Events

Best DragonCon Ever?

For the third year in a row, I journeyed to Atlanta to spend Labor Day weekend with a few of the Skepchicks, some awesome scientists and performers, and about 60,000 costumed sci-fi/fantasy enthusiasts. This year, I finally discovered my true calling: I am an elf.

I wandered into the vendor area with my SGU co-host Steve Novella, and within 15 minutes I was fitted for my own extra large floppy elf ears, which the nice ladies in the booth colored to match my nearly-translucent skin color. I immediately realized that rather than donning a costume, I had at long last taken it off. I was an elf. (Thanks to Greg for sending in the pic!)

OK, at least until one ear flopped off a few hours later and the spirit gum got caught in my hair. But for awhile there, it was kind of awesome and I felt like I was totally fitting in with the cool kids at D*C. While walking around, a guy said to me, “I like your ears.” I honestly wasn’t sure if he was being sarcastic or not, so I said, “I like yours, too.” He wasn’t wearing prosthetics. It was awkward.

There were plenty of other highlights as well:

  • You: Surly Amy and I spent most of the weekend hanging out at the Skepchick/Surly/SGU fan tables, meeting a bunch of you guys. You guys are awesome! Thanks to those of you who stopped by to say hi, buy a t-shirt, take a pic, get a bite to eat with us, and/or compliment me on my ears.
  • MST3K: Our fan table neighbors were Frank Conniff and Trace Beaulieu from Mystery Science Theater 3000! Last year I had the pleasure of hanging out with MST3K alum Bill Corbett, and I’m happy to report that Frank and Trace are just as smart, funny, approachable, and skeptical. I found out that Frank actually performs a regular show called Cartoon Dump at the Center for Inquiry’s Steve Allen Theater in LA, and Trace wrote a children’s book called Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children, illustrated by Friend of Skepchick Len Peralta (who, happily, was also in attendance at D*C)!
  • Quiz-o-Tron: As I did a year ago at D*C and just a few months ago at The Amaz!ng Meeting, I hosted a fun, slightly filthy quiz show with a panel of interesting people. This year we reached a new high, or a new low depending upon your outlook. The aforementioned MST3K alums Bill, Frank, and Trace were there, plus Phil Plait, George Hrab, Ken Plume, Sasha Pixlee (as bartender), and Doc Hammer, creator of The Venture Brothers. For those familiar with the show, you may be amused to know that Doc spent several minutes delivering a graphic description of what the sex act “Rusty Venture” entails.
  • Live SGUs: It’s always fun to do live versions of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, but this weekend was particularly cool since we were also able to do a second, more intimate show for a handful of fans who saw how we record the show when we’re not on stage. Both audiences were wonderful and I think all of us had a blast.
  • Vaccine Clinic: Our own Maria Walters, Jamie Bernstein, and other volunteers did an amazing job getting the vaccine clinic going and then driving traffic to it. They gave away more than 200 free vaccines, and loads more free flu shots. Way to save the world!
So I’m back home now and I haven’t really slept in a long time and I have to start preparing myself for next year’s con. After all, this new and improved elf costume isn’t going to build itself.

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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22 Comments

  1. hate to get topical, but been reading the importance of vaccines everywhere lately, and i always see that flu vaccination shots like to sneak in on the “saving the world” ticket?

    If you can’t survive the yearly flu as an adult in a western world, you got more pressing problems like, terrible nutrition and lack of exercise. Take your flu susceptibility as benchmark of your ability to survive other ailments.

    So if flu is taking you out every year, it’s time to sort out your lifestyle, and not pump yourself with more medication so that you can continue your unhealthy lifestyle. i can think of better things for big-pharma to spend their money on (like lowering their prices even further on foreign 3rd world vaccine sales) than keeping up with the latest and greatest flu vaccines.

    1. @lefrench: While most healthy adults can certainly expect to weather a case of the flu without incident, you’re forgetting: a flu sufferer is a flu carrier.

      Flu kills a quarter to a half a million people a year. Reducing that statistic sounds like a damn reasonable thing for ‘big pharma’ to be spending its money on.

    2. If you can’t survive the yearly flu as an adult in a western world, you got more pressing problems like, terrible nutrition and lack of exercise. Take your flu susceptibility as benchmark of your ability to survive other ailments.

      This is pure unadulterated bullshit.

      People in good health die every year from the flu. Most people survive after being sick a week to 10 days. 99.97% survive. What about the .03% who don’t? This amounts to tens of thousands of people in the US alone. Some of them, like my best friend’s son are healthy, athletic college students.

      Ever heard of herd immunity? Just because you have a mild case of the flu does not mean that everyone who catches it from you will have a mild case. If you expose someone who has:

      Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
      Adults 65 years of age and older
      Pregnant women
      American Indians and Alaskan Natives seem to be at higher risk of flu complications
      People who have medical conditions including:
      Asthma (even if it’s controlled or mild)
      Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions [including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability (mental retardation), moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury]
      Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)
      Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
      Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
      Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)
      Kidney disorders
      Liver disorders
      Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
      Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids)
      People younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
      People who are morbidly obese (Body Mass Index [BMI] of 40 or greater)
      (from the CDC.
      you will quite likely kill them. But these people aren’t in your favored class of healthy western adults, so fuck them.

      I was going to talk about the economic cost of 35,000,000 (CDC estimate of H1N1 cases between April 2009 and April 2010, people 18-65) otherwise perfectly healthy people staying home sick from work for a week or two (about 40 billion dollars) but if you care about that more than about kids with sickle cell, CF, asthma or type 1 diabetes then don’t get vaccinated. Just don’t breath around me or anyone I care about.

      1. Thank you Buzz! There are a great many reasons why someone might need a flu shot that go beyond simply being out of shape or having a poor diet. And yes, getting a flu shot isn’t just about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting those around you. This tough guy “Psssh, if you can’t handle the flu well eff you” attitude is much less healthy than half of the conditions you listed.

        And it’s not like there’s anything wrong with getting a vaccine. Except that it might offend the ever so macho sensibilities of those who’s sense of confidence and security is dependent on exposing themselves to unnecessary hardships and acting like it doesn’t bother them. “Band-aid? Polysporin? If you can’t stave off an infection with your own immune system you’ve got bigger problems than the cut on your arm”. Even if I didn’t have asthma, rendering a flu shot necessary, and lived in total isolation from anyone else who’s at risk of serious complications, I’d STILL get one just because THE FLU KINDA SUCKS and flu shots are easy, quick and harmless.

        1. <wimpout>Actually, I was feeling like a bit of a jerk after posting that. Though everything I said is true, I think I could have said it without implying that lefrench is a heartless, ignorant selfish dumb-ass. He or she is probably no more than one of these things, and that one can be remedied by education. ;-) I just get really, really annoyed with people causing unjustified harm to other people. It’s a good thing I don’t have any superpowers.</wimpout>

          Mrmisconception, yeah, what you said. I had the real flu in December 96, it was pretty much as you described, though the really bad part lasted about 4-5 days with me. Most of the people at work had it at the same time; I don’t know if I caught it from one of them or if they caught it from me, but the office was basically shut down for about a week. I’ve gotten jabbed every year since then (twice in ’09 for regular and H1N1.)

          My company reimburses the co-pay. 10 days ago, I had my annual physical and they were offering the 2011-12 shot, which (they claim) my insurance now covers, so it was free this time, but even most expensive shot (~$20) was dirt cheap compared to the lost productivity of everyone being out sick for a week.

          1. yep heiny spanked.

            your diatribe raised the following aspects:

            a point worthy of thought: getting the flu shot so you don’t “carry” it to a vulnerable person. i lived in india for 3 years, cramped quarters et al. never got a flu shot, never caused an outbreak either. look i get there are vulnerable people, there always will be, we have hospitals to take care of them don’t we? wait i forget our medical care system is so fucked up that the answer is usually not as most of those statistics come from poverty. It kind of feels like, “YOU MUST get the flu shot” because our medical resources are so wasted in innumerable ways so as to not put any burden which the small percentage of vulnerable might dare to place on the medical system. I am rambling sure, so i admit you have a point of sorts, but somethings not right, and getting a flu shot every year feels like treating a symptom and not a cause. If/when i have kids, etc, i’d totally give it to them, etc, my main point being only that excessive constant flu vaccines for healthy adults is messed up.

            And what’s the difference between a vaccine immunity and a natural immunity? i would think both cases you can be a potential carrier, so you are not doing your neighbor any favors by getting the shot.

            and a point not worthy of thought: millions or billion of production dollars lost by companies due to sick leave and by extension collectable revenue for government. I take great offense at the way companies pay/consider their employees and how the government allocates its budget (which is usually to the military and thus immediately passed onto private security contractors where a spanner costs y’know the same as a new car). i have zero empathy for your claimed loss of their “precious productivity”. If ever our productivity is wisely used, or not just pissed away into executives bonuses and stupid salaries, then i would very likely immediately go for flu shots every year on this basis alone, because indeed if our productivity were ever wisely used, this country would be a utopia, and i’d do the most i could to contribute.

      2. Buzz, not to be a contrarian, because you are right but…
        I want to suggest that lefrench may be making an all-too-often made mistake. They may be lumping gastroenteritis, food poisoning, sinusitis, and the common cold together as “the flu” or “the stomach flu”; I wouldn’t want to speak for them, but if they are they wouldn’t be alone.
        Most people have had a nasty upset stomach that gets labeled “the flu” (sometimes by doctors!) or have the cold or sinus infection and think that’s the flu.
        If you can work through it, it’s most likely not the flu.
        .
        When I was young and stupid I was under the impression that I got the flu almost every year and thought it was just my bad luck until the year I actually got the flu; 2 days of +102 fever, fatigue, and everything hurting followed by 4 more days of diminished capacity will quickly disabuse you of the notion that the flu is “no big thing”.
        Nobody likes a nasty cold or sinus infection but I won’t make the mistake of labeling a cold “the flu” ever again, oh and the flu shot as soon as possible every year for me please.
        I’ll take just about any “lesser” disease over full-blown influenza; except the Norwalk virus, they can just keep that thank-you-very-much.

        1. Another big consideration with the flu is related to immune compromised folk such as cancer/chemo patients and those who are susceptible to secondary infections such as pneumonia, especially the elderly. When you get a flu vaccination it may prevent what could potentially be an initial step in a downward spiral for an elderly person if the viral flu leads to bacterial pneumonia and serious complications like death.

    3. This is anecdotal, but in this case I feel useful to humanize the survival of the fittest talk that has been made by lefrench. My family and I had gotten the flu last year, my daughter was two at the time. We were SO SICK! Altogether it lasted about two weeks and we were bed ridden for a few days during that time. Our extended family lives out of town, so we had a hard time feeding ourselves, let alone the constant care we had to give our daughter. Before the flu we were in excellent health and live what could be considered a healthy lifestyle. My daughter getting the flu was horrifying and scary. Honestly, I don’t want to face a test of the fittest again anytime soon! This year we are going to get immunized from the flu! After getting the flu we caught EVERY bug that came our way. It wasn’t until after six months we quit being sick all the time!

    4. There is also a problem with being “too” healthy, because the immune system will over react, a cytokine storm. This is why young persons were more likely to die in the 1918 pandemic, and were more affected by the H1N1 strain from a season or so ago.

  2. If elf-ears are glued on properly, you could even sleep with them without losing one.
    Of course, with those larger ones that just wouldn’t be very comfortable.
    Getting the glue off your ears after the weekend, now that’s the hard part.

    But if you have only one ear, then you’re clearly a half-elf …

  3. I’m on staff at Dragoncon, and I walked by that vaccination place so many times on my way to work in our radio room, and kept saying “I should stop by and get my shots when I’m not in such a hurry.” But I was never not in a hurry. I’ll just get mine at my doctor’s like usual.

    But anyway, I’m glad to hear you had fun! Those of us on staff (all volunteers) really do try to make it a fun and safe time for everyone.

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