Finally, here is the fourth and final installment of my TAM 5 Adventures. Enjoy!
Sunday, January 21st: Rebecca’s Talk, Red Rock Canyon, and Penn & Teller
I woke up early Sunday morning with a large soldier action figure pointing his three-inch gun at my face. I was curled up under the blankets in the king-sized bed in one of the rooms of the suite Rebecca rented for the forum party. Mr. G. I. Joe was perched on top of the television set in front of the bed. I swear he was staring right at me. Glaring at me. Trying to kill me.
I was too tired to be overly concerned about moving out of the gunfire, though. I had fallen asleep around four, maybe five in the morning. I stayed behind in the suite to help clean up the debris after most of the party-goers were kicked out by security. Most of the beer bottles, cups, and food items had been cleared away, but the toys remained: the soldier toy, a fuzzy pillow that made a strange “boing” noise whenever you touched it, and some disturbing chocolate lollipops shaped like male genetalia.
Groggily, I looked at my watch: seven am. Fifteen more minutes of sleep. Just fifteen minutes. I wasn’t hungover, fortunately, as I’d only had a couple of drinks the night before. I definitely needed a shower, though! About half an hour later, I finally stumbled over to the enormous bathroom adjacent to the bedroom, showered, dressed, and headed downstairs for the morning speakers.
Surprisingly, I arrived downstairs in time for breakfast and the first speaker. Sunday was the day of paper presentations, including Rebecca’s wonderful talk. Rebecca spoke about promoting skepticism in the media, using the example of her Skepchick organization with its calendars, magazine, and blog. Other paper presenters talked about subjects such as how to incorporate skepticism when teaching elementary students and the use (or uselessness) of the word “natural” in descriptions of food and medicine products.
After the meeting finished, I met up with my geologist friend Slick to organize folks for the geological tour of Red Rock Canyon, a beautiful natural park located about twenty minutes by car from The Strip. In past years Slick and I had tried a more formal tour with advertising and sign-up sheets. Those past tours were a great amount of work and hassle. Too many people expecting too much. I remember waiting last year for forty minutes for someone to run and retrieve her purse. No more of this!
Since Slick and I run these geology tours free of charge, we went with a different approach this year: a Darwinesque, survival of the fittest approach. We made an announcement that the Red Rocks tour would be leaving fifteen minutes– yes, fifteen minutes– after the conclusion of the conference. We figured that way only really interested people would come on the tour. Those willing to forego a leisurely lunch in favor of the tour were the folks we coming along.
We left twenty minutes (a whole extra five minutes!) after the conference ended with about five cars and twenty people. The weather was a little brisk, but all in all the tour went well. I know I had a good time. I always do out in the desert, which I find a refreshing change of scenery after the gaudy, glitzy atmosphere of the Vegas casinos. Even though the weather was cold, I led a mile hike among the Jurassic fossilized sand dunes. Everyone on the tour was very enthusiastic and grateful. No one complained about the cold weather, and almost everyone came on the hike. I think the natural geology tour selection process went well.
Below are a few photos from the Red Rocks tour, courtesy of my new friend Dave. Thanks, Dave!
After the tour, Slick whisked me away in his (rented) Mustang convertible, and we went to see the Penn & Teller Show. All in all, a great way to spend my final day in Las Vegas.