Skepticon is trying to teach me how to be a better person; will it ever sink in?

Yesterday was a good day Skepticon. I got my talk out of the way early — I talked about how gross oversimplifications of Mendel were used as justifications for racism and all kinds of discrimination.

Later, Jey McCreight talked about how sexual development was far more complex than most people assumed, and could use his own life as a trans man as an example. He’s an excellent speaker and has changed so much since the time I met him when he was an undergraduate.

Greta Christina spoke about the pros and cons of following your dreams in a capitalist society, and her own struggles as a writer who is currently not writing. Greta is always good.

The most affecting speaker of the day was Eli Heina Dadabhoy, who told a story of his deceased grandmother, a deeply religious person, who was still able to love him as a trans apostate. It was hard to hear over the sniffles of the audience, but was still a good lesson in tolerance.

One of those things is not like the others. Some people are able to express themselves and their feelings while talking about relevant issues, and some of us are privileged straight white guys who can afford to repress their emotions because their identity is never questioned. That same person couldn’t bring themselves to attend Skeptiprom because expressing themselves creatively while having a good time is not possible.

It’s good to be here to see how it’s done.

Not to worry, I’m also an expert in suppressing the symptoms.

Part way there

Hey! I’ve been driving all day long! We made it all the way to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and are recovering in a hotel room. We’ll be finishing the journey to St Louis tomorrow morning.

We made a few stops along the way, looking for spiders. Didn’t find many other than a few jumpers. We did find a strange painted rock at a rest stop near Owatonna.

All I could find about it was a closed facebook group for a rock club in Oklahoma, and I don’t do facebook. Apparently they paint these things and leave them hidden in various places, and it turns out that spider hunting is a good way to induce one to look in odd little crevices.

Skepticon tomorrow!

Talk is done, more or less!

I spent the morning adding the last bits to my Skepticon talk — it’s ready 3 days ahead of time! It’s been so long since I’ve given a conference talk that I might have over-prepared. Anyway, I could give it right now if I had to, but of course I’ll think of other things to add. Just on my walk home from the coffeeshop I have a few cunning ideas to throw in.

I can’t get carried away, though. It’s a 50 minute talk and no more — Lauren will be waiting in the wings, looking for any excuse to leap out and shiv me on stage. They run a tight ship there.

So tomorrow we start driving, with frequent stops for spiders. We’re spending the night in lovely Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and finishing the trip to St Louis on Friday. All you cool people — we’ll see you there.

Skepticon…next week!

At this time next week, we’ll be piling into the car to begin the long drive to St Louis. We’re going to take our time and stop frequently to take walks and seek out spiders of Iowa and Missouri, and we’re also planning to stretch the trip over two days — our first goal is to stop for the night somewhere around Cedar Rapids. Then we arrive at Skepticon on Friday.

It’ll be fun, but it’s also a test — this is my first public meeting of any kind in a couple of years. I am reassured by the fact that this meeting has sound pandemic policies in place. You have to have a vaccination card if you want to attend (don’t forget yours at home), and you’ll have to wear a mask inside the facilities, even at the traditional Saturday night dance, Skeptiprom. It’s all free, but you do have to register.

You might also want to order a t-shirt online before it’s too late. It’s got dinosaurs on it. You can’t go wrong with dinosaurs.

It looks like my speaking slot is at 10:00 on Saturday. I’ll be talking about how racism has tainted genetics for over a century (a cheery way to start the day!) and how we ought to remediate that with better concepts about how inheritance works.

Meet me in St Louis — in 3 weeks!

FORTY SEVEN days until classes resume. These aren’t tears, these are drops of pure plasma oozing from my eyeballs.

Happier countdown: TWENTY TWO days until Skepticon. That’s better. I’ll try not to think about how I’ll only have 25 days to get my teaching act together when the meeting starts.

I hope you’ll all be joining me there. The con has put out a call for workshops, so you can participate too! Go ahead, apply, it’s not like I’m looking forward to my talk, I want to hear what everyone else has to say.

Also, you can still (until 15 July) get a discounted room rate at St Louis’ Union Station Hotel using the code SKP22. Do it soon! Like right now!

If you can’t go, but do want to support a progressive conference, especially at this time of regressive politics, you can just DONATE to keep it going.

Speaking of which, I have received email from a couple of people who say they want to go and would be willing to go, except they’re not going to spend money in a horrible Republican state like Missouri. I sympathize, and respect that decision. All I can say is that Skepticon is a beacon of light in a very dark part of the country that needs all the illumination they can get. Unfortunately, the organizers are local to St Louis, so I can understand why they would build the event there, in their home. Maybe we can persuade them to relocate to a more liberal midwestern state (like, say, Minnesota, hint hint) in the future.

One last important and virtuous note: the con requires attendees to have proof of vaccination and to wear masks. Yay! It makes no sense that so many events other than this one are for plague rats.

Winding up for a knock-out set of speakers at Skepticon

Skepticon is announcing their speakers for this year’s conference, and they started with the least of them. The roster gets better, I promise!

Oh, they’re also organizing rideshare for the event. I’d offer to help out, but I’m planning a spider-collecting trip around the drive, and I’ll be annoying with frequent stops, and then the car will be full of spiders.

It’s time to register for Convergence

Yesterday, I got email from the Convergence con, an event that used to be a regular summertime highlight for me. I have fond memories and have really enjoyed it in the past, but it’s been disrupted the last few years by this annoying thing, rhymes with schmandemic? And I haven’t gone. It’s back this summer, and they’re doing all the right things, requiring proof of vaccination to get in the door and requiring masking at all times, but I reluctantly decided I’ll have to skip it again.

There is just too much uncertainty right now — I’m not doing anything that involves large groups of people in the foreseeable future. Maybe the year after, when the entire country comes to its senses and has taken active measures to stop the spread? Ha ha, I made a joke. I’m just going to be a contributor to anything that might increase the spread of a disease for a while.

Also, another factor: I looked over the scheduled panels, and noticed a real dearth of science & skepticism talks. They used to have a well-populated science track at this con, but it seems to have withered away. I can guess why: in previous years, I and others would get involved in the planning stages and submit long lists of prospective panel topics that the con committee could select among, and which were then a further draw for more science participation. I wonder if that specific group of people have had low confidence in the safety of attending, and therefore have withdrawn from the planning sessions? I know that’s the case for me, personally. Instead, there’s going to be a lot more video game stuff this year.

I’m afraid that if I’m too cautious to attend the American Arachnological Society meetings in person this year, I’m not going to attend a meeting that’s just for fun. Joy is dead, don’t you know?