Monday, July 23, 2012

The Amazing Meeting 2012, Day One

Not to be too apologetic, but I would have had this post up yesterday if I hadn't been spending so much time learning about the psychology of influence and suggestion from this hypnotist/mentalist guy. As this will one day probably lead to some interesting shenanigans, I don't mind so much the missing out on valuable internet time. ;-)

Based on my BlogNotes for Wednesday, June 11, 2012:

Got up at 6:30 in the morning, packed up all the stuff I had sitting by my bags while the kitten climbed all over my backpack. Also got a video of her being a moron, playing with my hand from inside a toilet paper package, among a few other things to show folks that I meet while abroad, such as the view of Puget Sound from my house, and our three setting suns. (They're in my TAM photo set, along with the rest of the photos you see here.)
` Lucas drove me to the airport, all the while condemning my protein drink for smelling like low tide. (When I opened it the first time he asked, "Did you fart?" just as he asks every time we drive by a paper mill....) Thanks to his help, I was so ready for TAM that I believed that nothing horrible would go wrong (and it didn't).
` Got my boarding passes at the kiosk (didn't even need to use the bar code I had spent so much time trying to correctly print out days before), had a veggie burrito at Q-Doba, listened to some podcasting goodness, and finally made it into the plane, where I had a nice view of Mount Rainier:

TAM 006
And we weren't even in the air, yet!

I'm currently sitting on the plane between two people who are passed out, and am taking pictures out the window across the one guy who is apparently "chasing rabbits". Am continuing to listen to episode 54 of Cognitive Dissonance. Apparently, Iran is killing people for drinking alcohol because they've killed all the homosexuals! That crazy Iran!
` The napkins on the tray tables, which have Life's Ultimate To-Do List include 'Find the Loch Ness Monster'. Somehow, I don't think that one will be checked off by too many people.

TAM 008
Flying over Seattle.

Had a bite to eat in Phoenix, and after accidentally sitting in the wrong row, discovered that my seat had not one, but two windows through which to take video of such spectacular sights as near-collisions with clouds! Even taking off was exciting:

I spent much of the next plane trip talking to this cool couple on their honeymoon (who brought powerful garlic fries), and figured that if I've never used this camera to take photos or videos from a plane before, I ought to get a few!

TAM 019

This lake was cool, too.

The scenery over the desert was not really as spectacular as the Washingtonian mountains and whatnot, but it had its fair share of colorful geologic formations.

TAM 023

Here's my view, as well as my dorkiness, as the plane was landing in Vegas -- is this not just epic?

I immediately got into a cab -- here me and the driver are passing the MGM and New York, New York -- I've been on that roller coaster about 13 years ago!

TAM 032

[Edit: We passed a billboard with a round thing and a foot sticking out from the other side of it, and upon passing it, it was a picture of Penn inflating Teller -- you can see the photo here. There was a lot of signage for them around town, but I thought that one was the weirdest. Also, there were billboards of 4-D movies. WTF is 4-D?]

According to the driver, the South Point hotel is close to Henderson, which is where my scary, psychotic dad probably still lives. It's funny how these things come full circle. First, we stopped by Walgreens for nasal rinse packets (which was the only thing I forgot to take with me) and distilled water -- darned deviated septum!
` Unfortunately, they were out of distilled water so I had to find some AQAP across the street at this strangely small Wal*Mart. Let's just say, the cab driver was so cool that I still feel horrible for not tipping him more, even though I realize now that I could have.

After checking in, dumping my things into the corner of the hotel room, leaving a note for my roommate that told him to observe my mess in awe, and loading up my mini-backpack with my Essential TAM Tools (Blogging Notebook, Camera, Wallet, etc.), I ran around and around the hotel looking for the right set of stairs that goes up to the corridor where TAM is held.
` Finally, I found that it was the staircase next to The Big Guy On A Horse Statue, and look what I found at the top! It's DJ Grothe, The Amazing Randi, and some third guy, by the registration desk, where I collected my badge and T-shirt.

TAM 035

[Edit: The first thing I said to Randi was "Charles Darwin!!" and he said, "Yes, I've been dead for a long time," and I said, "You look good!" Ha!!]

Also the skeptical manga artist Sarah Mayhew was there -- here's a random snatch of conversation:

Pretty random, wasn't it? That's kind of my intention, so that my videoing doesn't distract me from my conversations with everyone.
` Banachek, who has been famous since his teenage (and Randi-approved) stunt of making the Alpha Project researchers believe he had real magic powers, talking with Randi about something or other, although since I was so excited just to see people like them everywhere, and didn't really have much to say to them, I shied away from figuring out what they were talking about.

I don't remember who it was who told me this, but despite the fact that it was not officially time for Skeptics in the Pub, there would still be TAM-goers down at the Del-Mar. I dutifully went on my way to meet more people and immediately started meeting more cool people!
` For example, I ran into Barbara Drescher, who brought red velvet cookies and was a little distracted because she could not bring her son (Cody, or whatever his name was) up into the bar with the rest of us.


Then, my eyes just about popped out of my head when I saw two of the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe's co-hosts Steve and Jay Novella, and Jay's fiance Courtney. I didn't talk long, but did manage to bring up something neurosciencey with Steve, who's a neurologist, and assure Jay that platinum sharks cannot really be sucked up into waterspouts and deposited on his head.
` I asked them where another co-host and my buddy Evan Bernstein was, and they said he was around somewhere, and then got a little video of them as I was backing off and moving onto the next person:

The next person I got a photo of was geologist Sharon Hill of Doubtful News, who was fun to talk to, although she quickly was stolen...

TAM 041 - Sharon Hill

...for an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation guy with The Skeptic Zone podcast, DJ Maynard:

Iresistably, I was pulled away towards shinier, more accessible things, and around this time I established a certain table as home base, the one occupied by Torsten Pihl (aka ThorGoLucky), creator of the Debunkatron website. Yes, I did twirl around his two bluest balls in my hand:


Leaving my TAM program in a chair, I ran into someone I would have never thought I'd meet in a million years -- Dave the Skeptical Raisin:

TAM 044 - Dave the Skeptical Raisin

Here's Dave with Greg Dorais and Fred Bremmer, who is known for this poem, among other things:

TAM 045 - Greg, Dave the raisin, and Fred (or whatever his name is) 

While I was off having cool conversations with other people, Maynard was interviewing Greg, and then a few minutes later, he was talking to me and then snagged me for an interview and asked me what I thought of Skeptic Zone host Richard Saunders' new haircut.
` I rambled on about my trajectory in life, how eager I am to show my stuff in the skeptical community, and various other things, for about half an hour. After that, he bought me a vodka cranberry, and I made even more of an ass out of myself! Awesome!

[Edit: A small bit of this interview can be heard starting at 9:15 of this episode of Maynard's Malaise.]


I also ran into Brian Gregory, host of Virtual Drinking Skeptically, and JC, from my own Skeptic's group here in Seattle.

TAM 047 - Brian Gregory and JC

Here's Eren Segev (one of the Skeptic Zone folks), Tim Farley (of What's The Harm?), and Don from Desert Air Podcast.

TAM 048 - Eren Segev, I think that's Sean Faircloth, and Desert Atheist

I squealed with delight when my Facebook Friend and one of the very Worst Cooks in America, ex-Hasid Joshie Berger entered the scene and began stirring up the crowd (and teasing me, of course!).

TAM 050 - Joshie!

It's too bad that I didn't get any video of him, because he is such a character! Worst Cooks is pretty good at keeping videos of its show off of the internet, but if you've never seen this guy, try to watch as much as possible of him at Boston Skeptics in the Pub, telling his story and other depressing/comedic ranting about Hasidic life and all its ritual insanity, mistreatment of women, brutal chicken sacrificing, sabbath elevators, and secret rebel community. It gets more and more fascinating as he goes on!
 ` Joshie also had this friend whose name I forget, but I cannot forget her sciencey tattoos -- and to top it off, Russell's Teapot!

Here's the other side of her arm -- pleasantly geeky, no?

TAM 052

Upon trying to sit myself down in a crowd, I wound up getting snagged by former president of the (somewhat kooky) Singularity Institute, Michael Vassar, when my very stoic and well-dressed Swedish roommate, Leonard, came by, and we pointed at each other in recognition.
` I was astonished with his having considerably less fat than his JREF forum name TubbaBlubba would suggest, and was even more amazed when he told me he didn't notice my mess in the hotel room, nor my note, to the point where I thought for a minute that we might not have gone into the same room -- although it turns out he just didn't turn the light on. Well, of course! He didn't want to miss any more of the party after his long flight!
` I was also struck by the fact that his accent is so adorable that I regret not getting more video of it. Gah!

Then, I talked a bunch with this guy about psychology and how to make even my worst crazy roommates get along with me. Maybe his name was Mark MacLean, although that might have been someone else's, considering all the names I have written down.
` I went away with my brain churning from some re-framing that I was experiencing and at some point later, stood up on a bench in the hope of seeing Evan Bernstein somewhere in the pub. I got some video of Brian Dunning of Skeptoid, some of the others I'd previously mentioned, as well as the third Novella brother, Bob, but Evan was nowhere to be seen.

Here's a photo I got of Sarah Mayhew behind magician and honest liar Jamy Ian Swiss -- at least check out his appearance on the Late Late Show! I told him that I figured out the password of his website years ago, and he told me that nowadays there's a user name as well as a password that are still pretty easy to figure out. He even told me what they are, but I don't quite remember!

TAM 054 - Jamy Ian Swiss

Here's Bob Novella in all his jet-lagged glory:

TAM 055 - Bob Novella

Finally, Evan showed up and I got to talk to him and rub his Velcroey head!! I got some video of him talking about his trip to the PIXAR campus and how it was decorated with concept art:

Later on, I got talking with Maynard again and he bought me a vodka orange. I still love you forever, Maynard, and everyone else who I said I loved forever (or until I die, whichever comes first...). [Edit: BTW, his shirt depicted the Playboy covers up to 1995, and apparently at the bar, an actual Playboy Bunny ran into him and tried looking for herself on his shirt, but alas, she was on the cover in 1999.]

TAM 057 - Me and Maynard

Although this was the last picture of the evening, I stayed up pretty late and wound up getting one of these men to buy me some damn dinner, as the only things I'd eaten included Barbara's cookies and some beef jerky that someone else had made.
` I didn't get a photo of this guy, but did get a one-minute sketch of him in order to show him how well I could draw, since he had an art project of sorts going. I told him how strange it was that he was the first person I remember who just knew to keep his head still when drawing him.
` He thought that was odd, since it's common sense -- but some people have actually insisted that I be able to draw them for the first time perfectly without having to hold still. Weird, huh? This guy himself was actually kinda weird, and so smart that I couldn't pull myself away from him, yanno what I mean?

Want to know what happens next? On to Day 2!


  1. As per your comment on Skeptalk about this post, I would NEVER deprive a woman such a request. Great set of pictures and videos and comments, and I await more of your later conquests. Welcs on the 'gasm.

  2. Thanks, it was nice! :D Interesting that you're the only one, too, so far...

  3. I'll post too! Thanks for the post. looking forward to Day 2!

  4. It was a pleasure to meet you in person, Spoony. You were quite the whirlwind mingler! Thanks for the post.

  5. I've finally made it to Day 5! Phew! It's a lot more work than it seems that it will be beforehand!

    Thank you for being awesome, Torsten! The back of your head is also in a lot of my photos from the audience. LOL!


I want to know what you're thinking! Please tell me -- you don't need to sign up, just go!