It’s always good to be careful when you give advice, because someone might take it.
–CROFT M. PENTZ, 1001 Things Your Mother Told You
TAM 2013 is right around the corner. It is so close that the organizers have finally released the schedule. To those traveling to beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada to attend what is the best skeptical event in the universe, SA offers some sage advice.
Having A Good Time At The SouthPoint.
The event his hosted at the SouthPoint Casino Resort. The SouthPoint is off Strip. Actually, more like off off off Strip. Once you are there, you are there. You cannot walk to anything. I mean anything. And with the temperature most likely to be hovering around 110 degrees Fahrenheit (about 43 degrees celsius) in the afternoon, you really would not want to walk anywhere even if you could. If you want to do something else in Las Vegas, you can either take a taxi, or take a hotel shuttle to the strip (for which you will have to pay). The hotel offers a shuttle to and from the airport, but you need to make a reservation in advance by calling the hotel reservation desk–I would recommend doing that as soon as possible.
Really though, there is no reason to leave the SouthPoint in the first place. It has good restaurants, most of which are reasonably priced. The Del Mar Lounge–the social center of TAM–has cheap drinks. If you prefer to drink alone, the SouthPoint gift shop has a nice selection of beer, wine, and liquor–often cheaper than you will find at your local bottle shop back home (and if you are coming from abroad, much cheaper). SA has spent many TAMs arriving at the SouthPoint directly from the airport, and never seeing the light of day (literally) until the ride back to the airport at the end of TAM. If you are a social introvert and are worried that you will spend all of your time alone, don’t worry! Friends are easy to make at TAM. I would recommend hanging out at the Del Mar Lounge, but I would also highly recommend checking out the JREF forum’s section on TAM and other skeptical events, especially the sub-thread on TAM extracurricular events. Also, it is valuable to follow Twitter using the hashtag #TAM2013, as people will often post tweets about excursions, dinners, or other fun things to do.
Using Electronic Devices
Days at TAM are long. SA sometimes hits the conference hall at first light and trips the light fantastic in the Del Mar into the early hours of the morning. When you are at TAM, sleep is for the sickly and weak of heart! Because of that, it is highly likely that your phone (iphone, android, etc) will run out of juice. I have found that using Twitter and live blogging snark from the convention floor (hey, I’m SA!) greatly adds to the fun of TAM. I have found in years past that this has greatly strained my phone’s battery. There are very few power outlets in the conference hall, so your choices are limited. I would suggest purchasing an external power pack to recharge your phone on the fly. Amazon offers a great many. Once you get back to your room for the three or so hours of sleep you are likely to get each night, you can charge the phone and the power-pack to be ready for the next day.
Day 1 (Thursday)
Thursday July 11 is the first real day of TAM, and it is workshop day. If you have not purchased an All Workshop pass, I would highly recommend doing so. I have often found that the workshops are the best part of TAM. Here is SA’s guide to this year’s workshops:
Workshop 1 (8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.) There are two choices:
HOW YOUR CAMERA LIES TO YOU presented by STUART J. ROBBINS AND BRYAN BONNER. and BLOGGING SKEPTICISM (SPONSORED BY SKEPTIC INK)
PRESENTERS INCLUDE EDWARD CLINT, CALEB LACK, MARIA MYRBECK, RUSSELL BLACKFORD, JACQUES ROUSSEAU, AND JOHN LOFTUS.
SA’s Advice: Go to How Your Camera Lies To You. First of all, Stuart Robbins hosts one of SA’s favorite podcasts, Exposing Pseudoastronomy. 78 episodes in, it is pretty obvious that the man knows his stuff. If you don’t listen to this podcast, you are an idiot. Here’s why SA recommends this workshop–talking about photographs is a very visual topic. It helps immeasurably to see the visuals. You can listen to people blather on about blogging any old time, but you will only have the opportunity to see a presentation like this a few times in your lifetime.
Workshop 2 (9:45 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.) CROWD-SOURCING SKEPTICISM PRESENTERS INCLUDE SHANE GREENUP, SUSAN GERBIC, AND TIM FARLEY and SKEPTICISM AROUND THE CURRICULUM
PRESENTERS INCLUDE ROBERT BLASKIEWICZ, PETER BOGHASSIAN, MIRANDA HALE, AND EVE SEIBERT.
SA’s Advice: This is a tough one. There was a clear favorite for the 8:00 workshops, but we have two groups of excellent people talking about very interesting topics, but SA gives the edge to SKEPTICISM AROUND THE CURRICULUM. The whole crowd-sourcing skepticism has pretty much been a topic at every group of workshops SA has ever seen at TAM. Skepticism in teaching is fresh, new, and innovative topic. You will find SA’s tush firmly planted in a seat for SKEPTICISM AROUND THE CURRICULUM.
Workshop 3 (11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.) PHYSICISTS, METAPHYSICISTS AND FRAUDS PRESENTERS INCLUDE CHIP DENMAN AND GRACE DENMAN and SUPPORTING SKEPTICISM AROUND THE WORLD
PRESENTERS INCLUDE D.J. GROTHE, NORM ALLEN, SANAL EDAMARUKU, LEO IGWE, MASSIMO POLIDORO, RICHARD SAUNDERS, AND NAKUL SHENOY.
SA’s Advice: This one’s a no-brainer. Even more so than Workshop 1. Go to SUPPORTING SKEPTICISM AROUND THE WORLD. The names of the presenters alone show you that this is a powerhouse panel. Please, gentle reader, take SA’s advice on this one–this is will probably be the best workshop panel in the history of TAM. Mr. Edamaruku and Mr. Igwe particularly have put their lives and freedom on the line for skepticism. You owe it to yourself to hear what they have to say.
Workshop 4 (2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.) SCIENCE BASED MEDICINE PRESENTERS INCLUDE STEVEN NOVELLA, MD; DAVID GORSKI, MD, PHD, FACS; HARRIET HALL, MD; AND MARK CRISLIP, MD. and PRESERVING SKEPTIC HISTORY PRESENTERS INCLUDE DANIEL LOXTON, TIM FARLEY, SUSAN GERBIC, BOB SHEAFFER, AND RAY HYMAN.
SA’s Advice: A toss-up. Two great panels. SA will be choosing the Skeptic History, but you really can’t go wrong with either.
Workshop 5 (4:15 p.m.-5:45 p.m.). HOW RATIONAL ARE YOU? PRESENTERS INCLUDE BARBARA DRESCHER AND KYLE HILL and SKEPTICS IN THE DOJO: TAKING ON THE MARTIAL ARTS
PRESENTERS INCLUDE BRENT WEEDMAN, EVAN BERNSTEIN, DAVID JONES, JOHN RENNIE, JENNIFER OUELLETTE, AND SIFU S.F. ZEIGLER.
SA’s Advice: Nap time. How Rational Are You sounds about as uninteresting as a workshop could. And Skeptics In the Dojo is the exact same topic as a plenary panel. If you started workshopping at 8:00 a.m., you are due for a nap. Take one.
Welcome Reception (7:00 to 9:00 p.m.)
SA’s Advice: Forget going to a restaurant for dinner and get to the reception early, and there should be sufficient food available to satisfy your hunger. Regarding booze–and be it known that SA is a notorious booze hound–the cash bar at the welcome reception is notoriously bad. Really bad. And expensive. SA’s advice is to grab some grub, and then dash over to the Del Mar for a cocktail or two. Don’t waste money on the horrid cash bar at the Welcome Reception.
Evening Entertainment (9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.) WHAT “THEY” DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOWAN EVENING OF HUMOR FROM SKEPTICISM’S LEADING DIS-INFORMATION AGENTS.
SA’s Advice: Dude (and SA considers the word “dude” to be non-gender specific), you are a moron if you do not go to Thursday Evening’s Entertainment. SA has seen these Bryan and Baxter guys at TAM on a few occasions, and, to put it simply, they rock! I don’t really know what this will be about, but it will be well worth the time.
That’s all for day one. In the coming week SA will preview the next three days of TAM2013.