This blog is a focussed experiment. I wanted to test my ability to publish and produce a taut multi-media blog on something. I attended TAM7 in July. It struck me as the perfect 4-day crash course. The "course" didn't go as well as I hoped, but I learned a lot. I'm continuting to update as I have the opportunity to - eventually I'll have covered the entirety of my experience at the conference.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Breakfast Shows

Once again my intention to move sequentially has been scuttled by a lack of foresight. Because the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe was recorded over the course of Friday and Saturday morning breakfasts, and the entire show was posted in their podcast feed today, I'll cover both in one shot here and now.

Friday morning began really early.

I dragged myself out of bed around 6:30 am after having laid awake for over half an hour already. I had last looked at the clock a little after 2:00 am. That was my fourth night in a row with less than four hours of sleep. It was not the last. I figure I was still pretty excited about the upcoming days' events, so I'm going with that as the reason I would wake so early without provocation.

Paul and I each showered and compared notes on our plan of attack for the day. Before we knew it, it was after 7:00. We already knew that there were around a thousand registrants to the conference, so getting a good seat would be... well, hardly a given.

We arrived at the conference centre before 7:30. Even though it was in the same building, the trip easily took over five minutes most times. Depending on elevator traffic it often took even longer.

Walking into the room, there was already a line-up for the breakfast buffet, and 80% or so of the seating in the front-most section (There were four or five roughly even sections front to back.) was taken already. The second section was beginning to fill and there were scattered people throughout the remaining sections.

1000+ chairs... it was a BIG room.

We chose a pair of seats close to the door in the front row of the second section. It turned out to be a pretty good seat. Good for people watching as there was a lot of traffic – including virtually ALL of the celebrity skeptics at one point or another – and it meant that for taking video I didn't have to deal with people sitting right in front of me... though the nearly constant traffic was an ongoing issue.

The line-up for breakfast was quite long, but as it split into four, it moved quite quickly. It was in the breakfast line that I had my first realization that despite the great level's of friendliness in the group, due to the specific demographic there is going to be a higher than usual level of socially awkward men. I tried to strike up a conversation with the fellow in front of me, but it was a painful experience. I honestly would not have been surprised had he started mumbling about his stapler.

As I was making my way back to my seat the familiar opening of the SGU began and TAM7, for me had truly begun.

If there was one thing I was most excited about in advance of the conference it was attending the SGU live recording. It was definitely fun to have done and I doubt that ever going again will match the experience of those two mornings. The show itself had a lot of visual content so doesn't play as well in the audio-only podcast format.

Saturday morning also started early – again I failed to get more than four hours sleep. Paul beat me out of bed Saturday morning. I got up while he was in the shower. He headed for poolside to do some blogging while I went and reserved some seats in the conference room. I could have had the exact seats we had on Friday, but I opted for a pair in the same row, but on the opposite side of the room.

The SGU recording on Saturday was less in depth than the previous morning. It began with the premiere of Jay's ghost-hunting movie – which has already been linked in a previous entry.

There was one more news item: "Genie Sued" – the other four news items were recorded the first day.

On Friday morning, Evan's regular segment, "Who's that noisy?" had been a special "TAM" version – I assume it's never going to appear in the show. "Who's that noisy?" is a weekly clip of audio – sometimes a quote, sometimes... well, a noise – which the listeners are challenged to identify, with the answer being revealed the following week. For TAM the noise was a heavily processed voice laughing maniacally and declaring itself to be Satan. My first thought was it might be Phil Plait the president of the JREF, but I settled on a guess of Penn Gillette. It somehow seemed more likely to me... I don't know why, I should have gone with my first guess. It WAS Phil Plait as revealed on Saturday.

Following "Who's that noisy?" was a second Q&A session, there had been a first session on Friday morning. The second question was Sid Rodriguez... I've mentioned and linked this previously too.

Sid & Rebecca got married on stage. For real. As pointed out in the SGU podcast (which featured an edited version of it) it may have been the world's first podcast wedding.

It was fun to witness, and be a part of – it was kind of a skeptical 'in-joke' as Rebecca has been fielding marriage proposals since she first joined the SGU. Hopefully putting the wedding on the podcast will put an end to all that for her once and for all.

But I have a small issue with it. As can be heard in the podcast, it was played – reasonably well – as an ambush of Rebecca. It seems as though they have anticipated every single reservation she has and answered to them. On the audio-recording I made Paul and I wonder if this is for real, or is it all set-up. We decide (or to be fair, I decide and then inform him) that it is for real when one of the Skepchicks – I'm not sure who – takes the mic and excitedly squeals about how hard it was to keep it a secret (presumably from Rebecca first and foremost). I may have misinterpreted this, but listening to it all again on the podcast... I think it was still part of the facade that Rebecca had no idea what was about to happen.

And it was a facade. Rebecca, without ever copping to it being a deliberate attempt to mislead, does outline in a post on Skepchick all of the planning that went into it and it is clear that she was in on it from the start. At least it's clear now – and if it had been a deliberate effort to mislead they didn't stand behind it for long at all.

Anyhow... I'm not going into further detail on the two SGU recordings as most of it is either already posted earlier in this blog or can be heard on the podcast for the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe.

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