Cosplay: We Made A Thing Today!

One of my favorite things about CONvergence -and of which there are many – is all of the cosplay. The Hubby and I love to people-watch, and we like to dress up when it’s creative and convenient. This year we decided that we had the time and energy to put together a few costumes. We spent yesterday planning specifics and shopping, and we made some amazing finds. I’m not going to put up photos of the complete costumes until CONvergence weekend, but here are the descriptions:

The Belcher FamilyTina and Louise Belcher from Bob’s Burgers – Aaron is repurposing a wig from a previous V for Vendetta costume for Tina, and he has a pair black thick-framed glasses that will serve.  We found a simple blue skirt, blue t-shirt, and yellow barrette for the him at Target. Black high-top Converses came from Famous Footwear. The retro tube socks will be picked up from Sox Appeal tomorrow. We had a bit more of a challenge finding a green dress for my Louise. There was nothing at Target, Savers or TJ Maxx, but then we lucked out at the Dress Barn: Kelly green with sleeves on the clearance rack, only one left AND in my size, 35% off. SCORE! Pink bunny ears hat ordered from Etsy. Black flats with strap from Famous Footwear. [Read more…]

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.

Goodbye, Dear Samples.

When in the Course of sample shelf life stability, it becomes necessary for one person to dissolve the emotional bands which have connected her with these samples, and to assume among the powers of industry science, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Finance and of Peer-Reviewed Literature entitle her, a decent respect to the opinions of Her Project Manager requires that she should declare the causes which impel her to the separation.

They were old and the integrity of the proteins could no longer be trusted. That’s pretty much it.

*sniff*

I was hired in 2006 to conduct a month-long blood draw that produced thousands of aliquots. I participated as a phlebotomist, a sample processor, and I helped test them and analyze the data that they provided. My successful participation in this project has developed into a happy and fruitful career. Across eight years, numerous projects and the periodic mandated freezer cleanup (the bane of many a laboratory scientist) I have managed to save these characterized samples in the hope that someone, someday would be able to use them. But the end has come: All of the analytes within the serum that might be of use to us have likely degraded. So it was with a heavy heart that this afternoon – on the 26th day of March in the 2014th year of our calendar – I discarded them all.

Goodbye, dear samples. I will remember you fondly.

Eleven freezer canes, filled with sample freezer boxes

Most of these eleven freezer canes contain twelve freezer boxes, each of which contain somewhere between 40 and 80 1mL sample aliquots. That’s about 8,000 vials that were discarded.

HabitRPG

My Life – The Role Playing Game:

A photo of my avatar, my Health Points Bar and XP Bar

I am totally geeking out about HabitRPG. I’ve been using it since Tuesday and I just spent the last 30 minutes helping The Hubby set up an account. Since Tuesday I’ve kicked out several chores that I’ve been putting off for weeks, and I’ve started doing measly little tasks that I have a tendency to ignore, like getting the mail and bringing my coffee travel mug in from the car at night (instead of leaving it in the car where every day it’s joined by one of it’s fellow brother or sister mugs until I run out of mugs and then haul ‘em all inside to get washed).

I love that’s it’s all self-defined – YOU decide what is a habit, a daily chore or a one-off to-do task. You decide what belongs on the list or not. If you don’t do a chore, you take damage. If you do a task you get gold which you can use to buy armor and weapons for your avatar. And I’m even in a Party with other people online and right now we’re fighting a boss creature for gold and loot. I’m still trying to figure out how that works, but apparently today I attacked a 300 point Fiery Gryphon for 26.8 damage, so woo-hoo for me and us!

Are any of you playing?

Sims Cosplay

I play Sims3 – my “best friend” got me into it and I just get drawn in for hours trying to improve my skill levels and find rocks and meet objectives, and fulfilling wishes and goals, juggling multiple players (but I haven’t picked up the Pets expansion yet…), tracking down celebrities, fishing, and putting additions onto my houses. So yeah, thanks “best friend”.

But all of that also means that I got a big happy over this cosplay.

SIMS Cosplay

Image shows five people cosplaying Sims, with various outfits and mood diamonds over their heads and holding Simlish speech bubbles.

I especially like the “nudity block” – tee hee! Seen on Being A Geek on Facebook

Happy New Year – With Butter!

Eye-roll warning – Below is way too much modern city-person excitement about discovering a process that’s been known to this world for thousands of years and probably a number of young students who have done cooler science experiments in class than I did.

You guys – I made BUTTER!

I made some whipped cream for the New Year’s Eve party that I attended, and while I was there one of the guests asked if I had ever let the cream whip too far and accidentally made butter. And I was all like, SHUT UP I CAN MAKE MY OWN BUTTER JUST BY WHIPPING CREAM FOR TOO LONG!?

This was happening. But, you know, after lots of caipirinhas and ringing in the new year.

Fireworks

Happy New Year, 2013! Photo by bayasaa on Flickr (CC-BY)

The next morning:

I had a half pint of heavy cream left over so I threw it in the Kitchen Aid mixer and set that puppy to eight and waited eagerly for sticks of butter to arrive.

And waited.

And waited.

After about seven minutes I had thick whipped cream, but it wasn’t until the fifteen minute mark that I started hearing slurping, splashing noises from the bowl. After about another minute I had this:

Fresh Butter

Fresh butter caught in the whisk and buttermilk left in the bottom of the bowl.

I pulled out the butter from the whisk and strained the buttermilk. All of the butter went into a bowl and then I smooshed as much liquid as I could from it with the back of a spoon. Then I transferred the butter onto some wax paper and made a butter stick…err…roll:

IMAG1064

Mmmm…agitated fat globules.

Of course, then I needed something on which to try out my new butter, so I made pancakes (gluten-free).

Pancakes with Butter

Butter on cherry pancakes.

Oh, and then I used the buttermilk in some alfredo sauce that night.

Yum.

And because I read a lot of time travel books, one of my thoughts during this process was how I’m now totally set for work if I ever accidentally get transported back in time (I assume that most of my science know-how will be a bust because if I start talking about little tiny bugs that make us sick, or other up to 21st century science, I’ll get burned as a witch or locked in an asylum). I’m going to be the butter QUEEN! But I’ll have to figure out how to harness electricity and invent a Kitchen Aid first because that churning crap looks like way too much work.

JT and JTs Videogameathonapalooza!

The first game system I played was the Atari 2600. I have memories of playing E.T., Berzerk, Pitfall, Asteroid, Space-Invaders, Frogger and DigDug.  I still remember the pain of Atari Thumb.

Breakout was my favorite game for a long time.

Remember this bad boy? And unlike some of the other games, this one used the paddle rather than the joystick controller.

After Atari my parents picked us up a Nintendo (NES), and then we upgraded to Super Nintendo when I was in Junior High. I was a HUGE Mario fan. We conquered Super Mario Bros. 1, 2 and 3. I even got the cheat guide for Super Mario 3 so I could find all of the hidden flutes, learn the trick behind scoring five 1-ups at the end of every three levels, and memorize the grids of the memory cards bonus levels.

My other favorite game was Trog! Frickin’ green Trogs were the worst. This was the heyday of my video gaming; we played Duck Hunt, California Games, TMNT, Contra Force, Legend of Zelda, MegaMan, Kid Icarus, Paperboy, Donkey Kong, Tennis and Q*bert. My mom kicked all of our asses in Dr. Mario and Tetris, and my dad and I liked to play one of the casino games, Bases Loaded and Black Bass. The Nintendo was downstairs in our unfinished basement, so often times we would drag over the space heater and play Nintendo while we did laundry.

I completely missed Sega and didn’t pick up a console again until Thanksgiving 2011 when I bought a WII. I rock the new Mario Kart, the Hubby and I like to hunt each other down in Goldeneye 007, and I’m smitten with this one diving game called Endless Ocean. But one of the first things I did when I plugged in the system was download the old SNES Super Mario Bros and Dr. Mario.

Ah memories.

And do you know what starts in, like, NOW? Jason Thibeault and JT Eberhard’s 24 hour Gamers For Godlessness Gameathonapalooza! They’re going to be playing all sorts of retro videogames. For CHARITY.

I KNOW, RIGHT?!

GO HERE TO START WATCHING THE LIVESTREAM

What’s a gameathonapalooza? I’ll let JT explain:

Jason Thibeault from the Lousy Canuck blog and I are going to be playing retro games for 24 straight freaking hours on Saturday!  We’ll be live-streaming our lovely faces along with our games.  We’ll be talking about all kinds of interesting stuff from atheism to politics to gaming history, and we’ll be taking call-ins, email questions, etc.  We’re doing this to raise money for Camp Quest and theWomen in Secularism conference.

 They’ve got all sorts of crazy challenges, stunts and guests – including me at 10pm EST – set up for today and tomorrow.12PM EST today through 12pm EST tomorrow (Sunday). Check out this post by JT for some last minute updates. It’s also the thread for comments, questions and challenges at Chez WWJTD. Click that link/visit that blog post at lot, because JT’s donating all of the money from hits to that post to the cause.

The hashtag for the event is #GDLS

See you over there!

The Jellyfish Tragedy

This is a post by guest blogger Ellen Bulger, written during the cold and long winter of December 2010.

Winsor Locks, CT

In a rarely-seen or photographed event, thousands of hapless jellyfish on their way to spawn were stranded and frozen along the shores of the Connecticut River last week. The gelatinous creatures are not uncommon, but usually go unnoticed because they are a cold water species. But the necessities of reproduction bring them together in great numbers this time of year, as they return to their traditional spawning grounds. A freakish combination of weather conditions allowed lucky and observant onlookers to enjoy this serendipitous spectacle.

High and Dry and Frozen © Ellen Bulger

“As a rule, we don’t even notice them.” explained Caleb Shoeworthy, whose family have fished these waters for shad for five generations. “The thing is, you just can’t see them in the river. They have no color. You could have half a dozen of them in that bucket and you’d swear there was nothing but water. Even the big ones are pretty much invisible.”

[Read more…]