‘Design’ as a red flag

My grad student has some books on his bookshelf, and I’ve only just had a chance to go through them as he left early today. He has some self-help literature with really pathetic titles. He has The Purpose Driven Life, which means at one point he was a gullible middle class white Christian.

He also has a biology book with “design” in the title, which is a massive red flag because all biologists run away from the word “design” except for creationists, and when I looked at it, it was about how the cell had all sorts of signs of supernatural modification (and then creationists often make the inexplicable leap from that to the existence of Yahweh, the Judeo-Christian god).

The shelf was deep, and he had hidden many more religious and self-help books behind a thin veneer of chemistry books. So I guess he’s a creationist.


The Lab People

I’ve been working a bunch in lab, and I’ve talked about the people in lab a bit. Most of the people seemed pretty normal to me, and I guessed that they were mostly friends, but it turns out that there’s a bunch of weird drama and people hide their problems (unlike me who loudly announces them).

One of the guys who left this year was a pretty good chemist from a technical viewpoint. He was amiable, knew what he was doing, and overall normal. He was in his third year, so I assumed he was going to be there forever, but he left with a masters after three and a half years. He got a job as a junior chemist in industry doing natural product stuff, and he seemed a lot happier being paid a bunch more and working 40 hours a week. I only today found out he left because he failed his oral exam twice and had to leave with his masters.

One of the girls who left this year left with her masters after four (!) years. Apparently she just wanted the masters, but friction with the professor had something to do with it. Apparently she cried a few times. She’s now getting a PhD somewhere else.

The lab also lost a gay Bolivian postdoc who quit and joined another lab over in the chemistry department. His formal reason for leaving was that he wanted to do more analytical stuff, but he had a lot of other issues as well, apparently. He thought that the stuff he was doing was too easy, that the project was dead besides, and he had friction with the boss. He never really talked to anyone.

So the lab lost three people this year which has made it considerably smaller, but we picked up a grad student whom everyone universally loathes. The informal vote to pick him up was very close, but the professor ultimately hired him. His competence is definitely questionable. He shared a hood with another grad student and accidentally knocked over her shit. Also he broke the HPLC which stopped everyone from doing research for two weeks. He’s kind of a dopey person, and he’s balding. When we unpacked our lab from our recent move, the professor told him to switch to the next bench because it was farther away from the common walkway so people walking on it wouldn’t see him being incompetent and retarded. Science is science, but appearing competent gets you grants. Everyone treats him like shit. Like the boss and the lab manager say shit like, “Go put this on the shelves above his bench. If he’s there, tell him to go away.” Also today the lab manager told him to go to the stockroom (a 15 minute walk) for some tubing. When he got back, one of the other students had stolen all of his tubing so he couldn’t set up.

Also my grad student is always sad, I thought it was mostly religion, but he’s also not really friends with anyone in lab. I think relations used to be better, but his current girlfriend is the ex-girlfriend of one of the dude who left with his masters, so obvs there has to be some tension there. Also yesterday he was using a straight razor to cut his tubing, and he was cutting towards himself and sliced off the tip of his thumb. I saw the razor go in deep and he bled profusely. It was sickening.

We also have a student on rotation. She’s foreign and doesn’t really get sarcasm. She also doesn’t really have many friends in the lab.


Atheism has been ruined by sloganeering, pseudointellectualism, and Stalinist devotion to irreproachable idols (Neil deGrasse Tyson, Sagan, Dawkins, etc). It’s not the quiet atheists like me, it’s the loud atheists on reddit who go around using the phrase “imaginary sky daddy” pretending that disbelief automatically makes them intellectual or enlightened.

This picture in particular summarizes a lot of what’s wrong with the movement — some guy named aalewis on reddit fashioned this catchy slogan because he inexplicably enjoys sloganeering. The branding on the picture is quite strong, but not in the way aalewis probably intended. The choice of image is really strong, as is the incidental placement of the commas in this text. I’ll do a line by line analysis.

IN THIS MOMENT, I AM EUPHORIC. This statement is like the second amendment, the comma divides the statement into two clauses — the prefatory clause which serves as background (in this case indicating that he moves through time as divided into each quantal “moment”) and the operative clause which indicates his euphoria through each particular moment. The prefatory clause also can be read as a restrictive clause — that he is euphoric in this moment but not other moments; this interpretation introduces the tension of the absent cause of euphoria in this moment as opposed to other moments.

NOT BECAUSE OF ANY PHONY GOD’S BLESSING. It’s not even a complete sentence. The author probably wanted to merge this fragment with the previous sentence but couldn’t because he used his comma to separate two clauses that didn’t need to be separated (cf. “I am euphoric in this moment, but not because of any phony…”) Here he also narrows the potential cause of his euphoria, but leaving the question unclear as to whether the God is phony, the blessing is phony, or both.

BUT BECAUSE, I AM ENLIGHTENED BY MY INTELLIGENCE. This is also not a complete sentence because the error from the previous sentence snowballed into this one. These grammatical errors have all added up and when the author professes his intelligence it’s really laughable because he can barely string together a couple of phrases in English. The comma was supposed to go before “but” and not after “because”.

Does he even know what euphoria is? Euphoria is something I hear from junkies; heroin junkies are always pining for the rush and euphoria of a hit. A smug complacent grin isn’t really euphoria.



The cataclysm of English grammar is coupled with the image of a fat dweeb committing fashion atrocities.

Fedora? Dealbreaker. Hat indoors? Dealbreaker. Sonic the Hedgehog fandom? Dealbreaker. Ill-fitted leather jacket? Dealbreaker. Black jacket on blue jeans? Dealbreaker.

This is how not to represent atheism.


I remember an episode of 30 Rock where Jenna and her crossdressing boyfriend (I don’t remember his name, but he was played by Will Forte) had pursued every deviant fetish and they could only be satisfied with the most deviant behavior of all — normalling.

Normalling is where you act like a normal couple as a deviant sexual practice, like you go to Bed Bath and Beyond and pick out matching towels or whatever and pretend that you’re normal and that’s somehow sexually gratifying if your sensibilities have been dulled by NYC’s underground sex clubs.

Anyway, I attempted some normalling, not for fictional sexual gratification, but to see how long I could deceive people. The postdoc helped me with some ideas during my dialogue because I had trouble coming up with things that normal people do. It was something like, over the weekend I hung out with friends at a bar, and had a beer. Blue Moon. Also I went to a movie, The Lone Ranger. And the next day I watched a baseball game. My team of choice is the Cleveland Indians. It was really hard for me, actually. I guess I should practice for the future when I have to trick people into thinking I’m normal.

On George Zimmerman

I was speaking with my labmates, and one guy asked about the Zimmerman case because the jury was deliberating today. We took a small pool of lab and everyone thinks he’s innocent. He was physically attacked by Martin and shot him in self-defense. Witnesses saw Martin on top of Zimmerman fighting, Martin had bruising on his knuckles but other than that no injuries except the gunshot wound; Zimmerman had his face all fucked up and the back of his head too from the concrete. It’s pretty obvious what happened.

But you get this large cohort of black people and their white guilt-ridden liberal apologists who think that the case is about racial profiling, which isn’t an excuse to beat people up. Black people tend not to be good as a population at deciding who is innocent or guilty. Look at what happened to OJ.

Running, cont

I’ve been continuing to run. Maybe three times a week down by the river, a 1.5 mile route. It’s short, but to be fair it’s like 90 degrees outside. I like to go around 6 am because then I don’t have to see anyone else. I’m self conscious when I run, like really self conscious. It’s weird. I don’t really like seeing other people, especially people who are on the same path as me but a different speed because it’s awkward to pass people or be passed.

What would be really awesome is to go in the middle of the night when I’m up anyway, but then I’m afraid of bumping into drug dealers or whatever. There’s graffiti and crap and it’s kinda secluded, so I’m worried that the african immigrants on the other side of the river go there at night to do all sorts of unamerican things.

But anyway my cardio has improved a bunch, so that’s good. I haven’t noticed anything else, like no large realizations during running or anything. I can’t say that I enjoy it massively but I guess I’ll keep doing it because the opportunity cost is almost nothing.


I am a relatively avid watcher of Starcraft 2. It’s a growing field called “esports” and it’s one of several games (league of legends, sc2, world of tanks, dota2) that has a relatively large user base that likes that watch the professionals play games. And many of the gamers are true professionals, with teams sponsored by large corporations, 6-fig salaries, coaches, 12+ hours of practice a day, etc.

So I keep up with the Starcraft scene. I mostly watch tournaments on occasion online, although a week ago I attended something called barcraft, which is when people who like SC2 rent out a bar with a big screen (in this case a screen on a movie theater/PC lab) where you can talk, and you watch the players at the tournament (in this case we were watching MLG — major league gaming).

And it was pretty interesting. They had special themed mixed drinks and swag. The people there were mostly white dudes with glasses. I was looking forward to being left alone but this dude sat next to me and insisted on talking. He was like 30. He was an okay dude. I left early and gave him my raffle ticket. They also had bar food there, and I had a mediocre bar hamburger.

The place was in a working class white suburb. The kind of suburb covered in trees and pickup trucks and overweight white people. You know, Michelle Bachmann’s district.