CONvergence Programming Is Announced!

I’m very excited for CONvergence this year. Not only is it my first year as an Invited Participant, but I made it onto FIVE panels, including an author reading which I’m organizing (more on that below). Our fearless SkepchickCon organizer and CONvergence volunteer, Melanie Mallon, has been busting her butt for the past several months to help ensure that we are going to have awesome programming, including some killer science, skepticism and social media panels.

Here are mine:

Food Allergies At Con: How to Cope – You have a food allergy, yet are trying to survive from the limited opportunities at CONvergence: how do you cope? What can you safely bring, keep, and prepare in a hotel room? Panelists: Brianne Bilyeu, Richard Wielgosz, Karl Tingelstad, Marie Porter, Renee Petersen

Real Monsters – Reality is stranger than fiction. The deep seas and uncharted lands hold unimaginably bizarre creatures. This panel explores some of the strangest, ugliest, and most unlikely creatures known to live. Panelists: Brianne Bilyeu, Ryan Consell, Matt Kuchta, Siouxsie Wiles, PZ Myers

It’s (Not) Written In The Stars – We’ll explore the myths and beliefs of astrology and why some people still find it convincing in the modern age of science. Panelists: Jason Thibeault, Brianne Bilyeu, Dan Berliner, Matt Lowry, Nicole Gugliucci

Kids Ask a Scientist – Our panel of scientists will answer questions, with the answers geared for the 12-and-under set. Panelists: Brianne Bilyeu, Camille McAloney, Nicole Gugliucci, Siouxsie Wiles, Lori Fischer

Skepchick and Freethought Bloggers Author Reading – Join the bloggers of Skepchick and Freethought Blogs as they share their favorite original writings. Topics may include science, social justice, atheism, skepticism, art, online community, blogging and random geekery. Panelists: Brianne Bilyeu (mod)

I’m geeking out over Real Monsters because Holy Shit Weird Awesome Nature!!! I’m already getting annoyed (in the good way) about the anti-astrology panel, and Food Allergies will be interesting (plus I’m excited about getting to share a panel with the Evil Cake Overlord). I’m probably most intimidated by Kids Ask A Scientist because kids ask weird shit and you can’t just throw out “Rayleigh Scattering” and leave it at that when they want to know why the damn sky is blue. The author reading is my baby.I’m emceeing 10-15 bloggers (including me) who will each read one of their favorite original writings, and they only get 3-5 minutes each. It’s going to be a fast-paced bonanza of Skepchick and FtB readings.

At the time of this writing there are FORTY-SIX panels tagged as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). 46, y’all. That gives me such a happy…I can’t even describe it.

You can see the full schedule here. It’s on Sched, which means you can create a profile, create a customized schedule of the panels you want to see, and take a peek at what your friends are signing up for.

Click here to register for CONvergence. Or click on the giant banner below. Either way, really.

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OmegaCon Spring 2014

I’m sitting in a large hotel room in Siren, Wisconsin eating a luxoriously hoity-toighty picnic of rice-stuffed grape leaves, Molinari Finocchiona salame, and a variety of fancy cheeses – Gorgonzola, Huntsman, St. Angel and Brugge Rodenbach. This is all courtesy of the local wine and cheese shop that we stopped at on the way out of Minneapolis on Friday evening. The Hubby and I are sharing the hotel room with two friends – another couple who has made the two hour journey northeast to this teensy little town in the middle of not-much-of-anywhere. It’s the site of the biannual relax-a-con, OmegaCon.

A relax-a-con is a convention that doesn’t have much going on in the way of programming. It’s a gathering of friends who have come together to enjoy each other’s company, play board games, eat food and drink, sit around a bonfire, share a game at the minigolf course next door or do some arts and crafts.

So relaxing we are. Well – now that the packing is done:

Eight bags of luggage are stacked high in a hallway.

Bags for two people for a “relax”-a-con – food, boardgames, robe, slippers, swimsuits, spare clothes, laptops, books and magazines. I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Last night we arrived, registered and started right in. At OmegaCon you color your own con badge. There’s a huge table covered in all the marker colors.

A hand-colored badge. Text says "OmegaCon Spring 2014 #220 Brianne" A stylized Grumpy Cat outline has been colored in to have green eyes, gray-tipped tail and ears, and bloody claws.

We said some hellos and made our way to the ConSuite, where I availed myself of a unnecessarily strong glass of whiskey and coke. To conclude the drinking portion of the evening I was a guest on the podcast Xtreme Tasting League: ScotchI had won the guest spot at a silent auction, and even though I have not one scotch-knowledge credential, I decided to give it a go. Because scotch is yummy. Ever the considerate guest, I brought a bottle of scotch along as a gift to my hosts. They decided to use it as one of the tastings on the podcast, and to my chagrin it sucked beyond any other bottle of single malt scotch that I’ve ever had. Ever the considerate guest, I reminded my hosts that I had brought the bottle to them as a gift, and so I couldn’t possible dream of taking the rest of it home with me.

After that I was pretty much done with alcohol, and I headed downstairs to play a few board games: A round of 7 Wonders, and a hour-long card game called Zar that had me and four others shouting, laughing and eventually shutting down the game room. We all stumbled off to bed at about 4am.

This morning started with a reluctant, slightly hungover jog around the local neighborhoods. It was too beautiful and sunny to pass up the run. And I found out why the hotel is called the Lodge at Crooked Lake:

2014-04-26 10.27.121

I wasn’t the only one running this morning; three other badasses went out and ran 10 miles. They’re all prepping for a half-marathon. Geeky athletes FTW!

After that some breakfast, a little time in the hot tub and pool, and then back into the game room. Today I’ve played a party game called Anomia, Legendary – a deck builder set in the Marvel universe, a bidding game called For Sale, and King of Tokyo. My giant robot cyber bunny totally rocked it and beat out the other three monsters.

Game pieces for Kind of Tokyo are laid out - decks of cards, stand-up cardboard monsters, dice and small green cubes.

After gaming there was lunching, then napping, then more gaming. I’m set to do another round of Xtreme Tasting League: Scotch this evening around 10pm, and this time I’m planning on being 100% *glances at the glass of gin and tonic on the bedstand* 90% sober for the recording. I think I’ll actually try to taste the scotches that we’re tasting this time.

And then, if past OmegaCon experiences repeat, we’ll be up until the sun comes up playing more board games. Oh…and they keep the hot tub open 24 hours for us. So that’s going to happen.

It’s a good weekend.

Planned Parenthood Solidarity Event

It’s that time of the year again! Good Friday marks the annual organized anti-Planned Parenthood vigil here in the Twin Cities and it’s celebrated with much somber walking, very pray, so clutching of rosaries and wow crosses outside of the St. Paul Planned Parenthood:

Anti-choice crowd hangs out by the fence and stares at the prochoice celebration with sadness, contempt, anger and pleading.

Anti-choice crowds line the fence and stare over at the pro-Planned Parenthood celebration with a mixture of anger, contempt, pleading, sorrow, curiosity and indifference.

And on the other side – a celebration of accessible and legal abortion, comprehensive reproductive options, sex education and outreach:

A line of Planned Parenthood supporters walking with signs of support.

This year a bunch of jerks – not satisfied with marching with their anti-choice brethren – decided to make a nuisance of themselves on “our” side of the rally. As always with these harassers, they’re not satisfied unless they’re edged right up to the public property line, which was particularly annoying because they were standing between us and our food trucks. Buttheads. These special friends had a penchant for screaming about hellfire and damnation. For the most part we all minded our manners, but me, Niki and our friend Chris couldn’t resist stopping for a quick photo op:

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 Happy atheist trio mocks your angry sky fairy – Mwuahahaha!

We had happy music, warm drinks and supportive signs. We took pictures and laughed and raised money and cheered and ran to give hugs when we saw friends and supporters arrive to join in the march. It was a great time.

Me and fellow clinic escort Niki M. in our clinic escort vests.

Me and fellow clinic escort Niki take a photo at the march in our vests – shiny!

Happy Lich Jesus Day, everyone!

Skeptech Game-A-Thon Is Now

Amy Roth, Rebecca Watson, Jason Thibeault, Chelsea Du Fresne and Brendan Murphy are currently Google Hangout-ing and killing things in Torchlight II. Ostensibly  to raise money for SkepTech, the incredibly awesome student-organized free-to-attend skeptic conference that’s happening on April 4-6th, but also because killing video game bad guys is just good clean fun.

I’ve attended Skep-Tech – and presented! – and it’s a stellar, well-attended conference. This year they’re bringing in Ian Cromwell, Heina Dadabhoy, Tim Farley, Jesse Galef, Debbie Goddard, Kate Greene, Jessica Kirsner, Hemant Mehta, David Tamayo and Rebecca Watson as speakers and panelists. Head on over to the Skep-Tech website for more details about presentations, panels and speaker bios.

Aaaaand:

A screenshot of Torchlight II with the text "Click here to watch the live gaming and to donate to Skep-Tech"

Domestic Goddess

On Monday night my teammate and I were making our shirts for tonight’s Pro-Choice Resources bowl-a-thon. While I was ironing, she ordered me to give her my best Domestic Goddess pose:

Me ironing and giving the camera the finger

Today is the LAST DAY to donate to my bowl-a-thon fundraising website.

Please, please, pretty please consider donating some money to this incredible group. Pro-Choice Resources is on the front lines working to ensure that people have access to sex education, birth control and safe and legal abortion. You can see the original, thoughtfully-written appeal in this post, and I’m re-copying the goals and awards for donating at the end of today’s post.

So far you all have contributed $150 dollars for PCR. What say we push that up just a smidge more before I hit the lanes at 7:30pm CST tonight?

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

**********************

Goodies For Individual Donors:

Any Amount – I will send you a (photo of a) personal, hand-written thank you by email. Delivery goal: All emails delivered within one week of the end of the bowl-a-thon.

$25 or more – In addition to the above, I will send you a postcard thanking you for your donation (to anywhere in the world!). I would not have access to your mailing address via the PCR fundraising website, so I will put out a call for you to send me your address via email if you would like me to send you a postcard. Delivery goal: Date-stamped within two weeks of the end of the bowl-a-thon.

$50 or more – In addition to the above, I will devote a post to any question you’d like me answer or topic that you would like me to address. I make no promises about length or tone of the post, but on average I tend to devote between 500-1200 words to a topic that I find interesting.

Total Fundraising Goals:

If I raise the following amounts, I will do the following silly things:

$150 or more – I will post a photo of me with a bowling bowl, and wearing my team shirt (we’re “The Notorious P.I.D”)

$200 or more – In addition to the above, I will post a video of me granny-bowling and chanting “No back alleys in the night! For safe choices we will fight!”

$300 or more  – Both of the above, and I will do a dramatic armchair reading of some of the vile things that protesters say to patients and clinic escorts, and post a video of it.

$350 or more – The first three, and I will do the previously described reading in a smoking jacket with a pipe in my mouth and classical music playing in the background.

$400 or more – All of that stuff that I’ve already mentioned, and I’ll do the reading in a funny hat.

$500 or more – The first three, and instead of doing an armchair dramatic reading, I will have a friend do the dramatic reading while I act out the vile things that protesters say. And heck, we’ll turn it into a PSA about sidewalk bullying tactics.

 

Satan Makes You Stand

Today I was introduced to a lovely, quirky series called Adult Wednesday Addams. In honor of National Abortion Provider’s Day, which was on Monday – and because I just really want to share it with you – please enjoy Episode Six of Adult Wednesday Addams: Planned Parenthood.

Also, something really, really, really exciting happened on Monday: I met my first Pro-Choice Resources Bowl-A-Thon goal!!! Thank you to the five of you who gave some of your hard-earned money to help support Pro-Choice Resources. For the individual donations, I will be sending out several postcards, and I’ll be doing one custom blog post for the generous individual who donated over $50.

With $150 being raised so far, the first of my six total fundraising goals has been met! After the Bowl-A-Thon on March 20th, I will be posting a photo of me with a bowling bowl, and wearing my team shirt, “The Notorious P.I.D”.

AND I just raised my fundraising goal on my PCR Bow-A-Thon web page to $200. If I meet $200 I will post a video of me granny-bowling and chanting “No back alleys in the night! For safe choices we will fight!” I have goals set for $300, $350, $400, and if I should somehow manage to raise $500, I will make a YouTube PSA about sidewalk bullying tactics. To see all of my individual and total fundraising goals, check out this post from last week.

I sorta really wanna do that PSA, so I’m going to reach out again: If you want to support an organization that works to secure the right to comprehensive reproductive options, and provides abortion funds in Minnesota and the surrounding areas, public outreach throughout the United States, secular after-abortion support, and sex education for teens across the world – please consider sending a few bucks their way via my Bowl-A-Thon Fundraiser web page.

Very, truly, sincerely: Thank you.

Pro-Choice Resources Fundraiser

I may have mentioned once or twice that I feel quite strongly about safe and legal access to abortion.

Skeptical-looking dog and text that reads "...once or twice?"

Heh.

I blog about reproductive choice, access to birth control, and the benefits of sex education. I’ve held online panels about the lies that abortion-restriction proponents tell. I clinic escort. I donate to abortion funds and organizations that support sex education and health, and comprehensive reproductive options. I advocate for trans* inclusivity in conversations with my pro-choice peers.

And now I’m bowling.

Text Banner "Pro-Choice Resources Bowl-A-Thon"

This year I’m participating in a bowl-a-thon fundraiser for Pro-Choice Resources, a group that has as its goals, “advocacy, access, education and empowerment.” From the Pro-Choice Resources website.

Pro-Choice Resources (PCR) is a unique grassroots organization that provides a range of reproductive health services. PCR works every day to reduce barriers to reproductive health access. PCR is the only organization of its kind in the country to offer education, advocacy, financial assistance, and outreach under one roof.

I’ve seen PCR at the Minnesota State Fair (they gave away condoms-on-a-stick), and I attended one of their fundraiser banquets last year. I’ve spoken with clinic escorts who volunteer for PCR, and with people who support this group wholeheartedly. PCR is a MNSure advocate. They do sex education for youth groups and other at-risk populations in the Twin Cities, and they run the teen-oriented website birdsandbees.org. They fund abortions in the surrounding five-state area, and provide secular after-abortion support.

They’re doing good work. Heck yeah, I’ll bowl and fundraise for them!

And so I would like to humbly request your monies for Pro-Choice Resources via this Bowl-A-Thon fundraiser.

I am willing to be quite silly in the pursuit of your monies. And the more monies, the better. And the more silly.

Shrek-pleading-cat Kitty holding a hat with two front paws and pleading with HUGE black eyes

Plz can haz monies for to accessiblize reproductive healths?

Pro-Choice Resources has this fundraiser set up on a Blue Sky Collaborative website. They’ll send you a thank you email for supporting PCR, and I’m going to throw in a bunch of extras for those who donate through my personal fundraising page.

For Individual Donors:

Any Amount – I will send you a (photo of a) personal, hand-written thank you by email. Delivery goal: All emails delivered within one week of the end of the bowl-a-thon.

$25 or more – In addition to the above, I will send you a postcard thanking you for your donation (to anywhere in the world!). I would not have access to your mailing address via the PCR fundraising website, so I will put out a call for you to send me your address via email if you would like me to send you a postcard. Delivery goal: Date-stamped within two weeks of the end of the bowl-a-thon.

$50 or more – In addition to the above, I will devote a post to any question you’d like me answer or topic that you would like me to address. I make no promises about length or tone of the post, but on average I tend to devote between 500-1200 words to a topic that I find interesting.

Total Fundraising Goals:

If I raise the following amounts, I will do the following silly things:

$150 or more – I will post a photo of me with a bowling bowl, and wearing my team shirt (we’re “The Notorious P.I.D”)

$200 or more – In addition to the above, I will post a video of me granny-bowling and chanting “No back alleys in the night! For safe choices we will fight!”

$300 or more  – Both of the above, and I will do a dramatic armchair reading of some of the vile things that protesters say to patients and clinic escorts, and post a video of it.

$350 or more – The first three, and I will do the previously described reading in a smoking jacket with a pipe in my mouth and classical music playing in the background.

$400 or more – All of that stuff that I’ve already mentioned, and I’ll do the reading in a funny hat.

$500 or more – The first three, and instead of doing an armchair dramatic reading, I will have a friend do the dramatic reading while I act out the vile things that protesters say. And heck, we’ll turn it into a PSA about sidewalk bullying tactics.

Okay, so that’s about it. The Bowl-A-Thon will take place on March 20th, and I will get the individual and total goal deliverables out ASAP after that date.

What’s that? Oh, I haven’t told you how to donate to my fundraising page? Well that’s easy.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO BRIANNE’S BOWL-A-THON FUNDRAISER!!!!

Want to make an anonymous donation?

The awesome folks at Pro-Choice Resources responded incredibly quickly with information about how to make an anonymous donation, with suggestions for making the donations anonymous to me only, anonymous only to PCR, or completely anonymous to both of us. From PCR:

There isn’t a way to make an anonymous donation on the Bowl-a-Thon website. If someone wanted to make a donation that was anonymous to the bowler or team, [see below]. But the name would be known to Pro-Choice Resources.

To do that, a donor could make an online donation to PCR on our website and send me an email (derek@birdsandbees.org) that it is intended as an anonymous donation for someone’s Bowl-a-Thon team. And we can credit the donation anonymously to that bowler. Or they could mail a check per the instructions on the website.

If a donor would like to make a donation to an individual, but anonymous to PCR, the best way is for them to pay the bowler directly and have the bowler make out a check to PCR or bring cash at the Bowl-a-Thon.

The Hubby’s 40th

Last Friday we celebrated the Hubby’s 40th birthday. He decided that his ideal celebration would be dinner and a movie with friends, which over a few conversations evolved into renting a movie theater, showing one of his favorite movies of all time, and sharing dinner with ALL THE FRIENDS!

We decided to make the Hubby’s 40th birthday party kind of a big deal.

[Read more…]

Some Cool Stuff Coming Up

There are so many geeky, gaming, skeptical, atheist events on the horizon for 2014! Eeeeeee!

GwoGGeeks Without God on Atheists Talk – January 18th, 2014

This Sunday I’ll be interviewing Tim Wick, Molly Glover and Nick Glover on Atheists Talk. They’re the hosts of the podcast Geeks Without God. They’re Very Funny People and totally worth waking up for at 9am on a Sunday morning. You can listen locally on KTNF AM950, livestream the show online, or you can always catch the podcast later. Look for Atheists Talk on iTunes or check out our website.

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raidersThe Hubby’s 40th Birthday Celebration! - January 24th, 2014 This is a semi-private event, but I want to share that I am SO excited! We rented a movie theater, y’all.  We’ve invited a bunch of friends, and we’re going to serve sandwiches and soda and then show Raiders of the Lost Ark. In a theater. That we rented. A theater!

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ftbcon2

FTBCon2 – Jan 31-Feb 2, 2014

The second Freethought Blogs virtual convention – FTBConscience2 – is at the end of the month! More info is coming so very soon. Panels in place. Final schedule being scheduled. Final Lanyrd being Lanyrded.

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Con of the North – Minneapolis, MN – February 14-16th, 2014

conofthenorth

Con of the North is a local board game convention. This will be my second year attending because last year was a freaking blast. I played back-to-back board games in two and four hour time slots from 8am-midnight all weekend long. I discovered a ton of new games. Board games. Card Games. All weekend long. They also had LARP, computer gaming and RPGs. Miniatures has a huge presence, and while I don’t do miniatures, it was amazing to stop and look at the art and craftsmanship of the games.

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skepcamp

Chicago Skepticamp 2014 – Chicago, Illinois – April 5th, 2014

A day long event promoting science and critical thinking, put on by volunteers from the Chicago Skeptics. Participants are encouraged to discuss and question both traditional skeptical topics and new subjects. Attendance is free, though all attendees are encouraged to help by either speaking, helping set up/clean up, or by making a donation. I attended back in 2012 but had to miss last year’s event. I’ve got my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to make the drive down this April.

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SkepchickCon – Bloomington, MN – July 3rd-7th, 2014

convergence

CONvergence – the first and purest of my scifi/fantasy convention loves, and then the Skepchicks come along and make it that much more awesome! Once again, Skepchick.org and FreethoughtBlogs will combine our awesome powers to bring kick-ass science and skepticism panels and rock-til-you-drop room parties to CONvergence. SkepchickCON is fundraising right now – they’re auctioning off a hand-knit MISANDRY! hat – perfect for the man-hating feminazi in your life – and a customized voice message from Debbie Goddard.

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Okay! So what else is going on that I shouldn’t miss?