CONvergence 2010: Day 1

Blog note – I’m typing from a strange computer and I’m under a hotel-dictated time crunch, so please excuse the raw photos and hasty descriptions!

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CONvergence is off to a great start!

There will be an estimated 4,000 people at this science, science-fiction, fantasy and general nerd/geek/dork convention this weekend.  This is my first time at CONvergence is probably five years, and I don’t remember it being this huge.

My head is spinning – there is so much to see and do!  No matter what I decide to do during any hour, it is guaranteed that I’m missing eight other cool activites.

So far I’ve seen people of all stripes – the victorian/steampunk syle is very popular this weekend, and since this years theme is “Bring in the Bad Guys”, villian costumes are very popular.  But there’s also the “usual” comic, manga, anime, sci-fi/fantasy character costumes.

 

Dr. Horribles

 

The Head of the Seamstresses Guild (and her lead Muscle to her left) and Iron Man

These are some of the different areas that we’ve visited so far:

COF2E2 – Mmmm…free cofee.  The sign is a reference to Kevin Smith’s Clerks.

The Pool and Garden Court – this is where all of the party rooms, cabanas and various other types of hanging out goes down.

 

The Atrium Level – most of the panels take place here, but one can also find the Dealer’s Room (art for sale), Cinema Rex (movies all day and night), Theater Nippon (anime) and Connie’s Quantum Sandbox (various activities of the science-minded sort – a good place for the kids).  The upper levels contain guest rooms.

This is the entrance to the Main Stage.

So far I’ve attended several panels and events.  The first event was “CONvergence 101”.  Speaking as a newbie, this was a really good panel for newbies.  They went over all of the expected common-sense rules and suggestions and at the end they gave all of us the grand tour.

These were some of the memorable phrases, rules and advice from this panel:

“CONvergence – It’s like Vegas for nerds”

The 5-2 Rule: “This is one of the best rules for how to survive any con: Five hours of sleep and two real meals per day – minimum!”

“No sleeping in the hallways, planters, under tables, in shared public areas or anywhere but in a room.”

“Shower.  Seriously.  ‘Cuz Dah-y-mn.”  As an aside, this rule was mentioned not only at CON 101, but at Opening Ceremonies and in another panel.  That’s a little scary.

“Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer.”

“Sit down and talk to strangers.”

On photo policy: “Show respect and ask people if it’s okay before you put them on the interwebs.”

The next panel that I went to was all about and by Skepchicks.  They talked about how skepchick.org came about, and they discussed some of their current and upcoming projects.  They spoke  the Women Thinking Free Foundation and their “Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated” campain.  Maria discussed the Atlanta Skeptics and Skepticamp.  Rebecca spoke about the Curiousity Aroused” podcast. There was also an excellent conversation about pubic lice led by Bug Girl.  Two of the fun things I learned from this panel were the National Science Teacher’s Association, the “Draw a Scientist test”.  And my favorite thinking point came from an audience commenter who said “The scientific method doesn’t just apply to science.”

Skepchicks Maria, Rebecca Watson, Amy, Bug Girl, Carrie, Lyra Lynx (left to right).

After the Skepchicks was the Mark Time Radio Show’s production of Villains on Parade at the Main Stage.  I’m not a follower of the Theater of the Mind, but it was neat to attend this live radio show.  (Go CONvergence, introducing me to new things!)

Then on to Opening Ceremonies.  The whole idea behind this year’s theme is that CONvergence’s mascot – a robot named Connie – has been kidnapped by her evil sister, Connie Mark 2, and that CONvergence is now under Connie Mark 2’s evil rule.  All of the presenters were there by Her Benevolent Overlord’s will and together they crafted an atmosphere of paranoid worship of Her Evilness.  They went over rules (again with the Shower.  Seriously, ‘Cuz Dah-y-mn!), and gave updates about the CONvergence group.  There was a moment when one of the presenters quickly whispered to the audience about the resistance movement and it’s efforts to free Connie and overthrow Connie Mark 2 (a set up for a fun game to find the resistence members and join the revolution throughout the weekend).  Opening Ceremonies ended with an awesome swing dance routine to a mix of Star Wars songs.

After that Aaron went to a panel on Professor Moriarity and I went to a panel on Skepticism 101 with Steve Thoms, Pamela Gay, Lois Schadewald and Greg Laden.  Some of my favorite lines and ideas from this panel:

“Look at the data where data exists.”

At some point you have to trust an Authority – you can’t know everything.  But if you are going to trust what an Authority says, make sure you know your Authority.

Don’t take anything on faith, even those topics that you think of as safe.  Do you really know why you support vaccination, why you’re against homeopathy, and how do you know that ghosts don’t exist?

Use google scholar!

It’s easier for humans to accept a false positive than a false negative.  Pattern recognition – it’s safer to run from a shadow that isn’t anything, but it’s really bad to walk into the mouth of a tiger that you didn’t notice was there.

After our panels we walked around to some of the party rooms and cabanas – we had drinks at the Skepchick party, the Seamstresses Guild and the United Federation of Planets – fun!  At 10pm we saw three stand-up comics at the Tongue in Geek Comedy show and then back to the cabanas!  We finally left the hotel and headed home at about 1:30am. 

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We arrived back at con at ~10:15am this morning (after taking our showers!).  We missed a talk that I would have loved to attend called “Science and the Internet” with PZ Myers, Greg Laden and others, but that’s because the Hubby and I were busy pulling together our costumes for the day!

 

And now we have a full day of CONvergence ahead of us!  The computer is about to kick me off, so I’ll see you tomorrow!

 

 

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