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TAM 6: Wrap-up!

Maybe 400 of you are thinking, “Oh good, another TAM update,” and 40,000 others are thinking, “Look, stop rubbing it in.” Lucky for me, this blog is not a democracy.

IMG_2052The Amaz!ng Meeting 6 is now finished and I am home in Boston. Once again, I am stunned by the sudden lack of neon and the preponderance of taupe. Each year, TAM gets bigger, more exciting, and more stressful — accordingly, each year it leaves me more drained and sad in the days and weeks that follow. Still though, when I think about how much fun it was to run around recording all those interviews live and in person with my SGU buddies, followed by long nights of talking and laughing about everything from black holes to blackjack, I seriously think that I’d like nothing more than to do that as a full-time job for the rest of my life. I mean, I’d probably die within a few months from all the craziness, but I’d die a happy girl.

Skepchicks!My main regret this year is that the schedule was so hectic I hardly had any quality time with close friends, though it occurs to me that I love them all so much I’d probably want more time no matter what. That includes friends like Randi, all the Skepchicks (Sam, A, Tracy, Masala_Skeptic, Stacey), Phil Plait, Richard Saunders, Michael Feldman, Brian Dunning, Ben Radford, Richard Wiseman, Ray Hall, Hal Bidlack, everyone at JREF (Jeff Wagg, Linda, Carl, Rich), and of course my eternal crush Sid Rodrigues. I’m just naming the ones you (the reader) may know, but for every one there were many more attendees I consider friends, to whom I hardly even said hello. I wish we could all just buy a village somewhere and turn it into SkepTown, where Adam Savage runs the local hardware store and Penn & Teller busk in the town square, while Steve, Jay, Evan, Bob and I are on the radio eight hours a day. I suppose that would turn us into a giant cult, though, which sort of goes against the whole critical thinking thing, so maybe not.

IMG_2057Quickly I’ll mention the new people I met who I loved (it happens every year, I add to the list of people I will miss terribly): Skepchick Carr2D2 of course, the very funny Ben Goldacre, the charming Chris French, the immensely talented George Hrab, the quietly brilliant PZ Myers, and easily a dozen Skepchick readers/SGU listeners who kept me laughing late into the evenings. The only one of you whose name I remember is Gabe. (Okay, that’s just a little joke for Gabe, whose name changed 12 times a night.)

A, Sam, and the CockThe fans were absolutely without a doubt awesome this year. Not that in previous years they’ve been anything else, really, but obviously each year TAM gets bigger and we get a larger SGU and Skepchick audience. At TAM 4 I think a few people introduced themselves as Skepchick readers. At TAM 5 I was overwhelmed with the dozens of people who said very kind things to me. At TAM 6, a hundred of you completely filled up Trevi for our dinner, and hundreds of you dragged yourselves out of bed to see us podcast live at 8am Friday and Saturday, and then hundreds of you came to my party. You were all kind and respectful. Every single one of you waited patiently for the right time to say hello, asked very nicely for pictures and autographs, bought us drinks as thanks, brought us presents from around the world, and did your best to withstand the sauna-like heat in my party suite. IMG_2016Speaking just of the party, so many of you offered to chip in money or bring snacks and drinks and speakers and laser projectors. No one broke anything, ordered pay-per-view porn, or made phone calls to East Asia. When security showed up (due to the heat driving people into the hallways, where neighbors could hear us), you were respectful and awesome, and you moved the party back to the bar. A couple dozen of you offered to stay and clean up, and those of you who did were able to hang out for a few more hours and listen to George Hrab on the piano. That was maybe my favorite part, because I got a chance to speak with more of you in-depth.

Ben Radford LevitatesThe conversations with you all were fabulous. So many of you told me about new projects you’re working on, local skeptical groups you’re starting, blog ideas you have. I’ll do my best to promote whatever you have going on, because we need more of you taking initiative like that. Speaking of, I met a teen at TAM who happens to live in my hometown (and whose father knows my mom, which was a really strange and fun coincidence). Anyway, I hope that she’ll be helping me with a new project soon that I think Skepchick readers in particular will LOVE.

I’d better wrap this love-fest up because the non-TAM attendees are getting annoyed. Go to Flickr to see all the pics (especially to the Skeptics photogroup, which anyone can join!), YouTube to see some videos (I’ll be uploading more), and click here to see all the Skepchick TAM updates under the Events tag.

Thanks again everyone!

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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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23 Comments

  1. Were you at TAM, Rebecca? Gees, I don’t think I saw you.

    Kidding of course.

    Just too much going on to get quality time with everyone. So, come on over to my house tonight, and let’s keep the party going.

  2. Oh, stop rubbing it in. Not only are you making me green with envy by participating in TAM 6, you’re making me positively sick to my stomach with jealousy by having a time machine, with which you went to TAM 7 and back.

  3. •Sam said: “Just too much going on to get quality time with everyone. So, come on over to my house tonight, and let’s keep the party going”

    Way way to much going on. It was nice to meat folk and put real faces and names on otherwise somewhat ambiguous avatars (what’s with the HAIR on yours Sam???). ;)
    ~J

  4. For those of you itching for a TAM re-run, remember Dragon*Con (already being called TAM 6.25) is coming up in a few short months. It will not have all the glory that is a full TAM but it will have a full Skeptical Track this year which will include:

    – James Randi (you might have heard of him)
    – Phil Plait
    – Richard Saunders
    – George Hrab
    – Steve Novella
    – Lori Lippman Brown

    Plus stormtroopers and cylons, of which there were very few at TAM.

    Plus it’s in my ‘hood so double bonus points that I don’t have to get on a plane.

  5. It’s a shame there isn’t a TAM equivalent in the UK, as a flight to Vegas costs a bomb.

    I’ve just spent the evening drinking at an academic confrence where all the booze is free (my best mate was the “Refreshments Organiser”) and I’m certain that if UK Sceptics get together, have a few people bring posters along, a couple of official talks, fancy name (eg “Current Developments in Sceptical Enquiry”) and I bet we could get some money from the EPSRC.

    At least enough for the drinks, nibbles and name badges. Just a thought…

  6. Rebecca sez:
    “I wish we could all just buy a village somewhere and turn it into SkepTown, where Adam Savage runs the local hardware store and Penn & Teller busk in the town square, while Steve, Jay, Evan, Bob and I are on the radio eight hours a day.”

    And every day would be Skepday, and Mayor Randi would reside over the Skep-parade. I am so glad you posted this because my husband though I was nerding out when I expressed something similar (“but it was so cool, and Randi was friendly, and people didn’t cut in line and, if they found a lost item, such as a valuable Penn and Teller ticket, they turned it in! It was like Burning Man with critical thinking skills!).

    Anyhoo, had a blast. Fun is an understatement. I am planning on putting a paper in for TAM 7.

  7. LOL at “Burning Man with critical thinking skills”! Another life experience I somehow missed out on … somehow I think I might have an easier time getting my in-laws to watch the kids for something called “The Amazing Meeting” than Burning Man, though. ;)

  8. I am the father of “the teen” that Rebecca mentions above. Suffice it to say, she is thrilled to have met one of her mentors and can’t wait to help out in any way that she can.

    I must say that it was really weird to go to a freethinking conference with the expressed goal of providing my daughter a chance to meet Rebecca and then when the moment finally arrived, we find out that she is from our home town (and a little town it is, BTW). Almost… paranormal? ;)

    Anyway, this was our first TAM and it was wonderful. My daughter said to me on the first day, “Dad, we’re with our people!” I must agree. TAM reminds me that what the skeptical community needs more than anything… is well… community.

    To Rebecca and all of the Skepchicks and the Skepdude, I am thrilled that my daughter regularly reads your work. Thank you all for your efforts.

  9. I’m going to be a party pooper… While there were many, many individual good things about this years TAM, I found it overall less amazing than previous years. It’s really to do with the presentations, and not with all the fun extras (SGU in the mornings, meeting tons of cool people, etc.). After previous meetings I have been on a high of inspiration due to the presentations. This year I found the paper presentations to be much more inspiring than the main presentations. I’m hoping it was to do with the nebulous, only vaguely followed, dual themes (I, Skeptic; Modern Skepticism in the Internet Age), and that next year it will be back up to the previous amazingly inspiring event that I crave every year.

  10. This was my first TAM, and I had a great time. I have really never been to anything like it, and it was weird being around so many like-minded people.

    I met so many wonderful people, and especially enjoyed meeting many of the skepchicks in my quest to get my calendar signed. Unfortunately, my wife won’t let me keep it (I think I will send it to someone I met in the UK who missed his opportunity to buy it at TAM). Of course, I got the obligatory photos with Penn, Teller & Adam Savage, and I was amazed by how approachable they all were. I really felt I had a lot in common after talking with Adam, but perhaps that is because I have OCD. :-)

    The keynote was awesome, and I am so glad I did not miss that. I was disappointed by P&T’s “presentation”. I guess it would have been better if people knew they were going to do a free form Q&A, but as it was people did not ask very good questions without preparation. Their Sat night show was awesome, though.

    And what can I say about Vegas; it was HOT, but it was fun! Except for the haunted tour, I think I got a chance to do everything I wanted on this trip.

    Also, I learned of some great new podcasts and web sites, too. It may be hard to believe, but I had never heard of SGU before (Just PoI & Skepticality)

    Now I have just come back to regular life and am suffering through some postpartum TAM depression. I have always felt rather disconnected and without a community. My wife goes to church, and I stay home and mow while listening to skeptical and humanistic podcasts. I read a lot of books and magazines on the subject, but again that isn’t very social.

    I have to figure out something, because I can’t afford every Tam X.y, and the local skeptics group is little more than a rant against the religious. This is part of the problem of being a minority in a small town, I suppose.

    I welcome suggestions from others on how they achieve this sense of community. I thought about starting a blog, but again that wouldn’t be any more social than reading unless people actually read it. :-)

    Well, thanks to everyone who graciously signed my calendar and for throwing a wonderful party!

  11. Resfirma, thanks for posting! Please have her email me when she can, at [email protected].

    Stacie, sorry you didn’t have the best of times. I missed many of the talks, since I was spending most of my time interviewing speakers for SGU. I did see Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s, which I thought was fantastic, and Ben Goldacre’s, which I found pretty illuminating. I do know that it’s been a constant annoyance that speakers just never adhere to the topic. I’m totally in favor of it being topic-less next year.

    SkepGeek, thanks for the post and welcome to the community of skeptics! To help with that community spirit, I encourage people to start up Drinking Skeptically or Skeptics in the Pub groups, or participating in more blogs and forums, or just selling plasma to make it to more events in bigger cities!

  12. Rebecca, as far as speakers being on topic, this was the first year that I noticed this sincere lack of theme. Last year’s topic of Skepticism in the Media, for instance, seemed pretty well followed by most speakers. This year…I’m not sure if ‘I, Skeptic’ was supposed to lend itself to a theme of individual skeptical perspectives, or if it was just fun to have an Asimov reference. The other, more themey theme, ‘Modern Skepticism in the Internet Age’ seemed only to be addressed in the speakers they chose (lots of speakers with an online presence, such as a blog), but not in the topics they spoke on.

    The papers were almost entirely on the second theme. But then they were reviewed ahead of time.

    I think another reason that I felt less inspired is that few of this years presentations were on something happening right now in the skeptical movement…something groundbreaking and/or amazing that a person or group is doing to advance the cause. The talks were interesting and several of them were very entertaining, don’t get me wrong, but I think the inspirational quality comes from something beyond that. Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s presentation falls into just that category – hilariously entertaining (I loved it), but not necessarily inspirational. The paper presentations had a fair amount of just that sort of thing. Of course, not every presentation needs to be inspiring…a little really can go a long way.

    Just to be clear, I really did have a good time, and there were quite a few good presentations, I made a lot of new friends, had fun watching SGU in action, and was thoroughly entertained watching a game of Ho Fish played with the naked chick cards they hand out on the strip.

  13. For those of you who want a little more taste of Tam 6, I finally got my copy of Teller’s Spoon Bending story he told during Richard Wiseman’s presentation on Saturday up on YouTube this afternoon. In advanced, sorry for the shakiness and focus issues, this was shot on an Easyshare camera by hand. If any one is interested, you can check it out here.

    John Y.

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