Thursday, July 21, 2011

Some thoughts on TAM9

I will do a longer more exhaustive post later when I am not quite as sleep deprived as I still am now but here are my thoughts a mere 24 hours after arriving home from TAM...

Tuesday -
The day I arrived was frankly, a nightmare. I couldn't find an ATM to deposit the money I needed to pay for my room and ended up having to walk 3 mi round trip to the bank at 1300 in 100 deg F heat (around 37C) only to have my card declined when I tried (again) to check in. Two pissed off phone calls later and the lovely lady at the Southpoint canceled my whole stay except one night to get my card to accept. She then told me to come back Wends once the funds cleared and she would put it all back on for the conference price. (which I did and it all worked out)

What made it better? I didn't make it off the tile in the lobby when the wonderful Janice ran up and gave me a hug to say hi. What an awesome welcome to TAM. I went to the Del Mar after dropping my bags for a much needed drink and was met by none other than the Amazing Randi himself who shook my hand and gestured to sit next to him. I spent an enjoyable time with Randi, DJ Grothe and was eventually joined by Banachek as well. There were around 15 in our little circle of laughter and stories. A better welcome back I can't fathom. Definitely made up for the start. The pub was hopping that night with friends, laughter and good times.

Wends -
I am not a morning person on the best of days so I got up around noon and wandered down for some breakfast as per usual at Seattle's Best. Tea and a bagel in hand I found my fellow TAM people in the Del Mar and started my favorite TAM tradition - chatting and drinking. This is how I spent my day and it was lovely. The topics we covered were wide and varied but I was very happy to feel completely accepted admitting I am gender-fluid, asexual and do BDSM. I got lots of questions on what asexuality is and will be doing a blog post about that shortly. I had a lot of conversation about human sexuality, the idiosyncrasies of our behavior and more. It was great. I am feeling more and more accepted by the skeptical community and I love it. I actually feel like I belong when I am in our community. If I remember correctly we got our badges that afternoon (which were quite swank with pockets and the like) and Ellen and I squeed and bought Richard Wiseman's new book Paranormality (I will review this once I finish it)

Thursday -
The conference officially started with workshops all day. Again, I slept in, but I hear the morning workshop set was wonderful. I went to the SBM workshop as is my wont and loved it. The overarching themes of pseudo-medicine from the humunculus (sp?) to energy and more. My second workshop, after lunch, was my favorite of the conference: grassroots skeptical activism. Holy shit Desiree Schell, Lyz Liddell, and Brian Thompson rocked my socks off with an *actual* workshop (rather than a panel) and a kick-ass take home booklet as well. Words can not describe how awesome this is and the book is available from grassroots skeptic - how fucking awesome is that.

Dinner as per usual for Vegas was greasy and gross - vegi's don't have a huge selection in the casino. The conversation was spectacular and I got to meet all sorts of super cool people - like more PDX people! Two awesome peeps that live right down the road from me that I needed to go to Vegas to meet. Go figure.

Oh yeah - Drinking Skeptically was fun, got yelled at by security (who knew you weren't allowed to stand on chairs), flirted, drank and talked. A lot.

Friday -
I had homework to do and as per usual slept in so I missed all of the morning talks (really want to know? go read someone who is actually interested in the lectures blog, I am not) but I got some of my homework done then headed upstairs to catch up with one of my favorite TAM people Richard Saunders who was fresh off the plane from Oz. Poor guy, arrived 1230 Fri and leaves 1630 Sunday. Still good to see him. Very good to see him. Then again I have a thing for smart professor looking types who make good conversation. (side note - finally watched The One. Interesting and not what I expected for some reason) Caught part of Pamela Gay's talk (she's also awesome) but my first full lecture well, wasn't a lecture. It was the panel I had been waiting for - Our Future in Space. Pamela Gay, Lawrence Krauss, Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson moderated by Phil Plait. Does it get cooler? seriously just go watch this - it will be online soon, DJ said so. This panel was followed by Tysons keynote - which was super-cool and followed by dinner time. I went to the pub then met up with Richard, Dr. Rachael Dunlop (aka Dr. Rachie), Brian and Lisa Dunning, Pamela Gay and two really nice gentlemen whose names I have unfortunately forgot. Needless to say it was fun. I then went back to the pub, said goodnight to Richard and Rachael who were beat and then changed into my clothes for that night's party. Ellen was awesome to act as my ladies maid to get me into my corset and we were off to Penn Jillettes private Bacon and Doughnuts party featuring the No God band. I danced, I screamed, I sang and overall had an amazingly super awesome time. After a small set-back requiring an inhaler to breath I headed back to the Del Mar for some awesome convos till around 4 am. Oh yeah and Brad had gotten in to room with me but unfortunately I have now learned that he snores. Loudly. You rock Brad but I am never rooming with you again, I need all the precious sleep I can get...

I dragged my sleep deprived bum out of bed to catch Professor Richard Wisemans talk - my hero, funny, smart, and a great speaker it was - of course, awesome. Watched part of the SGU recording, hung out with Dale and Travis Roy, Richard, Rachie, Brian and Lisa at the Skeptoid/Aus Skeptics table. Helped sell Placebo Bands and generally had fun. Again - great conversation, met new people and had a ball. SitP that night rocked and I set myself up to play a game of Race for the Galaxy on Sunday. Happy Panda.

Sunday -
Slept in, but woke up in time to catch another lecture I was excited about by Desiree Schell. Great lecture on the history of activism and how we can learn from it. Again - have I mentioned how awesome she is? And AND I got to chat with her - Happy me. Dr. Novella did an awesome lecture on mental illness denial and I went back to the pub. The Del Mar is always hopping during TAM so there were people galore to chat with. I lost three games of RftG in a row and socialized till about 1. Early bed since I was BEAT. I also said goodbye to Richard and Rachie and took a midterm - apparently classes don't stop when you're at TAM. Go figure.

Monday -
Oh happy day - nothing planned, read some, napped, wandered down to the Del Mar after getting my usual sweet tea and bagel. Nommed a musk stick. Yay. Drinks, conversation and meeting the super sexy and smart Per Johan - of course he was just the sexy part when the mention of hitting the strip was made. five hours of wandering and talking later and I am really glad I got to meet him. Another instance of loving TAM. I spent an entire evening chatting with a Swedish professor turned mentalist about everything under the sun. <3 People wonder why I go to TAM. It was a late late night (read 4am) and I still had to pack so upstairs I went, packed and attempted to sleep.

Tuesday -
My last day in Vegas was bitter sweet. One hand - homesick, the other hand - TAM was officially over. I woke up WAY too early (8am should not exist) and couldn't get back to sleep so I opted to check up early and head to the Del Mar. I didn't expect anyone to be there really since it was early and I know a lot of people had gone to red rock that day. Tea and Bagel in hand I found a seat (not hard, the pub was empty) and proceeded to check my variety of social networks and lament the fact that for the first time in a week - I was alone in the Del Mar. Not long however and people showed up. It was great. More and more people came and then I got a free buffet lunch with the awesome zooterkin from the UK (can not for the life of me remember his given name - I have never admitted to being good at that...). More talk on relationships, sexuality and the like ensued and we were back to the Del Mar. As the evening wore on more and more people left for the airport and it came down to just Per Johan and I. Despite his flight being an hour and a half later than mine he joined me for the trip to the airport and kept me company. It was awesome, great conversation and some card tricks to pass the time. My airport luck continues unabaited and my plane was delayed again and again. In fact he ended up leaving for New York before me when I should have landed in PDX before his plane even took off. Ah well. We finally got on the plane and in the air by around 2300 and I made it home to PDX around 1. Thankfully the boyo picked me up (I had missed the last train) and I finally got to bed around 3. Poor Kevin - he had to work Wends morning.

Lessons from TAM in short -
1. Plan your activism, look at your goal, audience, and message and design your behavior to reflect what needs to get done.
2. Skeptics are super open minded - gender, sexuality, sexual behavior, experiences and more are all open to discussion and no real condemnation. While we don't all agree - that doesn't mean we won't learn something.
3. We need people willing to report unwanted behavior. Issues from a past TAM were continued to this one and likely wouldn't have had it been reported. (an FYI - if you have -anyone- make you uncomfortable tell them clearly that you don't want the behavior and if they persist then report it. If you are not comfortable reporting it to staff yourself, you are welcome to talk to me and I will report it on your behalf - anonymously or not as you choose. Or I will go with you to report it if that is what is needed.)
4. I will miss my TAM friends even more this year. Damnit people, we need to keep in touch better.

A note:
You will notice I did not talk about the drama myself and some of the other women were involved in. I don't wish to talk about it here and so I won't talk about it here. Know however that if the person did something to you, said something to you or in anyway made you uncomfortable you can email me (skepticalpirate(at)gmail(dot)com) or find me on twitter/facebook/g+ to talk about it. Also if you are willing to report it that would help make it so the person can not do that behavior again and potentially not attend next year. Email your report to citing what happened, when, with whom. Put TAM9 Incident Report in the subject line. Questions? feel free to ask.

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