Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Name Dropping

I arrived back at the Anders Villa just a couple of hours before dawn this morning. TAM was… extraordinary. I finally got to hug my friends that, until this weekend, were just compassionate avatars.

I also got to meet some of my skeptical heroes. Not just the big names like Phil Plait and James Randi (and I was a bridesmaid in a wedding with Adam Savage, if you hadn’t heard), but also some of my not-as-big names who are doing great things for skepticism and saving the world while I tweet about Moose eating crayons. It was humbling to finally meet the lovely (albeit frenzied) A Kovacs, who you probably know as A.Real.Girl, probably the hardest working person in skepticism today. And I very purposefully spent as much time as I could chatting with Joe Albietz, the PICU doctor responsible for the TAM vaccine drive. It was humbling, empowering, inspiring, and motivating. I am a better person today because I was at TAM last weekend.

Aside from the “big names” out there, who are the people out there that you want to meet? Have you met any of your less prominent heroes? Who would you like to see get the recognition for their work in skeptical activism that isn’t yet getting the attention you think they deserve? Are there big name skeptics that you think, even with the amount of attention they currently get, are still under-appreciated by our community?


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. Well, since Adam Savage said all the skepchicks could call him a close, personal friend, I claim the right to use that title.

    I am a close, personal friend of Adam Savage.

  2. Anyone for me who has turned into an unsung hero of mine happened after meeting them, though none of them have been skeptics that we would be able to identify easily, but working it at their own angles. But like I said, most of my minor heroes I meet first and then keep an eye out on what they’re doing, and those people have all been artists. The benefit of being in an art organization in university is that we usually get to meet visiting artists on a more personal basis outside of them presenting their work at the art museum or wherever they are in Laramie. One of them ended up becoming a teacher at University of Wyoming, so it was great have that opportunity to be under his wing.

  3. A guy named Jim (Fowler?) sat at our table for the SGU dinner and he was inspirational. He’s “just a guy from Alabama” and just ran for an won a seat on the board of education. His first hurdle is to try to ban corporal punishment in AL and then he wants to tackle some of the more heinous perversions of science education that are going on. His message was ‘just do it, run for office and help make a change’.

    PS – On a personal note, it was awesome meeting the skepchicks in person. I so understand why Rebecca is so devoted to you all. You rock. (and don’t forget to friend me on flickr for the extra pics!).

    Maggie (aka Tankgrrl)

  4. I’d just like to go to a Skeptics/Skepchick meet-up, period! Still new to the whole Skeptics community, and there isn’t always a lot going on in the Phoenix/Tempe area. Or at least, when I have the time/money. :)

  5. @marilove: TAM next year !?!

    My kids thought the coolest thing I brought home from TAM last year was a ping pong ball signed by Adam savage. I’ll be there next year and am anticipating some hugs and meeting more great skeptical people.

  6. @James Fox:

    I think you meant to say:

    a ping pong ball signed by Elyse’s close personal friend, Adam Savage.

    (He told me to refer to him that way from now on when I asked if we could just start calling him “Adam” instead of “Adamsavage”)

  7. Speaking of Adam Savage (who was surprisingly genial when I chatted with him), I was a wee bit disappointed that when he rushed forward with the rings, he didn’t offer that he “just made them in the workshop” or something like that.

    Much like Maggie, I thought it was important to meet single, individual skeptics who were about to do something significant as an individual – I did speak quite a bit with Derek Bartholomaus (who set up I’ve been inspired to do something myself, which I’ll be working on this year (which hopefully will be fruitful enough that y’all will hear about it).

    But the important message is, even one person in the skeptical community can really make a notable difference.

  8. Jef and Theo Clark from Hunting Humbug 101. They run the skeptics field guide, and have a podcast discussing logical fallacies. I like to use their handy dandy field guide to tear into arguments that have no rational basis!

    I think they fall more into the “Relevant in your daily life” category. As a matter of fact, on my facebook, since I don’t have a blog, I found a story with a lot of LF’s in them, and tore it up.

  9. For years I had dreamed of meeting Isaac Asimov and then he died. So after that I had hopped I would someday meet Douglas Adams and then he died. I had hopped to meet Arthur Clarke and then he died. I have decieded to stop hoping to meet any one. It apparently kills them.

  10. I continue to see how awesome TAM was, and I continue to get stung by my last-minute passport problems. My beef, I’ll have to deal.

    I was really looking forward to meeting the Skepchicks most of all to be perfectly honest. I read all the other skeptic blogs daily, and even comment on occasion, but the Skepchick model is one that encourages not just blog aggregation, but active participation…making it much more of a community than say, Bad Astronomy (which, I love dearly, don’t get me wrong) or Pharyngula (and as much as I dig PZ,, the idea of being a part of the “Pharynguloid Army” is a little nauseating). I’ve been more active here than anywhere else (even my own blog!), and I was really excited to meet the Skepchicks, as well as my fellow commenters.

    Truthfully, I’ve been SGU’ing longer than Skepchicking, but I’ve been way more skepchicky. (Not that I wasn’t excited to meet the rest of the SGUers, and all the other top and middle-tier skeptics that I admire and read). Oh man, just thinking about this stings so friggin hard.

    Teh bitterness: it burnz

  11. If it wasn’t fatal I would like to meet Marilove, Elyse, James Fox, Kayla, Tmarie, Evan Berstein, the Novella brothers, Adam Savage and get stupid drunk with all of you.

  12. @Gabrielbrawley: I never met Douglas Adams, but let me tell you a story, one which I continue to hold really close to my heart:

    In 1997 (when Douglas was doing the Starship Titanic stuff), the internet was a young, vibrant lass who freely tossed her hair about and teased all the boys with her sudden “development”. I stumbled upon a lengthy interview with Douglas in which the journalist carelessly revealed my favorite author’s email address (can you imagine that happening now?). Fresh with teenagery confidence (and ignorance), I took advantage. I asked him two questions:

    1) Are you a musician? I’ve noticed a few musician words in your books like crescendo and szforzando, and I thought I’d ask.
    2) Are you a Beatles fan?

    His answer, was so perfect, so succinct, so….DOUGLASY that I’m totally certain that it wasn’t done by some answering service:

    1) I don’t remember using szforzando, but yes, I am. Strictly an amateur one.
    2) Yes. In much the same way that China is a large country.


    I printed up the email and it’s sitting around in storage. I would dearly love to find it. I’m on a huge Douglas Adams kick right nowI’m on a huge Douglas Adams kick right now, so that email rings especially poignant with me right now.

  13. @Elyse: My bad, my insignificance, my obsequious bowing down to your place of honor.

    @Gabrielbrawley: Neal Stephenson lives south of me in Seattle and I hope beyond hope that I’ll run into him in public someday and will have the presence of mind to not make an ass out of myself.

  14. @James Fox: Actually, I’m afraid I would make an Ass of myself when I meet any of you guys. At least for a little while and then I would relax. I always have to be careful how I am when I meet a new person. If they aren’t pretty close to my size. I have been told that I am intimidating until someone gets to know me.

  15. @Gabrielbrawley: “Actually, I’m afraid I would make an Ass of myself when I meet any of you guys.”

    This is my problem as well. So over-correct in trying not to be a fanboy that when I come across celebrities (minor and major) in real life my wife says I come across as diffident. That’s definitely the side I want to err on. I confess I did feel a little frisson when carrying Marian Call’s typewriter.

  16. You think YOU get to name drop? I got to spend two consecutive weekends and two different conventions with ELYSE ANDERS and I could just walk up and hug her with no reason or warning.

    That was awesome. Plus, she’s a close, personal friend of Adam Savage, who I assume I can now also hug.

  17. Best TAM moment ever? Surly Amy and I getting a pep talk from Steve freakin’ Novella. And then getting a hug from him.

    Beat that, bitches!

  18. I want to meet everyone. EVERYONE.
    I don’t think I’ve met anyone of note. Yet. I’d like to say that with more confidence, but my brain is on holiday.

    Guess I’ll have to go to TAM 8 and stop saying “I want to meet those people…aw man..swiper no swiping!”

  19. @Gabrielbrawley:

    Hear Hear!! I’d love that! I’ll keep you up to tabs about my health.

    Mostly I just want to meet other people as motivated as I am…about knowledge… and such… which means all of you! So.. get started on that.

  20. @Gabrielbrawley:

    For years I had dreamed of meeting Isaac Asimov and then he died. So after that I had hopped I would someday meet Douglas Adams and then he died. I had hopped to meet Arthur Clarke and then he died. I have decieded to stop hoping to meet any one. It apparently kills them.

    I have a new Anti-goal in life. I never want to become popular enough for Gabrielbrawley to wish to meet me.

  21. This was my first TAM and to have such a huge reaction to a website that I created after registering to go to TAM7 was just unreal.

    I’ve been smiling all day as I think about all of the wonderful people that I got to hang out with (like you Zoltan). Many of them I have known electronically, but to talk with them in person, and learn their real names, was just amazing!

    I can’t wait to go to TAM8 next year!

    (Jenny McCarthy Body Count)

  22. I would like to recognize the tireless work of all the crackpots out there. The homeopaths, faith healers, bigfoot enthusiasts, UFO nuts, moon landing hoaxers, christian apologists, scientologists, acupuncturists, reiki practitioners, cold readers and psychics.

    After all, without them, where would the skeptical community be!

  23. I’d like to meet the Skepchicks, Richard Dawkins, that-scientist-that-fed-citrate-to-ecoli-and wrote-a-snarky-reply-to-creationists, Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, Robert Wright, George Carlin (post humorously) Oh, and God.

    I posed this question to my wife, and she again mentioned her crush on Rebecca Watson.

  24. Perhaps because I had the great fortune to become a physician ( and trust me … random events were definitely linked together that allowed me to become a doc myself ), I’m not “impressed” by physicians (or anyone with any terminal degree ) unless that esteem is warranted by many variables. It’s the person I am impressed with, not the degree. What impressed me about TAM’s speakers and leaders are not their acomplishments alone, but rather their personas. Joe Albietz and I immediatedly felt a kinship, not only because we both care for children in our practice but because of something more intangible, perhaps a world view ( I know … I know …how very unscientific ). However, Jay Novella I connected with on a totally differently level – we both have a very warped sense of humor – we simply connected as friends. As you can tell I value friendship over accomplishment. But not coincidentally, most of my friends are indeed accomplished in some way, shape, or form. ( So many other speakers or leaders I also connected with as well and I do not mean to slight them by not mentioning them. )

    Anyhoo … for me it was the everyday stories of the attendees that fascinated me the most. Specifically, I met a man in his late 20s who was born into a family that were born again Christians. As a young adult he had to DECONSTRUCT a belief system and then replace it with a newly CONSTRUCTED belief system. His was not the only such tale, but simply the most dramatic. These radical changes , these brave people who had to leave behind all that gave them comfort in order to embrace a greater truth are the people I most admired at TAM.

  25. I already met Dawkins and PZ, and a few of the wonderful Skepchicks (and skep-SOs) at Skepchickcon, so I dunno….

    Tom Cruise? ;)

    Let me get serious for a minute: I’d love to meet Stephen Hawking.

  26. @halincoh: Sweet, you have a warped sense of humor? Well then, you had better show up when I get some drinking skeptics meetings going! Which should be really soon, hopefully.

  27. @Some Canadian Skeptic: How ’bout we both plan on going next year? :) Skepchick is my favorite place, too. I feel more welcome here than I do anywhere else. I love PZ Myers but uh, yeah, I agree with you there.

    From here on out, I’m planning on TAM next year…hopefully. :)

  28. I would like to meet Orac from the blog Respectful Insolence. He writes an excellent blog on medicine and the misuse of it.

  29. For years I had dreamed of meeting Isaac Asimov and then he died. So after that I had hopped I would someday meet Douglas Adams and then he died. I had hopped to meet Arthur Clarke and then he died. I have decieded to stop hoping to meet any one. It apparently kills them.

    Simple deductive reasoning tells us that Gabriel has, at some point over the past month or so, wanted to meet Billy Mays, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson.

  30. @Elyse: “Elyse’s close personal friend, Adam Savage”

    I wouldn’t mind being able to call Adam Savage a close personal friend but an upcoming cartoon is likely to preclude that possibility.

  31. Best moments:
    Getting to meet Jeff and Karl and Hal right away Wednesday morning….getting introduced to Mac King by Hal Bidlack, then driving Hal back to the hotel and talking politics….getting to know Sid at the bar, feeling welcomed….getting to meet Robert Lancaster after trying to rescue him out in the desert….having dinner with the Novellas, Phil, Allison R. and Drs Gorsky and Jones….chatting with Brian Brushwood and Michael Shermer at the kick-off dinner….2nd row (!) at magic show with magician guests….abandoning my guests to have dinner after the show with Penn, Banachek, Thomsoni, Allison S., Dean Cameron and others….getting Adam Savage (!) to record a brief video shout-out to my son (age 9)….lunch at the Oyster Bar with George Hrab (!)….helping the super-awesome Allison R. fix Adam’s iPhone….escorting the non-pirate-garbed Ashley to Penn & Teller, going backstage to chat with P&T, getting my rental car broken into and having the GPS stolen, getting to the skepchick party anyway….talking with D.J. Grothe about how I got over my religious-induced homophobia….stayed sober through the whole skepchick party….chatted with Brian Dunning and Richard Saunders and all the awesome skepchicks at the party….worked on the NY Times crossword with Emily Jillette….had dinner with Jen, Ashley and the lovely and delightful Bunny….got a ride in Penn’s “GODLESS” mini….backstage again with Penn & Teller, but this time with Randi and A and Allison and a zillion other awesomely awesome skeptics…
    …and eventually I went home.

  32. In answer to the last two questions, I don’t think Reed Esau gets enough attention or appreciation. Aside from being the creator of Skepticamp and the originator of the Celebrity Atheist list, he is a visionary who is always looking for the next way forward. He was telling me at TAM7 some ideas he’s working on in regards to skeptics & copyright that are quite awesome.

  33. @IBY: I went up to him to chat and say hi and someone else happened to be there at the same time. He was pretty wide-eyed like “Why the fuck do you guys care that I’m here? Steven Novella is RIGHT THERE.”

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