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More TAM Thoughts

I realize this is probably getting tiresome for those who didn’t attend the conference, but I’ll just add a few thoughts on TAM and then let it drop. Phil Plait chided me on the length of my posts anyway (although his remark was the basis for a good line from my Australian friend, Michael, who quipped, “How can it be a bad thing for the only male amid so many women to be too long?”).

At any rate, I’ll try to be as brief as possible, but I’m not making any promises.

First of all, the Skepchicks rock! All of them. I’ve been friends with Rebecca for a number of years, but I’m really just getting to know the other contributors, and each time I’m in their company, I am more impressed by them. I’m so thankful they let me be a part of their group here.

Simply put, a.real.girl is the stuff of which awesome is made. I can’t think of one thing at TAM she didn’t do or influence in some way. And that’s not an exaggeration. From administrative tasks to calendar sales to party and event coordination to just offering a hug or an ear for a dude who probably drank too much whiskey yet again, she did it all. She was everywhere. I joked many times over the weekend, by saying “Skepchick powers activate!”, but she’s the real deal. She is a superhero.

I also got to hang out quite a bit with carr2d2 and her husband for the first time. At one point, I made a comment about the demolition crew working on the Stardust a couple years ago being more foul-mouthed than any sailor I’d ever met, and carr2d2 not only confirmed that construction crews are like that in general, she thankfully demonstrated her own expertise in expletives. She is so cool. I have no modifier to quantify her level of coolness.

Masala_Skeptic and her husband were also there, and even though her husband crippled me in the poker tournament only to go out on the bubble himself, I have nothing but love for them both. They organized the tourny, as well as the Saturday night party. Who wouldn’t love such friendly people? I’m surprised Las Vegas officials even let them into the city for fear of blowing the curve, but I’m glad they did.

Stacey made it to TAM as well, and I couldn’t have been more pleased to learn she was coming. I had the pleasure of sitting next to her in the conference room the entire weekend, so we got to discuss the speakers immediately, not to mention pass dirty notes back and forth. And I’ll add that Danny DeVito never looked better. (wink)

Of course Rebecca was there. Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to spend much time with her, but there was not much anyone could do about that. She was spread so thin, I started calling her Homeopathic Skepchick. There was about .0000000000001 parts Rebecca for every attendee.

Likewise, I didn’t get a great deal of tkingdoll time, because she was busy with papers and world records and stuff like that. But we’ve shared several previous TAMs, and she’s as full of awesome as the other women on this site.

As for the rest, I’ll just say the conference was as stimulating and entertaining as ever. It’s big enough now that a restructuring of the format is definitely in order, but the speakers were perfect.

Dr. Tyson was the man, plain and simple. He ruled the stage and the entire conference hall.

Richard Wiseman kicks ass, even though his British sensibilities would probably prefer I say he’s charming and erudite instead. But fuck British sensibilities. He kicks ass.

The others were amazing as well. I had a chance to speak at length with Ben Goldacre into the wee hours of the morning on Friday. He no doubt thought me a hick for my Texas accent, but he humored me nonetheless, and I appreciated it.

Phil Plait was Phil Plait. Always great to hang out with Phil, no matter the context.

And there are too many more with too many good things for me to say about them to include, but they all rocked. I recommend buying the DVD. It will be well worth the price.

As for me personally, I am sad to be back at work and rolling along at a much slower pace. But for those few days in Vegas, I was surrounded by amazing people and amazing friends.

And I was in flavor country.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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46 Comments

  1. Jesus, I forgot to mention all the Skepchick commneters I had the good fortune of meeting. You all are as amazing as I’d expected. The brain power coming from the conference attendees is a force in itself.

  2. Hmmmm…

    Masala, which one was Sam? Was he the Brit?

    Just kidding, Sam. Great hanging out with you and taking a major chunk of your money in the tournament. And I will never know how the hell you bounced the glass like that in the party suite…

  3. “There was a poker tournament at TAM ?!?! …says the fast exiting pretender. Ready to play golf for money any time however! And Sam you really should have the hair erased from the avatar. You know, truth in advertising and all that.

  4. And Sam you really should have the hair erased from the avatar. You know, truth in advertising and all that.

    Heck, after seeing you, I might grow my hair all the way back. I don’t think I pull off the bald look as well as you.

  5. Don’t sell yourself short, I think you handle the unencumbered look just fine, and don’t forget the whole Bernoulli’s principle lift advantage we have!!

    And I’m guessing no one mistakes you for that short funny looking Michael Chiklis guy.

  6. Um, totally cheating.

    But, after such lovely things Sam says about me, and him being so awesome his own self, I find myself leaning towards giving him another shot. You’re on notice, you sexy thing- no cheating.

    Sam- I also have to say I’m glad you didn’t think I was too forward with the kisses. You’re such a kissable sort, it was impossible to resist.

  7. Next summer.. unless you count the n.5 TAMs or the the Amazing! Adventure cruises… at which I can’t verify any amount of sexy skeptical kissing or anything of the sort, although the imagination certainly assumes so. ;)

    Hmmm… Maybe we should organize some sort of skeptic make-out party or something? Greek Orthodox Church optional.

  8. Hmmm… Maybe we should organize some sort of skeptic make-out party or something? Greek Orthodox Church optional.

    You know, just yesterday I was feeling extremely blue and e-mailed a friend saying I couldn’t even remember the last time I had really, really laughed. Well, there you go, it just happened. You made me laugh so hard I went into snort mode and if I’d been drinking anything it’d have been all over my computer screen.

    Skepticism and kissing, now there’s a thought … “Well, that kiss was excellent but it would be irresponsible of me to blindly assume that any following kisses would be of equal quality without further research.”

    OK, I keep thinking I’ve stopped laughing but then I read “Greek Orthodox Church optional” and it sets me off all over again.

    *deep breath*

    *giggle*

    *deep breath*

    OK. What are the n.5 TAMs? And I’m not seeing the one next summer on the calendar … help please?

  9. They’ve been known to have TAM-and-a-Half meetings. 4.5, 5.5, suchlike. Don’t know if it’s a regular thing or a once or twice kind of thing, honestly, just know I’ve heard about them before.

    Honestly, I love the idea of Skeptical kissing research. Double-blinded and all that . ;) Fun for all is my hypothesis. Now we just have to test it and see.

    Also, I’m glad I made someone laugh with that… i didn’t even actually tell how the story ends. Hell, I half think it’s more effective that way, now.

  10. Honestly, I love the idea of Skeptical kissing research. Double-blinded and all that .

    Oh gosh, you’re RIGHT. It would be totally useless without at least an attempt at objectivity. Although half of what’s so fun about kissing is its absolute non-objectivity … if it’s done right, the world’s spinning and you forget it’s all in the name of science.

    Also, I’m glad I made someone laugh with that… i didn’t even actually tell how the story ends. Hell, I half think it’s more effective that way, now.

    There’s MORE to the story? Yeah, don’t tell me, I’ll probably rupture something, and THEN wouldn’t you feel bad.

  11. Well, of course it’s not completely objective… but who cares? We’ll just have to stacks and stacks of research until we figure out something. Mostly, I was just making an excuse for blindfolding myself and making out with a bunch of sexy smart people. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who thinks that’s a good idea, right?

    There’s MORE to the story?

    Have you ever heard a story that ends with “then the priest walks in…”? I’d have thought the crack about my Greek not being able to get me anything but arrested would have implied that there’s at least two or three drinks worth left to tell in that particular tale…

  12. I agree, enough research would at least give us SOME idea of a general trend, even if it wasn’t solid enough to publish in a scientific journal. Some empirical study would go a long way toward helping develop a logical process for the REAL experiment.

    Or, we might just go around walking into walls and furniture and other skeptics and have a roaring good time and get lots and lots of kisses. I propose that alcohol should be involved. (In spill-proof cups.)

    I haven’t heard the story … I didn’t think I was THAT sheltered! :D Hey, any story with more drinks is fine by me … that’s as good an excuse as any for a screwdriver. ;)

    LOL, now I want to hear the original joke.

  13. Well, we have one group drinking, and one group sober, as a control… Then, to make sure we didn’t accidentally draw the line in a way that skews the results, we have the control group start drinking, too. ;)

    As far as the story goes – all of it that I’ve said so far in this venue is on the comments here.

  14. *snicker* Very wise. I want to be in the first group and get a head start.

    OK, I’m not totally clear on the one-drink two-drink thing. Do I have to buy YOU a drink to hear the punchline, or do I have to DRINK the drink to hear the punchline? And does it get funnier if you’ve had more drinks? Does it get funnier if I’ve had more drinks? Does it get exponentially funnier if we’ve BOTH had more drinks? These hypotheses need testing.

  15. Well, I was going to insist that people start buying me drinks to hear it, but I know myself far too well to think I’d stick to that in a group of people who are drinking. I’d just buy myself a drink, pretend it was someone else, and tell it anyway. Does it get funnier if I’ve had more drinks? Probably. I gesture more when I’m drinking. Does it get funnier if you’ve had more drinks? Insufficient data for an answer at this time. More testing is required. Does it become exponentially funnier if we’ve both been drinking? Most likely, but without extensive testing, we can’t be sure.

    However, any story begins to lose some of its punch after even a few tellings. Luckily, with all that drinking (especially if we test this as a corollary to the Skeptical kissing tests), I’m likely to have created several more stories we can substitute for later tests.

  16. At this point, I’d buy you entire bottle of Gentleman Jack if I got to hear the rest of the story, but I don’t think I can probably pop that in the mail to Texas, sadly. ;)

    I can vouch for the high probability that any joke will get funnier to me when I’ve had a few. After a certain point EVERYTHING is funny, so save your really dumb ones for then.

    For the third question, I agree that extensive testing is essential, but since you are also correct about the story being insufficient for more than one or two trials, we shall need to gather funny stories so we’re fully prepared for as many experiments as it takes to be satisified with our conclusion.

    Hurrah for Skeptikissing!

  17. Really? Round trip? Please tell me that was assuming last-minute travel… If you need help finding inexpensive flights, I’ve got more than my share of experience (I got a flight from Atlanta to Houston in mid-December on one hour’s notice for $300 – but I think the sexy dress uniform and the idea of a soldier trying to get home to his fiancee for Christmas helped a lot with one).

  18. :::Hmmm… Maybe we should organize some sort of skeptic make-out party or something? Greek Orthodox Church optional:::

    Excuse me, I think you meant “Geek” Orthodox Church. Although, for My Sake, you don’t have to subscribe to orthodoxy.

    I wish that I had time to meet more of you all. The ones I did, I love you!

  19. Sam- I also have to say I’m glad you didn’t think I was too forward with the kisses. You’re such a kissable sort, it was impossible to resist.

    Are you kidding? Kiss away.

    And that goes for all of you, unless of course you have a cold sore or had something disgusting for lunch.

    I wish that I had time to meet more of you all. The ones I did, I love you!

    Ditto, GG.

  20. Really? Round trip? Please tell me that was assuming last-minute travel… If you need help finding inexpensive flights, I’ve got more than my share of experience (I got a flight from Atlanta to Houston in mid-December on one hour’s notice for $300 – but I think the sexy dress uniform and the idea of a soldier trying to get home to his fiancee for Christmas helped a lot with one).

    Yes, round trip … I didn’t think you probably wanted the party to go THAT long. Sort of last minute, I think I put it in a couple of weeks just because it gave me really absurd numbers to do it this weekend.

    I don’t think I can probably swing the “getting home to my fiance in time for Christmas” angle, although the sexy dress uniform might at least help me cut in line. I’ve got some smokin’ concert blacks for my really formal gigs, but they lack the sympathy factor of the “brave soldier” angle. ;)

  21. Excuse me, I think you meant “Geek” Orthodox Church.

    Well.. it was actually a reference to a different conversation. Geek is slightly more of a requirement, I would think. ;)

    although the sexy dress uniform might at least help me cut in line.

    We demand pics.

  22. We demand pics.

    You first, mister. :D

    Besides, I’ve got GREAT pics of the concert attire, but the last time I wore a military uniform was when I was ten years old trying on my (very short) grandpa’s WWII-era Navy uniform. Cute, but definitely not sexy. ;)

  23. *points to icon* See the pic? That’s me.

    Well, OK, so you can’t see anything but my fingers and my liptstick. Hang on, I’ll go change it if I can remember how the heck to find my gravatar.

    LOL! Yeah, I think that’d suffice as a working definition of “orthodox geek”. Now I want to see a picture of you with your Spock ears on.

  24. Dang, it didn’t work. Does it take a few minutes to show up or something?

    Well, if it works, it was probably time to retire The God Delusion / Bridget Jones thing anyway, since I’m not sure anybody but me ever got it. :P

  25. Yeah, but mine is actually a pretty good face shot. If you want something that shows more, I can e-mail. ;)

    Also, I don’t like Trek. On the subject of my unorthodox geekness, I also don’t like Dr. Who, Babylon5, SG1, anime of any variety, and I haven’t got an especial thing for asian girls (thought there’s one in particular I’ve got a thing for – Hi Sabrina!).

  26. Yeah, except for the hat, sunglasses, and facial hair. *rolls eyes*

    No Dr. Who? Well, you don’t have the extra motivation of having a crush on David Tennant, but really? Wow. I’m not sure I’m going to let you have that whole bottle of whiskey after all.

    And no SG1? In that case I might have to just drink it all myself. Although, admittedly, you probably also don’t have the motivation of a crush on Richard Dean Anderson.

    *sigh* Maybe I’m not really a sci-fi fan. Maybe I just have a thing for puckish grins. *more sigh*

  27. Well, since I wear the beard and hat at all times, and the sunglasses more often than not, it’s an accurate representation.

    Actually, I liked whassisname before Tenant. A whole season of Who I could stand, and then they got rid of him. It made me kind of sad.

    I saw ONE episode of SG1 I could tolerate. It was a pretty good movie, though.

    It’s a rare celebrity crush I live with, I crush too hard on people I actually know (more or less) to distract myself with people I’ll likely never have a chance with. (Kate Beckinsale, though, I insist I have a chance with. :P)

  28. Yeah, I know, what’s his name … can’t remember, too lazy to Google it. I liked him too, a bit more edgy than most of the Doctors. I was sorry he only did the one season. Tennant’s adorable, but I could have used more of the first guy.

    I have watched every episode of all ten seasons of SG1 and most of the extra features on the DVD set … so between the two of us, we make one normal sci-fi fan.

    Kate’s adorable. I don’t blame you. I liked her way back when she had actual curves and nobody’d ever heard of her.

    I was gonna say I’ve never seen anybody sleep with his hat on, but then I remembered I have, so I won’t challenge your assertion. ;)

    Dang! How long does it take for that picture to change? I’m not in a very patient mood. *tap tap tap of short fingernails on desk*

  29. To Hell with normal. I’m a real sci-fi fan. I love Asimov, Bova, Heinlein… the classics. The greats. It’s a rare movie that can capture it (Alien and Aliens hit square with horror AND action, respectively, so it can be done), and the only Sci-Fi TV show I ever really enjoyed was Firefly, and then they went and made that movie… It would have been a great movie if I hadn’t had the show to compare it to, probably, but as is – I just can’t bring myself to give it more than barely passing marks.

    In case you were curious, I’m pretty much every other brand of geek there is, though. Gaming, computers, science, math, Ren-Fest, reenactment, the works.

    Also, I should say, the hat does come off very rarely. Most people have never seen me without it. It’s kind of funny – people used to recognize me by my hair, and now a lot of people don’t even realize I have long hair because the hat overshadows all. LoL Maybe I should get a pic of the other side so you can truly understand why that is…

  30. I absolutely stand corrected, humbled, and all other small-ish sounding things. You are right in your assessment of “real” sci-fi, although I haven’t read any Bova to know that for sure. But yeah, my first sci-fi was Heinlein, so I hear where you’re coming from on this. I don’t really even classify stuff like SG1 as sci-fi in the same way as literary sci-fi — same word, but two totally different definitions.

    NetHack?

    Yeah, I’m starting to suspect that you actually have a nice neat little buzz cut under there, and the hair’s actually attached to the hat.

    WHEN is that picture going to change? Grr.

  31. Yeah, that’d piss them off even worse than the fingernails, I’d guess. :P What happened when you were in? Did they buzz it, or did you part company before they got that far? Mine’s growing out for the first time in years … used to be past my waist, but I got sick of it and chopped it in 2002. I still have many more inches to go until it’s where I want it, but at least I look like a girl again.

    (Sorry, this thread is entirely derailed. Quick, say something skeptical.)

  32. Oh no, I was in for a few years. Had I known they charge you for that first haircut, though, and that you never see those drills again (not the same ones you do your actual training with), I’d have shown up with liberty spikes or something and got my money’s worth. Now it’s just about to my belt, but since I’m taller than most people, it’s more of an accomplishment. On the average woman, it would be easily ass-length.

    Also, as a skeptic, I refuse to accept your assertions of looking like a girl without evidence. How’s that for skeptic? Show me the proof!

  33. LOL at the liberty spikes — I imagine it’s not every day, even in Uncle Sam’s hair salon, that the falling hair would go “clunk clunk clunk” when it hit the ground.

    Well, it’s not for lack of trying that I haven’t presented my evidence on my gender. It has now been almost 12 hours since I attempted to change my picture at gravatar.com, and I have gone back and double and triple checked to make sure I did it right. I did, it just won’t change.

    So I guess you’ll have to take it on … faith. ;)

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