oh wait--that wouldn't have helped; that's how I got suckered into answering all 35 myself. Never mind, then.

I keep meaning to read more of Scalzi's work--so far, Old Man's War is the only one I've had time for. It's a fun, quick read. But so many other books have taken priority since, I haven't had time to go back. Which makes me feel guilty for some reason whenever I drop by Whatever and leave a comment.

Being serious now, I'm going to have to agree with John The Scientist about astrology. Only I'd add that people often fail to see the falsity of astrology's statements: astrology plays to people's tendencies towards confirmation bias and the Forer Effect (cf. the entry on astrology at Skeptic's Dictionary for details) as well as people's general lack of understanding of probability and coincidence. It degrades critical faculties, indeed.

MWT said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the part you disagree with is the notion that astrology is entertainment - not the part you quoted. (That had me confused for a while.)

As with religions and cults, there are astrology people and astrology people who take it too seriously. Astrology can certainly be a form of religion for some people. But I think most people understand that it isn't real.

If you make demonstrably false statements and expect people to turn off their brains and believe them on faith,

... it's also their own damn fault for choosing to go along with it. I'm only a menace if they let me be one. But then perhaps I'm an optimist when it comes to expecting people to be smart enough to think for themselves.

Tom said...

MWT, Thanks for the answers. Maybe I don't know you better, but it helped me to know you a little bit more.

John the Scientist said...

MWT - yes. I see your point. I had not even considered that there is a segment of people who view it as entertainment.

I don't know anyone who accepts astrology as entertainment. Perhaps it's the circles I move in, but people I know fall into 3 camps:

1. Don't read it because they are skeptical scientists.

2. Don't read it because it's allegedly borderline Satanic and they are pretty conservative Christians.

3. Read it and give it some credit, otherwise why bother? It's the third group that is both the largest and is what I consider to be marginal cases: meaning that they could become rational thinkers, but astrology is a stumbling block.

I haven't known anyone who reads it as entertainment since we had a skeptics bulletin board in college. And in terms of societal harm, it's the third group that's important.

Anne C. said...

Read it and give it some credit, otherwise why bother?

Clarify for me the definition of entertainment because reading/watching something even though you don't believe in it seems to be one clear sign of doing something for entertainment.
I'm sure everyone who watched WWF (or whatever it's called nowadays) doesn't believe all the soapopera part of it.

Calling astrology a menace when so few take it seriously (and most of those that do are not harming anyone, including themselves) seems like trying to take out a non-Alaskan mosquito with a grenade launcher.

John the Scientist said...

Anne, true enough, but I don't know anyone who reads it who doesn't make comments such as "he's a Virgo, it figures". But maybe I'm an outlier. The same people who believe it tend to be people who lend towards New Age stuff, and that, too degrades critical faculties.

Here's an example. What I mean here is that the forces of superstition and the forces of logical thought are in a boxing match. One blow to the opponent isn't going to mean much. But repeated blows can wear one side down. Supposedly educated people who put things up on their blogs about what sign they are (and how that explains something or other in their lives), or supposedly educated people who speak seriously about the "hidden messages in water" are jabs right in the eye of critical thought.

John the Scientist said...

Anne, I suspect you are an outlier in another way, in that you don't move in the social circles of people who believe in this stuff:

31% of the public believes in astrology including 36% of women and 43% of those aged 25 to 29 but only 17% of people aged 65 and over, and 25% of men.

From here: here.

Now the first thing I do in such a survey is ask to look at the survey instrument, because the wording of a question matters in the response you get back. Since Harris does not provide that, I'd have to give some discount to the numbers, but still, at least 1 in 5 adults (even higher in the younger cohort, perhaps 1 in 3)seem to believe in the stuff. That's a dangerously high number.

The fact that older people are less credulous in this regard seems to confirm Heinlein's remarks in "Exapnded Universe" that astrology really took off post-WWII.

Anne C. said...


To be very straighforward about it, I come from a background that provided me a passing/general knowledge of many "New Age" theories, concepts, etc. For example, I've heard of the "messages in water." (I see from your link that you feel strongly about it.**)
It was that exposure that formed my decision to be agnostic, because it seems in my mind that while some of the conclusions drawn might be flawed, the questions were valid. (How are we related to energy? Do thoughts have energetic qualities as well? If we wanted to investigate that, how would we measure it? Etc.) I think you are right in that people apply meanings to things that simply are, kind of like they anthropomorphize animals and machines.
It seems to me that you are coming from a completely Rational (Atheist?) position that postulates that we can measure everything that can be measured and that all questions can be answered with the information at hand. Please understand that I am not attacking that position -- I don't think everyone has to be agnostic -- I'm just trying to confirm your starting point.
My comment would therefore hold little validity for you because I value the process of questioning more than "answers." (In quotes because all answers lead to more questions to me.) Actually, it's probable that it's the flawed answers that people come up with, rather than the questions, that pisses you off. Fair enough. My thought on that point would be that in my opinion, people operate on potentially faulty conclusions every day and in almost every interaction they have, from "water crystals are affected by energetic vibrations" to "so-and-so is pissed off at me because he didn't say hello to me this morning." There are things that happen and then there are the meanings we apply to them. If I let all the faulty logic people operate by piss me off, I'd be pretty pissed off all the time. It's faulty logic that results in hatred and violence that I reserve my disgust for.
All of this is to say -- I see your point. I don't react to it in the same way, but I do see your point.

** Your post was impassioned, but short on specific refutations (other than of the woman's faulty memory). Perhaps that is because your audience is scientists like yourself. So if you ever do a more explicit (x=y, y=z, therefore x=z) version, let me know. I'd be interested in knowing more. (Though not, direct debate. I am a questioner, not an answerer.)

Tania said...

Yay! No more green eyed people.

What, I have green eyes, and so does my husband? Yeah, well, I likes me some differences, ok?

The Girl with the Silver Eyes!?! That's the one where she or the boy keep moving their glasses back up with TK, right? And all their moms had worked in the same place? I read and re-read that book so many times. And you guys liked it too? Yay!

John the Scientist said...

Anne - this one is too big for the comments section. I will have a post up soon.

I am a Baptist. My moniker is a play on that: John the Baptist / John the Scientist. I am well aware of the faith / reason dichotomy.

But the "value questioning" tag has been used and twisted by the New Age community until the word "question" in their hands does not have the same meaning as it does in the hands of a rational person.

I will expound upon this at length on my blog. ;-)

Anne C. said...

I look forward to it, John. :)

Anne C. said...

Oh, and meant to say...
Yowza, Tania. Nice avatar photo.

Megadeus said...

Hey, I read The Girl With the Silver Eyes, too! I occasionally recall it (mostly the part about the PK-enhancing rings), but I could never remember the title. There were PK-enhancing rings, weren't there? At some government science lab where they discover the boy is an alien or something?

Good read, as I recall.

John the Scientist said...

Anne C - post is up.