TAM Australia – Impressions from Day 1
Okay, so this is a quick post on my impressions from day 1 of ‘The Amazing Meeting‘ Australia. I had the absolute pleasure of having lunch with Pamela Gay (@Starstryder), co-host of the ‘AstronomyCast‘ podcast, and general all-round awesome person today. Pamela is directly responsible for my introduction to the ‘skeptical community’, as through her podcast I was introduced to ‘The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe‘ podcast via Bob Novella’s guest appearance when Fraser was ill, and from there… well, an explosion of thought-provoking podcasts ensued!
My impressions of Pamela were absolutely what I had expected – Despite her incredible brain, impressive accomplishments, academic credentials and general celebrity, Pamela is an incredibly down-to-Earth woman who seems completely unaware of her awesomeness. This was without a doubt the highlight of my TAM experience so far. The oddest thing is that we didn’t discuss astronomy at all – which considering my love for astronomy will probably surprise many of my friends. Pamela has a horse, and I love horses and horse-riding – so this became a topic of conversation, followed by the state of international education funding, which seems to be declining.
The night before I also had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Brian Dunning, from Skeptoid.com and the Skeptoid podcast. Brian was a delight to talk with, and the main topic of our conversation was his recent trip to Uluru, or ‘Ayer’s Rock‘ as many might know this monolith, which was particularly poignant for me as I too made my first ever journey to ‘the rock’ this year. If you haven’t heard the Skeptoid podcast, I strongly encourage you to try it out – Brian’s bite-sized episodes are a great introduction to skepticism, and are my favourite way to introduce people to critical thinking.
Another stand-out for me so far were my encounters with Rebecca Watson, founder of Skepchick.org, regular ‘rogue’ on ‘The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe’ (SGU) podcast, and contributor to ‘Little Atoms’, a thinking-skeptics’ podcast out of the UK. Rebecca is frankly delightful to talk with, being quite giving of her time, and very, very funny. Having met her, I can add her to my geek-crush list, along with Pamela Gay.
I also met Bob Novella, from the SGU, with whom I’m probably most compatible on an interest level. Bob was shocked to hear that of all the rogues, he often gives me the greatest laughs, as our humour seems so in sync. He’s also way more approachable and engaging than I ever expected, and now I like him even more than before.
George Hrab was very warm and welcoming also, and he remembered recording a message to me via Richard Saunders at TAM 8 in Los Vegas this year. I can’t wait to see George’s gig in Melbourne after TAM, because if his short performance today at TAM Australia is anything to go by, it’ll be most enjoyable.
I briefly met Jay Novella from SGU, who’d become engaged just the day before, and Evan Bernstein, who I didn’t get to chat with much due to circumstances. From afar I observed that he too was very giving of his time, and I regret that I didn’t get to chat with him further.
Of some surprise to me was my inability to engage Steve Novella of the SGU in conversation. I usually don’t have a problem talking to anyone, and I don’t know if it was a touch of idolism or what, but I just didn’t know what to say to Steve, and the opportunity was rapidly taken from me when someone asked him for a photo op. How do you tell someone that their life’s work inspires you on so many levels without sounding like a fan-boi? If you do read this Steve, please know that I don’t just admire your contributions – I’m frankly amazed at your output and energy, and you impress me constantly.
At TAM itself James Randi‘s presentation was very entertaining, but I think the show-stopper was Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki who just blew us all away with his energy and enthusiasm. This guy barely took a breath during his hour on-stage, and although I regularly listen to his TripleJ science hour podcast with my kids, I was thoroughly impressed with his presentation.
Finally I want to touch on one of the most important aspects of this event for me, which is finally meeting people with whom I share so much via Twitter. Individuals such as @drunkenmadman, @bastardsheep, @happysinger, @purplefae, @tinydalek, @earlytetrapod, @chrishiggins, @chrysstevenson, @unifex, @podblack, @luketheatheist, @reasonable_hank, @gnatrix and so many more, who are every bit as awesome in person as they are online – these are the grass-roots skeptics who make a difference every day in the ‘real world’ by standing up for reason, attacking woo and pseudoscience such as the AVN which cause so much harm. These people are heroes, and I’m lucky to be amongst them.Day 1 of TAM Australia blew my mind. I can’t imagine what Day 2 has in store for me!