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Jun 25 2013

Meet the Skeptics

Earlier this month I went to a Minnesota Skeptics meetup. Drinking Skeptically takes place on the second Thursday of every month at Be’wiched Deli in downtown Minneapolis, 5pm-8pm. Afterwards some of us walk next door to Club Jager to share some drinks and more skepticy good company. Mostly it’s a chance to hang out and have fun. We share stories that relate to skepticism that we’ve read online or heard on podcasts, share announcements, upcoming events and personal projects, eat yummy food, et cetera, et cetera.

This month I asked a few of the attendees if I could chat with them about who they are, why they started coming to skeptics events and if they are working on any special projects. So, with any further ado, meet some skeptics!

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Todd Torkelson

* Started attending MN Skeptics meetups four years ago

* Job Field: IT

* Favorite MN Skeptics Meetup: The Magic show with Banachek at the University of Minnesota in 2011 (author’s note: I blogged about the Banachek event on the currently quiet MN Skeptics Blog).

* Life before Skepticism: Todd is an ex-ghost hunter. He attempted to major in parapsychology at St. Olaf College, but not long after came to understand why there are no degrees in parapsychology offered by any reputable university.

* Current and Upcoming Projects: Todd has hosted Newbie Nights for MN Skeptics, and lectures on ghost-hunting and other skeptical topics that he finds interesting. He is working on a new podcast that will focus on debunking dubious historical claims and conspiracy theories. Current podcast research includes Pearl Harbor and Richard III (murderer or propaganda victim?!)

* Todd’s Random Fun Fact: “About 30 years ago I had lunch with Director Steven Spielberg at a Dallas Fort Worth coffee chop.”

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Chris Pederson

* Started attending MN Skeptics meetups 1.5 years ago

* Job Field: Healthcare

* Favorite MN Skeptics Events: Drinking Skeptically and the MN Skeptics book club

* Life Before Skepticism: Chris used to be an alternative medicine proponent. She has two levels of healing touch certification (she stopped attending classes after they started talking about angels), and she received acupuncture, chiropractic, and Traditional Chinese Medicine. She was “cured” of her belief in altmed after a run-in with some more serious health issues. None of the altmed therapies helped, but her science-based surgey did. From that point on she started taking a much more skeptical look at medicine.

* Current Projects: As a contributor to Guerilla Skepticism on Wikipedia, Chris has worked to improve online skeptical content. She says she’s not “a computer person” and has found the process of editing Wikipedia fairly easy to pick up (she only wanted to throw her computer across the room three times or so). Chris has updated entries for notable skeptics including Desiree Schell and David Gorski. She’s currently working to update presenters of TAM 2013, as that event is coming up soon.

In the future she’d like to contribute to the pages for Minnesota Atheists, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Dan Barker, Annie Laurie Gaylor and Amanda Marcotte.

* Chris’s Random Fun Fact: “I perform amateur burlesque.”

IMG_0028 (765x1024)Eve Siebert

* Started attending MN Skeptics meetups in August 2012.

* Job: College Instructor University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, with a passion for Medieval English literature

* Favorite MN Skeptics Event: Eve doesn’t have a “favorite” event, but enjoys attending Drinking Skeptically.

* Introduction to organized skepticism: Eve was searching for information about the Highgate Cemetery Vampire for fun. During her research she found the JREF forum. And that was that!

* Current Projects: Eve contributes to SkepticalHumanities.com, a website AND a segment on the popular podcast Skepticality. She participates in the weekly webcast Virtual Skeptics. Eve will be speaking at The Amazing Meeting (TAM) this year on Skepticism across the Curriculum.

* Eve’s Random Fun Fact: “I went to Bobby McFarren’s wedding.”

IMG_0029 (819x1024)Ted Meissner

* Started attending MN Skeptics meetups three years ago.

* Job: IT Manager at a Fortune 25

* Favorite MN Skeptics Event: The SGU 24 all-nighter (MN Skeptics hosted a party when The Skeptics Guide to the Universe held a 24 hour live broadcast version of their weekly show).

* Introduction to organized skepticism: Ted found MN Skeptics through his connections with Minnesota Atheists.

* Current Projects: Ted is the host of the popular podcast, The Secular Buddhist. The podcast takes a naturalistic look at this religious tradition and how it is evolving in a contemporary, increasingly skeptical Western society He’s also about to unveil a new podcast in the science section of iTunes called Present Moment: Mindfulness Practice and Science.

Ted is attending the upcoming Buddhist Geeks conference and Dragon*Con, where he will be sitting on a panel with Matt Lowry and Dana Nourie.

* Ted’s Random Fun Fact: “My boa constrictor’s name was Sally.”

img_0231Jesse Wilson

* Started attending MN Skeptics meetups two years ago.

* Job: Data verification specialist for a managed care provider

* Favorite MN Skeptics Event: Jesse mostly comes out for Drinking Skeptically.

* Life Before Skepticism: Jesse was big into conspiracy theories. He was a practicing witch and believed in ghosts and UFOs. He remembers actually seeing a UFO during that time, but now he knows it probably wasn’t alien. Critical thought eventually brought Jesse out of his supernatural beliefs; he started to ask himself the same questions about what he believed as he did to the observable world. Later in his life he found the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast, which has taught him much. For one example, the SGU Rogues helped him come to grips with why quantum mechanics can’t scale up to the macro world.

* Current Projects: Jesse is a proponent of medicine that works, and as such is not pleased that the University of Minnesota condones alternative medicine in the form of its Center for Spirituality and Healing. He has written letters to deans and college heads at the U of MN to raise his objections. He wrote a blog post on this topic called Higher Woo for the MN Skeptics blog.

* Jesse’s Random Fun Fact: “I went to New York City for a young democrats and socialists conference and got to ride in an elevator with Noam Chomsky.”

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