My CONvergence schedule – 2014

It’s gotten so’s I gotta put a year in the title to make it unique! How weird is that.

My CONvergence schedule is a bit thicker this year than in years past — I’m invited to participate in six panels. That’s a record for me! One of them is even my own brain-baby — the Superheroes in our Modern Day Pantheons panel.

And as usual, I’ll be hanging out in the FtB / Skepchicks “party” rooms wherein we’ll not actually be partying, but rather fending off constant attacks from the encroaching Royal Manticorian Army and Klingon rooms. Also, there will be science sandboxes, commisserating with like-minded individuals, and modest amounts of alcohol to lubricate the conversation. I might also provide hilariawful Bible games on the big-screen TV, e.g. Super Noah’s Ark 3D, if I can manage a better setup than last year.

The panels are:

Friday, July 4 • 5:00pm – 6:00pm
Alien Conspiracy Theories

The truth is out there, and we’ll help you find it! We’ll cover a wide range of alien-centric conspiracy theories and discuss the implications these have on individuals and society at large.

Panelists: JD Horn, Jason Thibeault, Nicole Gugliucci, PZ Myers, Scott Lynch

Friday, July 4 • 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Superheroes in Our Modern-Day Pantheons

Nobody really worships Hercules or Thor as Greek and Norse gods anymore, but don’t despair, because now they’re both members of The Avengers. This panel will explore the commonalities and differences between our ancient and modern pantheons.

Panelists: David Schwartz, Jason Thibeault, Roy T Cook, Jonathan Palmer, Ryan Consell

Friday, July 4 • 11:30pm – 12:30am
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

Saturday, July 5 • 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Criticism and Empathy Online

When people abuse anonymity to give hurtful, damaging criticism, is this merely a failure of empathy, or is there something more there? How do you criticize people without triggering a flame war? Should you even TRY to avoid flame wars?

Panelists: Miri Mogilevsky, Jason Thibeault, Wesley Chu, Kameron Hurley, Ted Meissner

Saturday, July 5 • 8:30pm – 9:30pm
Organizing Online to Make a Better World: Do We Need to Tear the Old One Down?

Criticism and even rage blazing across social media has proven remarkably effective in getting complaints heard, but what are the downsides? How do we maintain communities when anger and volume get things done?

Panelists: Miri Mogilevsky, Jason Thibeault, Beth Voigt, Stephanie Zvan, Debbie Goddard

Sunday, July 6 • 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Urban Legends: Myths, Facts, and Half-Truths

From alligators in the sewer to clowns in the attic, urban legends walk the line between total absurdity and being just so outrageous that they might be true. Where do these stories come from, and why do they capture our imaginations so effectively?

Panelists: Jason Thibeault, Anne Sauer, Naomi Kritzer, Bug Girl, Shawn van Briesen

Skepticon video: Greta Christina – Avoiding Activist Burnout

I absolutely loved the shorter version of this speech that she did at another con a while back, and was pleased to get to see it live. Unfortunately for me, though, Dave Muscato of American Atheists had put out a call to the intertubes asking whether or not anyone had a flash card reader and the ability to transfer a movie file to him by email. I happened to be on my laptop with a flash card reader and an internet connection, so I swept out to be the big damn hero and ended up missing a significant chunk of this speech. I’m happy this video exists so I can fill in the missing bits.

At the moment, I am actively attempting to control my activist burnout by learning Java programming, learning LibGDX, and generally pursuing my pipe dream of building a rogue-like Castlevania-alike platform game with retraversal and RPG stats*. It seems like a more immediately attainable goal, to me, than expunging sexist sentiment from a community whose members often prioritize getting along in a big-tent fashion rather than actually fixing the systematic empathy failures entrenched in some quarters.

* If you don’t get this, and care, ask me. I’ll explain. At length.

Skepticon: Not my Canadian pride!

Debbie Goddard fired a shot across Canada’s bow, viciously savaging us during her talk at Skepticon where she related her deconversion. She said — I am horrified to even have to type this; someone fetch my couch! — that we’re “not really foreign.”

More specifically, she related her experience visiting Oslo, where she was in “for the first time in a really foreign country, not like Canada”.

The GALL. The unmitigated NERVE!!! What a HORRIBLE thing to say to a Canadian! I cannot stand for this. No Canadian could. Now, on behalf of all of Canada, I am forced to apologize!

Wait, no, not apologize. Explain. Prepare yourselves, I’m about to Cansplain all over this.
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Pine River, MN’s puppy mill animal seizure, and our temporary foster dog

About a month ago, since Jodi can’t work on the Spousal visa she’s under, she decided to start volunteering some of her time at a local animal shelter. The shelter was at the time flooded with animals after a puppy mill — Country Pride Kennel, owned and operated by 60 year old Deborah B. Rowell in Pine River, MN — was shut down and all the animals were seized. All 130 animals. All of whom were evidently kept in insufferable heat, mud-filled hovels as kennels, and rarely with available clean water or shade. One was reportedly found dead in its kennel, in fact. Enough of the dogs were pregnant on being seized that the shelter ended up with more than 200 animals to deal with.


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Tim Minchin addresses University of Western Australia graduates (UPDATE: With transcript!)

This is an absolutely sublime speech. It is full of both realism and optimism at the same time. It is full of skepticism. It sounds nihilistic at times, but Tim Minchin does that oratory sleight-of-hand that has you looking one way while he delivers a truth sucker punch from the other.

This speech has brightened an otherwise fairly dismal day for me. I hope it does likewise for you!
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#FtBCon: Mission Creep (with text)

FtBConscience banner

My talk for FtBConscience! Hooray!

Comments are disabled there, but are enabled here. The video should hopefully also helpfully direct would-be commenters here via the description.

Full text of my speech below the fold. It doesn’t contain any of the verbal burrs or slight tangents I took but it’s largely intact. I hope some kind soul is good enough to transcribe the Q&A portion, but if not, I’ll do so myself eventually. Richard Carrier asked a question about libertarianism, and I was forced to answer honestly rather than hedging. I’m sure I’ll incur some wrath!

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Linux+ Certified!

CompTIA Linux+ logo

Hooray! I passed my CompTIA Linux+ certification today. Sorry I’ve been neglecting you folks over the last little bit, but see, I’ve been studying from an old exam study guide from 2010, stolen from an acquaintance, and it’s basically eaten all my concentration since I hatched this hare-brained scheme of mine.

Last Wednesday, at about the same time as I got it in my head to finally rectify my Bachelor of Arts situation, I also bought exam vouchers for the two tests necessary to become Linux+ certified. I scheduled the tests for the soonest I could get them, then I cracked the books. And today, after melting my brainpan for a week, I am now finally a man of letters and papers and shit. I now, finally, have certifications and degrees and paperwork proving I know what I do. Well, some of it anyway. There isn’t a certification for knowing the location of every extra life in Super Mario Bros 1, sadly, or I’d be going for that next.

To celebrate my achievement, I drew a dancing turtle.

Sketch of dancing turtle - animated gif. Drawn with a Wacom tablet by a freshly-certified computer dork.

He has a top hat and a diamond tipped cane, because he gots just that much swag.

(There’s a story behind this turtle, though it’s short and kinda silly. You might hear it one day.)

I am now a Bachelor!

No, not that kind of bachelor. My dance card is still full. (Sorry, interested party(ies).)

In the Spring of 2001, I completed my last courses and, prior to leaving my university and entering the workforce to work off the debt I’d accumulated, I applied to graduate. I thought I had all my core prerequisites under control, and I assumed that I would be sent a diploma sometime thereafter.

As it turns out, I had actually flubbed one of the prerequisites. In order to complete my Bachelor of Arts (major English, minor Sociology) degree, one of the prereqs was that I had six credit hours in a language other than English. And I did — I had 3 hrs in French, and 3 hrs in German. The syllabus neglected to mention that they had to be in the same language.
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