Friday, July 27, 2012

The Amazing Meeting 2012, Day Two

I really have no excuses as to why I've been delaying my posts, even though I'm working on a lot of things and socializing more than before. I've been really tired, yes, but this particular post is so easy to do! Let's get back to where I left off last post:

Thursday, July 12, 2012:

It was six in the morning, on the seventh floor, when I was repeatedly awoken by what sounded like a guy shouting in perhaps an arabic-type accent, "Atheists! Aaaatheists!" over and over, and in my half-asleep state, wondered if he was planning to bomb TAM.
` Sounding as though he was right outside the door, I was too paranoid to get back to my room on the eleventh floor. Since I was also not taking my Al-Qaeda delusions seriously, I so wished I'd had a pair of earplugs with me so that I could get back to sleep.
` I swear he was saying, "Atheists! Atheists! Aaaaatheists!", or perhaps it was another word in another language that sounded like "atheists" when attenuated through the walls.

This went on for a couple of hours, until such time that it was quiet and I slipped back to my room without incidence, where I greeted my roommate Leonard, and realized that this was the first time I had encountered him in the hotel room we were sharing.
` I took a shower and we went off to breakfast at this cafe on the corner of the hallway adjacent to the blinging, pinging casino. I had a yogurt parfait, which came with a bowl because it was too big to fit into the parfait glass, and finished Leonard's last piece of lox, as protein is essential when trying to stave off hunger.
` Leonard and I spent a lot of time together on our own, although we did get spend some time meeting such people as Ray Hyman, creator of the Skeptic's Toolbox.

TAM 058 - Ray Hyman

 Admittedly, I spent much of this time running around and flapping my arms and jumping up and down -- although considerably less so than the previous night at Skeptics in the Pub -- and basically embarrassing myself somewhat, and amazingly did not perturb Leonard's stoicness in the slightest.

Without being a dork, I also talked to Michael Shermer about writing articles for Skeptic, and how many words they should be. Then I ran into Penn Jillette and one of his associates (probably Mike Goudeau, but I don't remember), and nearly bounced and flapped after him into the Grand Ballroom where he was setting up for his Sunday School podcast.
` I introduced myself and then went back out the doors, discovering that they were locked from the outside -- they must have known I was coming!

And that was just the beginning.

At some point, I started talking to this guy with very little hair or beard, and upon noticing his TAM badge, blurted out something like, "You're Derek Colunduno?" Ha!! He said that since his stroke, he's been having to shave his head periodically in order to get his brain checked, and eventually just wound up keeping it that way.
` I didn't realize this, since on Facebook, his picture basically consists of the photo/logo for Skepticality (as currently pictured here). Someone nearby offered to get a picture of me and him, and I agreed to that, since there would probably not be many photos of myself here without me holding the camera myself (although luckily, I was wrong about this, considering the number of other people taking pictures of me!).

TAM 060 Someone took this of me and Derek

Later, in the Penn's Sunday School recording, Leonard and I spent probably half an hour listening to Penn talk about the time he was set on fire for a movie. He said that the extreme freakiness of being on fire makes all your little problems go away. Also, he has the weirdest laugh ever, probably because his voice is hoarse.
` Here's our bad view of Penn and Mike Goudeau -- who is known for his comedic juggling, stunts, tricks and, I later found out, extreme pancakes:

TAM 061 - Penn's Sunday School

We got bored with this, and so returned to our room where Leonard showed me his "normal plug" -- no, really, look! It doesn't at all look like one of those weird American plugs!

TAM 062 - Swedish plug

Later, we ran into noted anthropologist and creationism opponent Eugenie Scott, on her way in as I recall, and I got to remind her of how awesome she is, and how much I want to be more like her, and probably also how I will love her forever or some such.

TAM 063 - Eugenie Scott

Later, I was interviewed for a JREF, spot, in which I hesitated in mentioning The Corrigendopedia, since it is a website in need of building. I also mentioned that my adrenaline was helping me feel awesome, despite the fact that I wasn't feeling well.
` I didn't mention that I was just beginning a wild-making endorphin rush that I knew would last for days, which was triggered by my not feeling well (= my reproductive organs beginning their slightly unpleasant stage, which happens a few times a year).
` Believe it or not, I actually became so good at captivating men at TAM that I was asked what my secrets were -- this was the one that I never told anyone. Apparently, the smell of semi-fresh blood emanating from a woman's crotch also seems to drive the guys crazy, but you didn't really want to know that. Of course not.

I basically spent a lot of time talking to people, many I had previously met, including Brian Gregory and Brian Dunning.
` At around that time, I discovered the SGU Room and found it to be unlocked! Mua ha ha ha ha! I just had to steal something, so I used my camera to capture the wild photons that were bouncing around in there. Aren't they lovely?

TAM 064 - SGU room

I found the SGU room because it is marked by the far sign down the hallway, which is in view of the Skeptic Zone table. Here's Leonard messing with the wooden Rubik's cube puzzle thingy:

TAM 065 - Leonard at the Skeptic Zone table

As far as lunch went, Leonard had been invited to a JREF forum sushi outing. Since I had also just joined the JREF forum, I figured I'd see if I could go along, so we waited by The Big Guy On A Horse (Benny Binion) Statue.

TAM 066 - Waiting at the horse

There was space for me in the car, so off we went! Outdoors, the heat was oppressive -- and even in the elevator -- but it thankfully was not in the car, nor in the other hotel we went to, Bally's, which contains the Ichiban restaurant.
` To my right you can see Sachie Howard (HokoleleMom), who was really awesome and even paid for me and Leonard! She also made sure everyone tried whatever crazier-sounding stuff they were brave enough to try.

TAM 067 - At the Ichiban

I really dug Paul Anagnostopoulos' name (which is apparently an-agnostic?), although name coolness notwithstanding, these people were calling forum members by their forum names, which I found a tad surreal.
` Also at some point, Jeff Wagg was texting 'Hi' to everyone at the table. Wish you were here!

Did I mention that Sachie wanted to make sure people got to try some really interesting and slimy genuine Japanese morsels? Look at the strings on that stuff! I recall Leonard saying that fermented bean curd doesn't actually taste like feet, nor much of anything at all.

TAM 068 - Leo eating fermented soybeans

As we were leaving, I took a photo of the building because a dust storm had appeared, making everything have a weird, cloudy appearance:

TAM 070 - Dust storm

It made New York, New York look a lot more epic:

TAM 071

And the Excalibur -- it's not only a model!

TAM 072

As for the Luxor, Leonard thought its pyramid shape was strange (and not just because it needs diagonal elevators!) because there are no pyramids in Luxor, Egypt, which he's also seen for himself!

TAM 075

Later that evening, after who knows what the hell I was doing, it was 7 o'clock and time for the Welcome Reception. At one point when I entered the A section of the Grand Ballroom, I saw a very distinct shiny-headed man, and remember freaking out because it's Geooooo!
` I snuck up behind him and whispered "Vibraphone!" in his ear and shortly thereafter squeaked his head, as you can see in this video:

I did in fact wash my hand sometime after that, in one of the Haunted Sinks. I call them that because at one point, when I was all alone in the Amazingly Empty Bathroom, I was washing my hands and one of the sinks off to my right turned itself on and off, and then the same thing happened with a sink on the other side of me, and I wasn't even close to their infrared sensors!
` Totally haunted, right?
` Here's my somewhat bloated and water-retaining self, thinking of all the evil I can do once I get back to Grand Ballroom A.

TAM 077 - The strangely empty bathroom

At last, it was time for the opening statement by James Randi -- since the mic wasn't turned up high enough, I was most impressed by the number of people who were videoing that moment, same as me, so I refrained from recording much:

This "clip" is more like it, and contains George as well:

Upon resuming my mingling, that was when I became conscious of one of the jokes I was using when people would ask me if this was my first TAM: I would tell them, "Yes, so please be gentle,"

I totally freaked out JC, just by being myself.

TAM 080

What else? Well, I remember that Mark White, who was wearing this "Baloney" shirt, was suddenly missing his beard! Where it went, I don't know! Maybe it retracted into his face?
` Speaking of crazy beards, there was this guy named James Walker who had the silent film villain look going on.
` There were also such people as Timothy Fletcher and Cathran Neelie, but I don't remember who is who.

Like a weirdo, I took a photo of Barbara Drescher's family posing for a picture -- that's Barbara's mother in law, who does skeptical stuff, too, although I don't quite remember her name.

TAM 081

I basically buzzed around the room like some deranged bee. Just before 9:00, Grand Ballroom A emptied as Grand Ballroom B filled. As these rooms are actually part of one huge room, separated via a divider, I could see this happening through a door in the divider.
` Through the door, I could see a show going on called Wait, Wait, Don't Fool Me! According to the program description:
Join Brian Thompson and a panel of hilarious celebrity guests as they compete to see who knows the most about current events, pop culture, and terrible puns. Cash bar.
As I didn't have a ticket to this show (nor any of the workshops that had been going on all day), I didn't dare sneak in the back door -- but I sure did think about how cool that would be if I got away with it! No, really:

I did, however, get to see Maynard in action some more...

Having gotten a little carried away, I was rushing back to the TAM hall at 11:30, and Leonard and I showed up a couple minutes late to a screening of a freaky, whacked out stage show written by Teller and Todd Robbins, called Play Dead.
` For a little while I got to sit down between Geo and Leo (who was still straightening his bow tie), while watching things such as Todd Robbins apparently dissolving an audience member with sulphuric acid and dumping his remains through a trapdoor. I recall Leonard telling me the actual reaction when sulphuric acid is mixed with human body, but don't really remember what it was.

The evil and dead guy who dissolved the little boys in sulphuric acid was said to be Albert Fish, the guy in the gray suit, and a person like that could be anywhere -- of course, I gave Geo a paranoid look and he looked at me from the corner of his eyes.

` All I can say is, this show is really messed up -- it's got tricks from "divining" names out of the "spirit world" through various means, which seems to impress the audience participants, as well as gory stuff like killing people and bringing people back to life and oh my gosh what is wrong with Teller and Robbins?
` At one point, Robbins takes dead Margerie out of one of the "dead" audience members, Dave, and she was completely naked, and then turned really old and ran into the audience, and the lights went out and all you could see were people in special suits hiding in the dark, invisible to all but the infrared cameras.
` All I've got to say is, yes, it is as freaky as the trailer suggests -- there are even video warnings/explanations, and Robbins did one of those here.

I thought it was friggin' awesome and so wished I had been in the audience of the actual stage show, although I would have not seen the people skulking about in the dark. Someone said, "Don't say anything negative, Teller is right there!"
` And then, he went up to the front of the room -- look, a ghost is passing by in front! Or is it?!

TAM 084 - Teller after movie

I was too sleepy for the questions and answers, and Leonard and I headed to the gift shop where we purchased some trail mix and beef jerky and mango smoothie or some such. Diedre Barrett was standing behind us in line and thought the show was mighty cool as well.
` Later on, I got the sense to actually take a good long look out of my hotel window, and noticed just how nice the view is despite looking down on a roof that has spotlights that shine back up at the hotel windows even in the daytime -- hence the reflections on the glass.

TAM 085

'Twas another end to another lovely night, and that was only the first day of Official TAM! Tune in next time for part 1 of Day Three!


  1. The beard had an earlier flight.

    Also, speaking of Ray Hyman (and his awesome workshop that I sadly missed), here's a shout out from last year's Colbert Report:

  2. Thanks, Nick! It's a Kodak from 2006 and is still going strong, relatively. However, the lens cannot zoom or focus while recording, and I'm guessing this is because it's ridiculously loud.

    Thanks, Mark! Colbert sure makes the laughable into a laugh riot! Ray may investigate and all, but I bet he's not nearly as funny!
    ` Also, are you reunited with your beard once again?


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