Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Return from TAM: NORWAY!!! YEA!!!

Yes, I have returned from THE AMAZ!NG MEETING 9. Actually I returned from TAM early Monday morning, but proceeded to sleep the entire day away. It's typical to burn the candle at both ends at one of these conferences, but I also caught a cold the first day. I'm planning on eventually doing a "Average Joe's Guide To TAM" post soon, but for now I'll give you this one tip: DON'T GET SICK. If we've learned anything from elevatorgate it's that there are some simple lessons to learn. It may seem like that should go without saying, but last year I got food poisoning the day before I left for Vegas. One day I'll learn.

Now what you came here for: a description of my experience and a run down of events:

AWESOME. 'nuff said.

You want more? Well, I'll give my full account when we record episode 015 tomorrow night (complete with envious questions from the Skeptic Wire team), but here's a slightly less brief recap:

  1. Wednesday, The night before TAM started I gathered with a bunch of early arrivals to go see Penn & Teller's show at the Rio. Great show and both are personable and friendly after the show. I got into skepticism and atheism as a movement because of Penn's short lived radio show/podcast. He seemed thrilled to hear that.

  2. Thursday is "Workshop Day" at TAM. They always have two workshops going at the same time over four time periods, so you have to choose. Mostly these are essentially panel discussions with a smaller audience size, but it's still good quality stuff. The entertainment Thursday night was the "Rebecca Watson Game Show & Variety Hour." Rebecca and the Mr. Deity cast quizzed 5 notable skeptics on science, skepticism, and religion. The audience even got involved by getting prizes if the panel missed the answer. Best TAM run entertainment of the weekend as far as I was concerned.

  3. Friday began TAM proper. The obligatory live recording of Skeptics Guide To The Universe began the day (with a second hour recorded Saturday afternoon). All the speakers did well, but the stand out couple hours included the "Future In Space" Panel and Neil deGrasse Tyson's keynote address. The panel included a rather heated disagreement between Lawrence Krauss and the rest of the panel on the necessity of manned space missions (as opposed to purely robotic). There was an AWESOME moment when Pamela Gay, tired of getting talked over, shushed the rest of the panel (notably Neil deGrasse Tyson) so she could finish her point. She's so cool. Neil deGrasse Tyson's keynote was a funny, energetic, and call to arms review of the science illiteracy he's come across in his professional career. From serving on jury duty to the Pluto kerfuffle.

  4. Saturday, like Friday, is also full of speakers and panels. Richard Wiseman and Bill Nye seemed to be popular favorites, but personally I am in love with Carol Tavris. Go buy her books, send her fan letters, and take Oprah's network away from her and give it to Carol Tavris. We also were treated to a preview of some of the pages of Richard Dawkin's new book "The Magic Of Reality." Yes, Dawkins is a VERY dry speaker, but always fascinating to hear him talk.

  5. Last year Sunday was dead quiet at TAM8. So this year I scheduled my flight back to Texas Sunday night. Of course then this year they schedule activities through Sunday night! Damn my stupid thumbs!!! Well I was able to see a lot regardless. Sunday morning is when unknowns get to present 10-15 minute papers. Some can be kinda blah, but it was a good and entertaining mix this year. Including friends of the show Susan Gerbic-Forsyth and Phil Ferguson. There were several good speakers despite the doomed Sunday afternoon time, but I felt the stand outs were the "Communicating Skepticism" and "Diversity In Skepticism" panels. I made it as far as the closing remarks by DJ Grothe and James Randi, but I had to give some quick goodbye hugs and head out for the airport shuttle before they finished. To my surprise I found another TAMite (TAMmer?, TAMmian?, TAMareno?) was on the same connection flight with me! I could experience TAM for another hour!!

But in the end TAM had to come to an end. There's so much to take in at TAM that this post just scratches the surface. In fact I recommend you (faithful listener and reader) go get the TAM speakers list and just start googling, they're all awesome. Some of them have even reproduced or reposted their talks or panel discussion points on their blogs.

Don't be too depressed that you missed out on TAM this year. I've found out that a lot of TAM8's recordings are available on a site called vimeo.com. There's already rumors that many, if not all, of the TAM9 panels and talks will be available online eventually. I'll post links when I find them.

Even the discussion of the panels and speakers only scratches the surface of the TAM experience. You find yourself surrounded by over 1600 wonderful people all happy to chat with you about almost anything you want. For me TAM8 was just about meeting people and getting my foot in the door. TAM9, personally, was about making friends and a real connection to the skeptical movement. As great as all the official events are, it's the people at TAM that make it AWESOME.

(PS: I'll explain the "Norway...YEA!!!" bit and let you know if there were any elevator issues on this week's show. So tune in!)


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  2. I wish I could have gone to TAM as well as see Penn & Teller (It's sad they are no longer doing BS on Showtime). I'll have to try & go next year so I wont feel so alone here in Houston ... I can't wait to hear your account of the whole thing!

    Erehwonmai (Air won my)
    (the guy who left the review on itunes)

  3. @Erehwonmai: If you can swing it, TAM is a great experience. Hope you do get to go. Keep in mind that the Texas Freethought Convention tickets are for sale now. These regional conferences can be just as interesting and just as fun. The TFC ran like a well oiled machine last year. One bit benifit of the smaller conferences is that there's better a chance you'll actually get to meet more people: both attendees and speakers!