CONvergence 2014 panel audio: It’s (Not) Written In The Stars

This was a fun panel about the cognitive dissonance and shared delusion necessary to believe in astrology despite all of science’s advances. It was a bit raucaus at times, but we had good audience participation and Brianne had some hilarious points throughout, relieving me of my usual role as snarker. With a real-life astronomer and two science teachers — one tenured, one a teacher-in-training — this panel covered all the perspectives. Well, except for the perspectives of true-believer. No wait, Nicole admitted to having been one herself at one point! So it covered all the perspectives! Yeah!

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

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(or download the It’s (Not) Written In The Stars mp3 – 24.7 megs)

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

CONvergence: Science and Religion: Friends or Foes? panel audio

Here’s the panel audio from the last panel I got to attend this year, at 12:30am on Sunday. This has had the benefit of the most amount of experience with Audacity, where I even got to go into individual questioners’ audio from the audience and re-amplify them (though this might expose a bad habit by one of our mic’d panelists of talking over audience members — don’t increase your volume for those parts). This is much more listenable than my first attempt this year. I’ll almost have the whole process figured out by the time next year rolls around!

Panelists were Dan Fincke, PZ Myers, Bridget Landry, Heina Dadabhoy and Debbie Goddard.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

cvg2013-skepchickcon-sciencevsreligion.mp3

CONvergence – Real World vs the Internet

It’s a false dichotomy. End of panel. Thank you all for coming!

Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that. You’ll want to listen to this one, especially where we draw significantly on our personal experiences and discuss how the lines are blurring, and how “meatspace” is not really all that distinguishable from the internet. In fact, the biggest and most important “internet-based” event in my life actually took me some time to recall, because I wasn’t mentally classifying it as internet-related, which is why you’ll hear me fumble for an experience at the start of the panel.

Panelists were Stephanie Zvan, Jason Thibeault, Lux Pickel, PZ Myers, and Jamie Bernstein.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

cvg2013-skepchickcon-realworldvsinternet.mp3

Sorry it’s taking so long to get these out. I basically came crashing back to reality hard after CONvergence, coming home to two gigantic work crises at once, creating a perfect storm that I’m still shovelling out. Fifteen hours yesterday, seven hours sleep, more work since I’ve been awake. Essentially, the only reason I’m posting this now is because I’m on an enforced break while my VPN access point is rebooting. Seriously, God must really hate me for being so dismissive of him over the weekend or something.

I have a full schedule!

I have a busy bunch of days ahead of me! Sorry if the blog goes slightly quieter for a bit.

Tomorrow I’ll be starting the set-up for CONvergence’s Freethought Blogs room (and I might even pitch in on the Skepchick room too… perhaps, if they ask nicely enough). The full convention schedule is ridiculously jam-packed with geekery and science. The Skepchickcon track is where all the skepticism and sciencey goodness is located, and it’s where I’ll be spending most of my weekend.

I made the cut on these panels:

Worldbusters!
Worldbuilders, you think you have a crackerjack rationale for how zombies work, or how the entire galaxy is populated with humanoids, or how your spaceships can travel faster than light…bounce those ideas off our critical panel of scientists. Panelists: Laura Okagaki, Siouxsie Wiles, PZ Myers, Jason Thibeault (mod)
Thursday July 4, 2013 10:00pm – 11:00pm

The Gods of Geekdom
The Avengers movie had several gods, atheists, agnostics, and Christians all mingled together- we comfortably mix up multiple pantheons and a hard-nosed scientific attitudes in comics and SF literature. How do nerds do that without their heads exploding? Panelists: Jason Thibeault, Ryan Consell, Fionnuala Murphy, Nick Glover
Saturday July 6, 2013 12:30pm – 1:30pm

The Real World vs. the Internet
A line is a blurring and a distinction is fading: social networking and online communities are becoming just as real as face-to-face engagements. Panelists: Jason Thibeault, PZ Myers, Lux Pickel, Stephanie Zvan (mod), Jamie Bernstein
Saturday July 6, 2013 8:30pm – 9:30pm

There were two other panels I was on in the first draft, that I guess got overbooked, and I’m not particularly fighting to get back onto. I’m more than happy with these ones, especially Gods of Geekdom. Though I do sort of wish I could have made Fight the Trolls, I would have been moderator on that — and Stephanie’s therefore a far better choice for that particular panel for two reasons.

I also look forward to having a terrible cold after this weekend as is tradition, and then the week after, I’ll be doing FtBCONscience! The full schedule is not yet finalized, and I expect there will be some fluidity to the panels (as there will be with when you folks decide to watch them), but I’m at least doing a panel on Saturday morning at 9am CT (subject to change), with Desiree Schell, Debbie Goddard, James Croft, and I’m wrangling a fourth guest. The panel is called Atheism Is Not Enough (named after my post), and we’re going to talk about atheism as a gateway into the wider world of social justice activism.

My organizer line is pretty packed, in fact, so it looks like I’ll be getting my fill of moderating panels (read: herding cats) after all.

Look forward to seeing you all! Both in person, and virtually.

The campaign against Amy Davis Roth

I met Amy Davis Roth, also known as Surly Amy, two years ago at CONvergence 2010 – SkepchickCON 2. Jodi and I were on our honeymoon — yes, we spent our honeymoon at a geek convention. Couldn’t have picked a better venue. Amy had a table in the dealer’s room, selling her ceramic Surly necklaces, and I picked up a green atom necklace so I could wear science iconography where so many others wear their religious iconography. Her partner Surly Johnny was a bad influence on me and I drank too many Buzzed Aldrins. The experience was a bit of a whirlwind one, but I got a sense from everyone working the Skepchick party room that they were passionate, committed, and principled, even when they were doing their damnedest to make sure everyone had a good time.

My already favorable impression of Amy was redoubled when I found out that she’d nearly singlehandedly sent dozens of women to TAM over the years, organizing and running fundraisers and committing resources from her Surlys to that end. She had a great deal of help, but she was almost certainly the lynchpin. And she writes timely and important rallying cries when the movement needs them the most — and that’s what a leader does, even if they don’t necessarily want or accept that mantle.

I met her again at SkepchickCON 4 a month and a half ago, and her enthusiasm and pink Darth Vader costume put her over the top for me — I have a ton of respect for the lady. If we ever disagree, it’ll be on good terms. She’s earned quite a bit of goodwill with me.

So I guess it comes as a bit of a surprise to me that a mainstay of the skepto-atheistic blogosphere, who’s done so much to promote skepticism and atheism, and to foster inclusiveness of women in our communities, is under concerted attack.
[Read more…]

My Geeks Without God podcast appearance: Ancient Aliens

CONvergence represented a whole bunch of firsts for me — the first time people recognized me from my blog before they introduced themselves as readers, the first time a blogger literally got in my face in real-life over a difference we had in philosophies, the first time I drove in a big city (e.g. bigger than Halifax), the first time I was on a panel at a convention, and the first time I was on a podcast.

Well, okay, sure, I’d already cut my teeth on being on the radio, and that’s technically got a podcast attached to it, but this… this was something special. I was helping launch a brand-new podcast and hanging out with some hilarious geeky atheists all at once.

That’s right. I helped launch Geeks Without God.
[Read more…]

CONvergence: Costume squee

There were a few major OMFSM moments for me with regard to costuming at CONvergence.

There was someone dressed as the true Commander Shepard from Mass Effect (e.g., not DickShep) — and they were even Renegade, with the heavy visible scarring. To top things off, they had the original N7 armor, with a damn good M-77 Paladin replica to boot. I’d share the pic I got, but I’d need to track down the con-goer and request permission.

There was also a male Aperture Science “volunteer” running around with a LEGO ASHPD (portal gun), which I also got a pic of, but I found a better demonstration here:

There was a contingent of objectified male superheroes that you should definitely see.

I also encountered about a dozen different folks cosplaying Homestuck characters. No overlap in characters, far as I could tell. At the Gender Differences panel, I even sat next to someone who’d used a 3D printer to fabricate Rose’s belt buckle and combat knitting needles. If there’s ever been a reason to buy a 3D printer, it’s to create props for cosplay.

I’ve never mentioned Homestuck before on this blog, have I? A few months ago, I discovered what I thought would be a silly little faux-adventure-game webcomic on a site called MS Paint Adventures. I thought it would be a funny little diversion that might take a day to get through the archives, but I was so very, very wrong. Not only was it not a faux-adventure at all, the “actions” at the bottom of each comic were (for the first few acts at least) all submitted on the site’s forums. An animated, user-driven “webcomic” whose plot intermingles philosophy, social dynamics, and games of all flavors and types. It begins like an adventure game, gains Sims-like overtones, and evolves rapidly into a reality-bending RPG.

Seeing so many people cosplaying characters from a comic that I’d only just discovered, and fallen in love with, was a major squee moment for me.

I have a scant few pictures that I definitely can share, that I need to post to the blog as soon as I’m able. That’s, unfortunately, not right now.

CONvergence: The Horror In Clay

I’m dyin’ of con crud here still. First day back at work, too. And I have a huge backlog of things to blog, but I’ll have to plug away at it as time allows.

I got to meet several FtB commenters at CONvergence, but one of my favorite new friends practically handed me a blog post within ten seconds of meeting. Niki M, who comments very infrequently but has started coming out of her lurker-shell recently, expressed adoration of me and Stephanie Zvan — while PZ Myers was in the room with us. She mentioned both of us specifically as people she reads regularly, while completely slighting PZ. This, needless to say, made me ecstatic and I had to shout “EAT IT, PZ! WE HAVE FANS THAT YOU DON’T!”
[Read more…]

CONvergence: Rebecca Watson ruins everything

I noticed something shortly after the very well-received Don’t Feed the Trolls panel at CONvergence’s SkepchickCON, once ZOMGItsCriss posted the video. People who otherwise have never seen the level of anti-Watson hatred that her mere existence incurs, were surprised and angered by the fact that the comments on Criss’ video largely ignored the fact that there were five other panelists present. As such, Watson only comprised a smallish fraction of the discussion — and yet, some folks’ comments ran along the line of “why would I listen to That Skepchick bitch whine hysterically about nothing for an hour? She should get raped so she loosens up, the prude whore.” (This is, of course, a composite of real comments on that video. Edit: For skeptics of this exceptional claim, like “…” in the comments, click this to see a Youtube comment that’s very, VERY similar.)

That sort of shit was exactly our point, and it appears to have catalyzed at least one bystander to radicalize against that sort of trolling.

The last night I spent in Minneapolis, Skepchick Kammy held a barbecue at her place for the participants of the SkepchickCON track. At one point, Kammy’s son pressganged his parents into moving the attendees into their driveway so they could set off the remainder of the fireworks (left over from the celebration a few days prior, when Minnesotans celebrate Three Days After Canada Day in a sweet, but odd, gesture to your neighbors to the north). We pulled our chairs out from their back yard and set them up to watch the firework display, and I found myself setting my chair up near enough to Watson to pronounce loudly:

“Well, I was really looking forward to seeing this firework display, but now that I’m stuck here next to Rebecca Watson, it’s just ruined for me. I mean, who wants to listen to her sit quietly for an hour?”
[Read more…]