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 I wonder if that specific group of people have had low confidence in the safety of attending, and therefore have withdrawn from the planning sessions?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?

Skepticon this weekend!

My favorite con is happening, starting tomorrow, so you’d better get on over to the Skepticon page to find out what’s happening. It’s entirely online again this year, it’s entirely free as always, so you have no excuse to not attend, or pop in for an event or two, or at least see my panel with Erin Maxson, Larry Mendoza, and Shanon Nebo on Saturday at 1:30 CST.

Somehow I have to come up with a favorite creepy-crawly in two days. I don’t know of any, maybe you can suggest some.

At last, we’ve all been invited to speak at Skepticon!

Yeah, you. Get to work preparing your talk and putting it on video.

Our theme for Skepticon 13, starting on Friday, August 13, is things that scare us. Our panels will be on creepy-crawlies, horror as genre, and math. That leaves huge portions of this topic still begging to be covered. You can help fill in the gaps with a video of 3 minutes or less.

Do you have a favorite cryptid that other people haven’t heard of? Does your corner of the world share an unusual superstition or moral panic? Do you have the inside scoop on a “real-life mystery” that caught the public imagination? Are you good at explaining a particular piece of political fear-mongering? Have we left out something else important or funny about being scared? Tell us! Tell the world!

The theme is “things that scare us”? Well, I’m out. I can’t think of anything scary or creepy-crawly. But maybe you can! It’s also only 3 minutes. Being cogent in 3 minutes is harder than you think — you’ll have to pare out all the rambling asides and hesitations and coughing fits and that cool story you would have mumbled out if you were chatting at the bar.

Go for it, though! I expect to see you all there!

Remember social events?

There is this meme floating around Facebook — sorry I can’t show it to you, because I don’t care — that puts up four movie franchises, like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek, & Marvel, and asks you to pick only three. I enjoyed seeing all of them once, but sheesh, enough, I don’t particularly want to rewatch any of them, I’m not particularly interested in seeing any of them continued, I don’t need any spin-offs or alternative universe series (Star Trek did that, hated it, Marvel is apparently planning to play games with the time line, I hate that too). Give me something fun and creative that does not expect me to get invested in the next movie that will come out. That’s all I ask. I have simple tastes. Show me a monster from outer space eating spaceships, I’ll contentedly buy a ticket and eat my popcorn. I don’t need to know there will be a monster from outer space eating spaceships II. It’s actually a bit of a turn-off because I know executives somewhere are drooling over piles of cash and planning more without concern for the quality, and by the time we get to monster from outer space eating spaceships VII it’s going to be dreck intended to shear the sheep still lining up to see it. Or, inevitably, it will be bought by Disney. So just stop. Please, for the love of gods, I don’t need to see another Spider-Man or Batman origin story, OK?

But I do love going to the movies. Always have. I’ll go see whatever is playing at our local movie theater, which I hope manages to weather the pandemic. It’s been closed for a year now! I’ve had my vaccination, which will kick in with full immunity in about 6 weeks, and once the theater reopens I’ll be there every week, and I won’t care much what is playing. This video ramped up my nostalgia.

The drone pilot is really, really good, but it’s also a great perspective on just going to the movies. Also, it was recorded in Plymouth, MN, a suburb of Minneapolis — I’ve been there, but not to that particular theater. Now I want to go to the movies, any movies.

The same pilot also made a similar video of Bryant-Lake Bowl — I have been there, multiple times. I even gave a talk in the little auditorium attached to it, and I’ve been there for one of Rebecca Watson’s quiz shows, which were held as part of Convergence. It’s a great place, a center of community, where people get together to relax, have fun, drink beer, and talk.

I want that back. I want it back sensibly and safely, though (note all the mask-wearers). I’m not an extrovert, but I still would like to hang out in communities of my fellow ape-creatures, quietly, just sitting back and savoring the vibes.

By the way, we’re slowly coming back. I see that Convergence is planning an in-person con in Minneapolis on 5 August, which should be OK — we’re all supposed to be vaccinated by then. I might still be a little nervous about attending, so I’ll play that one by ear. Skepticon is playing it safe and will be an entirely on-line con on 13 August, which is reasonable — they would have had to book the venue at about the time the pandemic was peaking (which does make me wonder where Convergence acquired all that confidence).

Spider fans gather at #Arachnids20 today!

Hey! Tonight! It’s the start of the 2020 American Arachnology Society Virtual Summer Symposium, and it’s going to be great.

We’re very excited to launch the AAS 2020 Virtual Summer Symposium TODAY, June 25, 7-9 PM ET with a brief welcome and overview of the symposium, and the keynote address by Martin Ramirez, Senior Researcher at Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales, Buenos Aires, Argentina. This talk is honoring the contributions of Norman Platnick to arachnology: “From roots to myriad leaves: the legacy of Norman Platnick on spider systematics”.

So it’s going to start with a discussion of this Platnick.

I anticipate some spicy conversations about cladistics.

Also note, tomorrow is all about social justice.

We also want to share updates and encourage you to join the Forum tomorrow, Friday June 26, 3-5 pm ET where we will host a community discussion of impacts of racism on arachnology and potential actions the AAS can take.

At a science conference?!?? Of course. Smart people care about correcting racial inequalities.