Posts Tagged ‘Events’

Calculus: The Musical

December 8, 2011

On Tuesday a friend invite me to join him for a show at Huge Improv Theater called Calculus: The Musical. It was a small production. Two actors portrayed many different characters, there was no intermission, and there were several frenzied costume changes during the show. Both actors played guitar at points, and one had several pieces on an electric keyboard. It had all the elements that I love in a musical comedy: Witty characters, fast-paced dialogue and action, a dash of slapstick, various overdone accents, a multimedia presentation, a blending of musical styles (from classical to rap and a lot in between), and a man playing Sir Isaac Newton talking to a little action figure of himself (“Little Isaac”) and then having the action figure answer back in a higher-pitched version of his true voice. Okay, that last was specific to Calculus: The Musical and not at all something I look for in musical comedies.

As the name might imply to those among you who are particularly quick-witted, it was about calculus. As a mathphobe who never made it all the way through a calculus course I was worried that all of the jokes would go right over my head. I did miss some of them; several times my friend’s giggling indicated that something humorous had transpired on stage after some dialoguey gobbledygook about derivitives, functions, limits and infinite series. But the writer managed to incorporate calculus without making the storyline completely unintelligible to the uninitiated.

You can listen to songs from the musical at maththeater.com. Here are the lyrics from the only song that I can actually claim to have understood entirely. It’s called 5 Sizes of Numbers:

There are 5 sizes of numbers,
Big Infinity and small Zero,
And the Finite in the middle,
They’re the ones, I’m sure you know.

But now we look between Finite and Zero.
To numbers so small, they’re nothing at all,
But still a little larger than a Zero.
Their name is Infinitesimal.

On the other side of Finite,
There are numbers too large to say,
Infinites are what we call them,
They are big, in every way.

But they will never quite be Infinity,
They’re not quite as big, not even close.
We’ll use all of these numbers in Cal-cu-lus,
The numbers, I love the most.

It only gets nerdier from there. They have a song about Bernhard Reimann in the style of Eminem’s Without Me. Just sayin’.

Calculus: The Musical has been touring nationally for six years, and it stopped in Minneapolis only for a couple of days. But they have shows scheduled from now through May of 2012 in different parts of the country. I had a good time, maybe even learned a thing or two, and it reminded me that I really need to stop procrastinating and start reading that copy of Jennifer Ouellette’s Calculus Diaries that I got for Christmas and have left languishing on my bookshelf for the last year!

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Minneapolis Chevy Sonic Adventure

October 25, 2011

On Saturday I participated in the Minneapolis Chevy Sonic Adventure. I posted about the race last week, and since then I’ve had people emailing me for more information. Apparently the race is going to be held in several cities across the U.S., and enterprising individuals are looking for clues or trying to decide if they want to get in on the action. I’m not going to share specific clues that we given here on the blog, but I’ve made a couple of lists about my experience with the Minneapolis race.

Top Ten Highlights

1) It was FUN. I had a really good time.This was an enjoyable scavenger hunt, especially for someone like me who enjoys logic games, friendly competition, a little exercise, and exploring.

2) Well-organized start. The starting location was huge and there was plenty of room for people to leave the park at their own pace when the race opened up. There was no craziness or fear of being trampled as people raced out of the area. Not getting trampled was a nice way to start the day.

3) The clues were really quite well done. I was worried that the challenges would either be too easy or impossible, but the people who were responsible for creating the clues for Minneapolis managed to make them challenging without being frustrating. We didn’t have to know the city to figure out the clues, but it did help to have a general sense of direction of where we were and where we were headed.

4) We got some exercise. My partner and I walked several miles on Saturday, which was lovely because the weather was PERFECT – sunny, a gentle breeze and somewhere in the low 70s.

5) I love group activities. The organizers handed out pale pink shirts with the logos all of the supporters written on the back. When we were walking around the city we’d run into each other and there was a sense of camaraderie. Also, there was a bit of hint-helping – you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. No one that we ran into were super-competitive jerks, and most of the teams were smiling and laughing. It felt nice to be part of the group. And one amusing thing about 500 people running around the city in pink shirts was that it confused the crap out the cabbies and other downtown Minneapolis regulars.

6) Seeing the city with new eyes. I’m pretty familiar with downtown Minneapolis, but I discovered new parks, landmarks and stores that I had never noticed or paid attention to before participating in the race.

7) They planned ahead with the no-bike rule. The organizers did not allow bikes or other wheeled transportation (with the exception of medically necessary wheelchairs). There were up to 500 people racing around crowded downtown Minneapolis on a Saturday afternoon. I am so grateful that no one from our group was on bikes; that would have been a nightmare with the pedestrian and car traffic.

8 ) Well-organized ending. When the game was over, the app and text number were disabled. It was a very clear message that the game was over and it was time to head back to HQ.

9) Treats and Prizes! At our game the organizers had a bunch of different kinds of granola bars, fruit snacks, candies and water waiting for us at the end of the race (totally not expected as we hadn’t paid an entry fee). And at our location, one of the local radio stations helped sponsored the event and handed out some swag by random drawing. Finally, the organizers awarded tickets for local events, an MP3 player and a couple of digital cameras to the top eight finishers. I’m not sure what the first runner-up won, but…

10) Someone actually won a freaking car! As I mentioned in my earlier post, the details for the race were quite vague. There was a statement about how participants might win a new Chevy Sonic. My partner and I thought maybe the top winner would get entered into a drawing, or maybe someone would have to hit a certain number of points to win the car, but no. At the end of the race they actually gave away a car to what I’m assuming was the team who ranked the highest in points. That was really neat.

Top Five Disappointments

1) Crowd control during registration. The race was advertised as starting at 11am. We showed up at 10:30 to register and were told that registration didn’t open until 11am (oh, that’s what they meant by starting at 11am). There was no help for queuing up, so at about 10:50 everyone started bunching up and pressing into a huddle around the reg tent. When emcee announced that registration was open the crowd surged toward the table. A couple of orderly lines eventually formed, but not without some shoving, nudging, elbowing, grumbling and generally jerkiness. It took the organizers over an hour to register everyone and we didn’t leave the park until sometime after noon.

2) Runners had the advantage. The name of the game seemed to be hit the most number of clues (and correctly answer them). Those who were able to keep up a steady jog made it to more places. I’m not saying that it was unfair, but those who were used to walking or jogging for long periods of time definitely had an advantage.

3) SCVNGR sucked it up BIG TIME. Don’t get me wrong – the SCVNGR app is really well designed. We pulled it up at the start of the race and all of the  locations were mapped out and the clues were all listed. We planned a route that would cover the greatest number of points in the most direct lines. The app was beautiful. And then the f*cking thing crashed. They weren’t ready for the traffic and we ran into many groups who were having trouble getting the map and clues to refresh or open up. We eventually switched over to the text mode of playing, but we lost a lot of time and a few clues in the process, and…

4) The text message mode of play is at a big disadvantage to the SCVNGR app. The text message mode of play was more reliable than the SCVNGR app for us, but WAY more inefficient. With texting we were sent to one location at a time and we couldn’t pick or choose which location it would send us to. We were sent back and forth across several blocks and had no ability to plan our route. E.g. – it sent us to 7th Street, then up to 10th street, then back down to 8th Street, then to 10th street again. That was frustrating. If they wanted to make the race more even, they would limit everyone to use of text messaging.

5) Battery Life!!! My phone had a 2% charge left at the end of the race. If it had gone any longer we would have had to stop and charge up or throw in the towel. All answers were tied to one phone – not an account that you could log in to from anywhere – so once we had started answering questions, we needed to keep using the same device.

Conclusion: DO IT.

Overall it was a GREAT day and I would recommend the race to anyone and everyone who likes this kind of competitive gaming. The few annoying things were not enough to ruin the overall awesomeness of the event. The thing that made participation a no-brainer for me was the free entry. For $0 from all of us the organizers provided a wonderful afternoon of entertainment, plus a free t-shirt, snacks and prizes.

I would suggest getting a bunch of teams together that all know each other. My teammate and I didn’t know anybody else, so we were our own little world of two. Teams were strictly limited to two people, but there were a couple of larger groups of two-person teams who all sat together before and after the race, and I imagine they had fun running into each other downtown and competing against each other.

And, you actually have a pretty decent chance of winning a car. In Minneapolis the challenge was limited to 250 teams, and one of those teams won a car. If you consider that some of the groups that pre-registered probably didn’t show up, that means each team had a better than 1:250 chance of winning the grand prize. Those are better odds than most of us will probably ever have of winning a car in other types of contests (radio call-in contests, raffles, etc.).

There are photos and video of the event over at the official Minneapolis Chevy Sonic Adventure website. And knowing what I know now…there are some clues about the types of questions and answers you might expect if the Chevy Sonic Adventure comes to your town!

Dragon*Con

September 4, 2011

First, if you follow me on twitter or facebook, I must apologize. I just went and dropped this Dragon*Con chaos on you with very little warning. So if it’s been annoying, I do hope you laughingly shrugged off all of the dozens of wacky, zany status updates and ignored me.

If, however, you have been vicariously experiencing Dragon*Con through my updates…this event is AWESOME! (Here’s where you say, “I know, RIGHT???”)

I originally came to Dragon*Con, strangely enough, not because of my scifi/fantasy nerdiness, but because I heard about it through my involvement with skeptic podcasts, blogs and groups. I had thought that I would spend most of my time in the room dedicated to the Skeptic track. And don’t get me wrong, I could have. But this. is. DRAGON*CON!

DRAGON*CON!!!!

Or shoot, no, I meant:

DRAGON*KHAAAAAAAN!

Okay, enough of that specific brand of silliness.

So, because Dragon*Con has all sorts of sci-fi/fantasy/science/gaming/pop culture offerings I have found a whole slew of interesting panels to attend. I’ve managed to go to panels in four out of the five hotels and have hit six different fan tracks: Skeptics, Podcasting, Main Programming, American Sci-Fi Media, Anne McCaffery’s Worlds, and British Sci-Fi Media. I’m a little proud of myself.

I could spend a couple or three hundred words telling you how thought-provoking the Coming Out Skeptical (JT Eberhard) and Everything Evolves (Dr. Eugenie Scott) panels were, or how exciting it was to be in the front row for the Paul and Storm Talk About Some Stuff for Five Minutes podcast, how neat it was to be in the same room as Gates McFadden and Brent Spiner for a Star Trek Q&A, and later to see Eddie McClintock from Warehouse 13, Felicia Day, Amy Okuda, Robin Thorsen, and a bunch of other famous people in the autograph room, how suprisingly pleased I was with The Ship Who Sang reading which had a full cast of people playing characters (including Anne McCaffery’s son Todd McCaffery) and made me cry like a baby, how fun it was to participate in the British Sci-Fi Media fan-led panel on all things Neil Gaiman, and how super excited I was to get a good seat for the live podcast of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe.  

But we all know that you mostly want to see pictures.

Here’s me – Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree!

I had fun in the Marriot – a suprising number of people recognized me as The Giving Tree, a bunch of other people yelled “A shrubbery!” (from The Holy Grail), only two people guessed that I was an Ent (from Lord of the Rings), and a lot of people wanted to take photos with me. I actually scared a few people because I was standing against a wall and they thought I was a lobby plant until they met my eyes, which I found hi-larious! Unfortunately, I underestimated my ability to move around the uber-crowded public areas and almost took out a few eyes with my pointy tree branches. It was nerve-wracking, and I really needed a handler. Also, finding room in the hotel elevators was pretty hellish. Overall, though, it was a good experience and I enjoyed walking around in costume.

And here’s some of the other amazing costumes. Amazing. Really, really fascinatingly amazing. Enjoy.

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Characters: Han Solo frozen in carbonite, Princess Leia, Jigsaw, Not sure who the dragon and guy in the tech suit are, Queen of Hearts, Characters from Batman universe, Harley Quinn, Bat Women, K-9 (Doctor Who), Iron Men and Woman, Beaker, Flasher C3-PO, 9, Robotic Flying Shark, Nyan Mouse, Death (Sandman), R2-D2, Superman with young Yoda and Batman, Waldo, Freaky Clowns, Zelda (Delirium from Sandman in background), Unknown characters in front of a TARDIS, Brent Spiner and Gates McFadden at a Star Trek Q&A (okay, not technically “characters”, but awesome enough to get a photo in the slideshow).

Boston SlutWalk 2011

May 18, 2011
I am very, very excited to introduce a guest post by Jo O. All words and photos are hers, and have not been edited from her original submission. For more of Jo’s photos from the Boston SlutWalk, please visit her BostonSlut Walk set on Flickr.
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Last Saturday I attended the Boston SlutWalk, one of many satellite walks affiliated with the Toronto SlutWalk held in early April. The original SlutWalk was organized in response to a statement made in January by a Toronto police officer during a campus safety forum at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School where he stated “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

Although he eventually issued an apology, organizers of the Toronto SlutWalk were not deterred, stating that police failed the citizens by allowing this culture of slut-shaming to enter the ranks of those sworn to serve and protect. “With sexual assault already a significantly under-reported crime, survivors have now been given even less of a reason to go to the Police, for fear that they could be blamed.” And it’s not just Toronto Police that are the problem, which is why this message grew from a small group of people who heard the insensitive comment to the launch of satellite walks in London, Boston, Dallas, and many other cities (including Minneapolis on August 6th).

The belief that a woman’s choice of clothing could cause a man to lose control of his sexual urges is absurd and offensive to men and women alike. But this attitude exists everywhere, from the professionals to whom we report a crime to the communities expected to provide support. When an 11-year old girl was gang raped in Cleveland, Texas, the New York Times article about the case highlighted just how skewed some people’s views of the situation were. Interviews with residents familiar with the victim and the attackers focused on the fact that the victim “dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s” as well as concerns about how the young men involved would “have to live with this the rest of their lives.”

Admittedly, I’ve harbored similar prejudices in the past, which is why I came out for the Boston SlutWalk. It’s easy to say that under no circumstances is rape acceptable, but it’s more difficult to quiet that voice in your head that asks inappropriate questions that don’t matter, like “what kind of reputation does she have?” or “what was she wearing?” When I told a friend of mine I was going to this event, he asked me if I thought a man wearing a Rolex or flashing a wad of cash should be surprised when he gets mugged. It stumped me for a second, until I thought about how sad it is to assume that an expensive trinket in someone’s hand would cause everyone in the vicinity make a grab for it or that seeing a little cleavage would suddenly turn any man into a sex-crazed animal. It assumes that every person out there is a potential attacker, a likely thief or a possible rapist. It also wrongly puts fault on the victim, when the blame should always fall squarely on the shoulders of the actual perpetrators of violence.

In the build up to the event, people questioned why a SlutWalk was being held in Boston. Did we really want to take back the word “slut” anyway? Did we want to advocate slutty behavior? Was this really the message we want to send to the children spending a nice day in the park with their parents? The true message was obvious at the event, when two thousand people, young and old, male and female, gay, straight, bi, and transgendered all came together in Boston to say we would not tolerate slut-shaming or victim-blaming anymore.

As Jaclyn Friedman said during her speech, “It ends because there is truly nothing, NOTHING you can do to make someone raping you YOUR fault. It ends because calling other people sluts may make you feel safer, but it doesn’t actually keep you safer. It ends because not one more of us will tolerate being violated and blamed for it. And it ends because all of this slut-shaming does more to us than just the violence of rape. As if that weren’t enough. The violent threat of slut-shaming also keeps us afraid of our bodies and our desires. It makes us feel like we’re wrong, and dirty, and bad, and yes very, very unsafe, when all we want is to enjoy the incredible pleasure that our bodies are capable of.”

Jaclyn Friedman at Boston SlutWalk 2011

The SlutWalk wasn’t just about one stupid statement made by a cop. It is a response to the skewed way society looks at victims of sexual assault. It doesn’t matter how many sexual partners a person has or what they like to wear, rapes happen because a rapist is around. The SlutWalk is a call for people to stand up together and say I’m not ashamed of liking sex, I’m not ashamed of the way I choose to dress, and I will stand up against anyone who suggests a victim of rape was “asking for it.”

Party with the Pharaohs – and Biodork!

March 23, 2011

The Science Museum of Minnesota is hosting an event called Party with the Pharaohs next Wednesday evening, and it sounds INCREDIBLY fun and nerdy. They’re going to have food samplings from Crave, the Golden Fig, and TeaSource, a DJ, film screenings, adult pictionary, presentations from local science groups, Science Live theater, and live insects, reptiles and an American Kestrel.

And we get the WHOLE MUSEUM TO OURSELVES! I’m so happy that parents and schools take kids to the museum to get them interested and educated in science, but they always hog all of the cool demonstrations! I want to put the golgi apparatus in the life size cell and play in the smoke tornado, too! And next week I can.

I thought this would be a great chance to get together with all of my nerdy friends who like and appreciate science.  I threw the idea of going out to the twitterverse and Facebook last week and got back some positive responses (and trust me folks – one good pat on the head was all I needed), so I went ahead and made an eventbrite page for the evening. You don’t have to sign up through the eventbrite page to join us next week, but if you do I’ll get super excited and come up with all sorts of nifty ideas for the evening.

http://adultsdoscience.eventbrite.com/

Wednesday March 30th – 7pm to 11pm
Science Museum of Minnesota – St. Paul, MN

Go…now…do it…you know you want to.