Episode 139: The Unnecessary Christmas Show

On this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn, Lauren, Laura, and Gem talk about several elements of the holiday consumer frenzy. Lauren tackles gift guides, Gem explains why corporations love gift cards, Ashlyn talks about holiday debt, and Laura ends the show with a discussion of some truly bizarre holiday products.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a podcast that delves into issues of science, critical thinking, and secular humanism.

Gift Guides: Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop gift guide suggests you buy a whole village (Vox) | Gwyneth Paltrow’s 2018 Goop Gift Guide (Cosmopolitan) | Totally Random, Totally Useless Holiday Gift Guide (Chefdruck) | Holiday Gift Guide 2018 (Chatelaine) | Subchronic inhalation toxicity of gold nanoparticles (NCBI) | The Hater’s Guide (Deadspin) | The 2012 Hater’s Guide to the Williams Sonoma Catalog (Deadspin)

Gift Cards: Gift Card Warning: Check Retailer’s Health (NPR) | Gift Card Review: Public Consultation Paper & Survey (Government of Manitoba) | Prepaid Purchase Card Requirements (Manitoba Consumer Protection Office) | Scam alert: Be wary of gift cards sold on a retailer’s rack! (Consumer Affairs)

Charitable Giving: LUEE Episode 115: Holiday Charity Special

Holiday Debt: Debt Snowball Versus Debt Avalanche: What The Academic Research Shows (Forbes) | 5 ways to cure your Christmas debt hangover (MoneySense) | Holiday hangover: Americans racked up more than $1,000 each in holiday debt (CNBC) | Christmas on Credit: How to Avoid the Debt (My Money Coach) | Here’s how you can avoid piling on holiday debt (Global News) | Don’t Let the Ghost of Christmas Gifts Past Hurt Your Finances (Huffpost) | Why Don’t People Manage Debt Better? (Scientific American Blogs)

Strange Holiday Gifts: As Seen on TV Clever Cutter (Canadian Tire) | 5 Condom Variety Christmas Fun Pack (Amazon) | Christmas Tinner Is the Dinner in a Can You Never Knew You Needed (BestProducts.com) | Shoppers take to Twitter to mock stores’ Christmas bleaches (Daily Mail) | Inhealer Himalayan Salt Inhaler (Showcase)

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Episode 103: Worldwide Winter

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn is joined by Ian, Laura, Lauren, and Gem to talk about holiday celebrations around the world. This is also Ian’s last show!

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics.

Links: The Rivalry Between Religions (Infidels.org) | Kwanzaa (Wikipedia) | Eid al-Fitr (Wikipedia) | Eid al-Adha (Wikipedia) | Traditional Chinese Festivals (china.org.cn) | Dong Zhi (Boston University) | Dong Zhi in Chinese Culture (mandarin.about.com) | Dongzhi Festival (Wikipedia) | Diwali (Wikipedia) | Hanukkah (Wikipedia) | Yule (Wikipedia) | Prose Edda (Wikipedia) | Haakon the Good (Wikipedia) | Mōdraniht (Wikipedia) | Christmastide (Wikipedia) | Chronography of 354 (Wikipedia) | Episode 72: The War on Christmas: A Brief History (LUEE)

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Episode 92: New Year’s Resolutions and Behaviour Change

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Laura, Gem, Ashlyn, and Ian discuss New Year’s Resolutions, how difficult it can be to change habits and behaviours, and some evidence-based ways to maximize your chances of succeeding in your goals.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Note: Although Gem mentioned that the month of January is named for the Roman god Janus (Ianus), some sources dispute this, attributing the name of the month to the goddess Juno (Iuno).

Links: New Year’s resolution (Wikipedia) | Ianuarius (Wikipedia) | New Years Resolution Statistics (Statistic Brain) | Experiment: Resolutions (Quirkology) | Stanford marshmallow experiment (Wikipedia) | The Odds Of Actually Keeping Your New Year’s Resolution (Louise Firth Campbell) | Why willpower matters and how to get it (The Guardian) | Willpower: How You Can Get More of It and Why It Runs Out (WebMD) | A prospective study of holiday weight gain (PubMed) | Auld lang syne: success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers (PubMed) | Why Do Some Turtles 'Breathe' Out of Their Butts? (Discovery News) | SparkPeople | HabitRPG (Gamify Your Life)

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Episode 91: Straight White Christmas

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn is joined by Laura, Gem, and Lauren to discuss oppression, privilege, and intersectionality, both in society at large and as it relates to the skeptical community, and then the panel caps off the episode with a game of Name That Holiday Tradition!

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Note: Due to technical issues, we needed to switch over to our backup recording near the end of the episode, so we apologize for the decrease in audio quality. And continuing in our tradition of stealing games from other podcasts, this episode’s game is in the spirit of Pat Roach’s “Name That” from The Reality Check. If you don’t listen to that excellent podcast, you probably should!

Correction: The ability to read is apparently not one of Gem’s strengths, as he insisted on pronouncing “Befana” as “Bellfana” for most of the recording. Sorry about that.

Links: Privilege (social inequality) (Wikipedia) | Privilege 101: A Quick and Dirty Guide (Everyday Feminism) | Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is (Whatever) | Facts are Cool | Glavin: Canadians have no reason to be smug about race (Ottawa Citizen) | This Teacher Taught His Class A Powerful Lesson About Privilege | Equality and Justice | Social Justice 101: Intersectionality (We Got So Far To Go) | Intersectionality (Geek Feminism Wiki) | Intersectionality 101 (Shit Reddit Says) | AAS Issues Statement on “Shirtgate”/”Shirtstorm” (American Astronomical Society) | A pornographer (and atheist) explains why the science guy’s shirt crash-landed | Casual sexism: When a shirt is more than a shirt. | Dismayingly Dawkins | It’s Time to Push Back Against Feminist Bullies | Karl Stefanovic wears the same suit for a year | Aamer Rahman (Fear of a Brown Planet) – Reverse Racism (YouTube) | Befana (Wikipedia) | 7 Winter Solstice Celebrations (Encyclopedia Britannica) | 13 Unusual Holiday Traditions From Around the World (Reader’s Digest) | Yule Lads (Wikipedia) | Kwanzaa (Wikipedia) | Lohri (Wikipedia) | Sadeh: A Middle Eastern Coffeehouse Experience

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“Infidel Atheists” Who “Celebrate Nothing”

I wasn’t going to bother commenting on this story, because it seemed so boring and trivial: conservative political figure makes off-the-cuff remark that betrays ignorance of minority group. My friend Donna Harris of the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba has already commented on the matter, and well, and I was content to leave it at that. But I got a call this afternoon from a Winnipeg Sun reporter seeking comment, and it served to solidify my thoughts on the matter, so I figured that I might as well share them.

For context, here’s what provincial Conservative Leader Brian Pallister said:

I want to wish everyone a really, really merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, all the holidays… all you infidel atheists out there, I want to wish you the very best also. I don’t know what you celebrate during the holiday season, I myself celebrate the birth of Christ, but it’s your choice, and I respect your choice. If you want to celebrate nothing, and just get together with friends, that’s good, too. All the best.

First of all, personally, I don’t think that this is a big deal. Pallister seemed to be speaking extemporaneously, and he appeared to be expressing honest goodwill to everyone.

Most of the outcry seems to centre on his use of the word “infidel”, which Pallister claims is simply another innocent word for “nonbeliever”. Although I would argue that “faithless” is probably a closer match etymologically, I’m content to let that pass without wasting too much time pointing out that the term is generally considered derogatory and pejorative.

What does cause me a bit of concern, on the other hand, is that Pallister seems to believe that atheists “celebrate nothing”. I’m not sure quite how to make sense of this comment, for of course any given atheist might celebrate any number of things during the holidays: family, friends, the turning of the seasons, and the birthday of Sir Isaac Newton come most readily to mind. But atheism isn’t a religion: there are no tenets or dogma, and atheists are not a homogenous lot.

Atheists believe and celebrate in all sorts of disparate things. An atheist might believe in Keynesian economics, or might be of the Austrian school. An atheist might follow Kant’s categorical imperative, or have a more utilitarian ethic. An atheist might be a humanist, or even an Objectivist.

Atheism isn’t a belief system. Asking what atheists believe or what atheists celebrate is like asking what people who don’t believe in faeries or ghosts believe or celebrate. Any number of things, certainly. Not all the same things, naturally. But probably not “nothing”.


Update (2 December 2013): That was quick. The new article is now available on the Sun’s website. It is brief, as is to be expected, and makes a minor error or two (although I started the group, Ashlyn has been the organiser of the Winnipeg Skeptics for almost a year), but it’s fine.

Episode 44: War on Christmas (2012 Edition)

Episode 44: War on Christmas (2012 Edition)

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn Noble, Greg Christensen, and Mark Whatman talk about the (supposed) War on Christmas, and Jeffrey Olsson interviews A.J. Johnson, the Director of Development for American Atheists.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Links: Apocalypse 2012: The End of the World Party (Facebook Event, Meetup Event) | Bill O’Reilly’s War on Christmas Montage | Fox News: War On Christmas | 3 Ways the “War on Christmas” Is Way Older Than You Think | Jeremiah 10:2–4 | American Atheists

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