The Pro’s Guide to TAM 2013 Day Two

Friday, July 12 is the second day of TAM 2013, but is the first day in the main conference hall. For many people who do not go to the workshops, this is the first “real” day of TAM. As a grizzled veteran attendee of many TAMs, I will hereby and forthwith provide you, gentle reader, with the benefit of my wisdom and breadth of experience, so that you can plan your day accordingly.

The hall opens around 7:30 a.m. for the continental breakfast in the main hall. I would recommend getting down to the conference area before 7:30 and wait in line to be one of the first into the hall. The hall is quite large, and there will be well over 1,000 people there (per my inside information from a trusted source). You will have much more fun and find things much more interesting if you are close enough to see the speakers directly and not via means of the big screen TVs. So, get there early, and make sure that you are part of the mad rush to get to the front of the room. Put your stuff down to save a seat, and then go and get some breakfast and coffee from the food station in the back of the room. Eat in your just-saved seat, and you will be set for the day.

As a copyrighted feature of this blog, I am going to provide you with the SA Anticipated Event Rating (“SAAER”). To differentiate myself from run of the mill ratings of a scale of 1 to 10, or 1 to 5 stars, I will use a unique rating system of 1 to 18 points, 18 points being the highest, designated as X/18, or X out of 18 possible points.

The program starts at 8:00 with opening remarks by George Hrab, James “The Amazing” Randi, and D.J. Grothe. SA Rating: None, as it’s just opening remarks.

8:30 to 9:00. Michael Shermer: Science And Morality: How Science Can Determine Right And Wrong. Shermer is a perennial speaker at TAM and is a polished and effective communicator. His talks always have a consistent level of excellence and interest. Even though it is the first real talk of the day and some of you may want to sleep in, if you are taking the trouble to make it to TAM, you should not miss this talk. SA Rating: 15/18.

9:00 to 9:30. Sharon Hill: The Honest Broker Of Doubtful News. I am a regular reader of Sharon’s Doubtful News feed, and I understand why the JREF wants to give her a slot, but this talk sounds like it will consist of Sharon talking about news of interest to skeptics. This just does not sound very interesting. SA Rating: 6.5/18

9:30 to 10:00 Karen Stollznow: What An Excellent Day For A Talk About Exorcism! Karen is one of the best and most interesting professional skeptics out there. Her columns in Skeptic and Skeptical Inquirer are consistently the most interesting thing in those magazines. Point of Inquiry has not been the same since she ceased appearing on the podcast. Karen has a well-deserved reputation as the most diligent researcher on paranormal issues, and she doesn’t talk about a subject unless she knows it cold. She is also a very effective public speaker. I would rate this in advance as the DONT MISS TALK OF THE DAY. SA Rating: 18/18.

10:00 to 10:30 Marty Klein: Junk Science, Moral Panics, and Sex. I don’t know much about Marty Klein, but the topic of moral panics has interested SA for a long time. I am going to go out on a limb here and give this an SA Rating of 12.5/18.

10:30-10:45 Bathroom Break. SA Rating 5/18. Why such a low rating for a bathroom break? There is an absurdly small amount of restroom space for a 1,000-plus attendee conference.

10:45-11:45. Panel–Fighting The Fakes: Woo In Martial Arts. Panelists include Evan Bernstein, Dave Jones, Reed Kuhn, and Brent Weedman, moderated by John Rennie. One of the problems I have had with TAM panels in the past is that they have been too general, talking about vague and non-specific topics like education, philosophy, and morality. This is the ideal topic for a TAM panel. It is specific, interesting, and is not the same topic regurgitated as a means of providing speaking time to people who don’t have the gravitas to get their own talks. I have high hopes for this panel. SA Rating: 15/18.

11:45-12:15 Max Maven: The Truth Lies Here. Max is an illusionist. Like Mr. Randi, he is in an excellent position to help us understand what we think is the truth is not actually the truth. SA Rating 15.5/18.

12:15-12:45 Cara Santa Maria: Science With A Side Of Atheism, Skepticism Out In The Open. While I applaud the JREF for landing Cara as a speaker, I question the topic of this talk. I personally find the more specific topics interesting, and this seems to be a generalized topic that has been done to death at TAM and other conferences. Cara will no doubt be an engaging and entertaining speaker, but I think she could do much better with her topic selection. SA Rating 12/18

12:45-2:00 p.m. The lines for the buffet lunch can be very long. If Cara is wowing you with her talk, by all means ignore the advice I am about to give, but if not, I would suggest bugging out of Cara’s talk about 4 minutes early and heading across the hallway to get near the front of the lunch line. The lunch is usually “ok.” It is included in your conference ticket, so eat in the banquet hall. SA Rating 9.5/18

2:00-2:45. Interview–Making An Honest Liar. James Randi and Honest Liar Filmmakers In Conversation With Jamy Ian Swiss. These producers have been making a documentary about Mr. Randi for a while, and they were highly visible at TAM2012. I am extremely interested in seeing this doco, and am looking forward to some behind-the-scenes anecdotes. SA Rating 16/18.

2:45-3:45. Panel–Skeptical Scope And Mission, Panelists include Barbara Drescher, Daniel Loxton, Steven Novella, and Jamy Ian Swiss, moderated by Sharon Hill. Boy, this panel could go one of two ways, either a home run or a massive train wreck (yes, mixed metaphors intended).

3:45-4:00 Break.

4:00-4:30. Talk–Susan Blackmore. Seriously? “Talk.” Just “talk”? I am sorry, but give me break. Susan Blackmore can’t even come up with a title? I have three words for you. Nap Freaking Time! If she can’t be bothered to figure out what she is going to say, I can’t be bothered to attend. SA Rating 0/18.

4:30-5:00. Massimo Pigluicci–Demarcation, What Exactly is the difference between science and pseudoscience? Massimo is a “philosopher.” I find “philosophy” to be a ridiculous pre-cursor to science, having gone the way of the dodo bird once rational thinking and the scientific method came along. Plus, it’s another general topic that has been done over and over again. SA Rating: 10.5/18.

5:00-6:00 Friday Keynote, Susan Jacoby–How to define “facts” when we’re not entitled to our own. Susan is a very compelling speaker, and this topic sounds good, but it comes at the end of a very long day, so there might be a lot of very tired people, so she will need to be extra dynamic to keep the audience engaged. SA Rating 14/18

6:00-9:00 Fundraising Meal–Skeptics’ Guide To The Universe. “Have dinner with the SGU cast. A portion of the proceeds go to support the show.” Even though Ms. Becky Watson has boycotted the JREF and TAM (in addition to CFI, Richard Dawkins, and anyone else who doesn’t give her a full kowtow every time they step in to her Sagacity’s presence), she rears her distasteful head by sending her sycophants and enablers (a.k.a. The Novellas And Evan Bernstein) to raise money for Becky’s show. Yup, even though Becky holds TAM and the JREF in contempt (and by extension every attendee at TAM, except presumably for her sycophantic and enabling podcast co-hosts, because they are raising money for her “show.”), she is apparently A-OK with using TAM (and your pocketbook, Dear Reader) as a fundraising opportunity. If you go to this fundraising dinner, you are as much an enabler as the Novella Bros. and Mr. Bernstein. Stay Away. Stay far away. SA Rating: None. Don’t go.

9:30-11:00 P.M. Satiristas Evening Entertainment. Paul Provenza, Jon Dore, Cynthia Carle, Gary Shapiro, Gary Stockdale, and FATHER GUIDO SARDUCCI. Yup, the actual actor who played Guido Sarducci on SNL with the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players. This will be an epic evening of entertainment. Wow. SA’s Rating: 18/18

11:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. Penn’s Bacon and Donut Party. In addition to being a talented juggler and magician, Penn Jillette is a talented musician who has put a great band together. This is the most fun I have ever had listening to music, eating bacon, and eating donuts. Go to this event! SA Rating: 18/18.

And that, Dear Reader, is a long, long day.

  • Astro

    I wouldn’t quite agree that Penn is a talented musician, but definitely go for the bacon and doughnuts, and buy a $20 souvenir t-shirt where all $20 goes to the JREF.

    I totally agree with seeing Karen. I thought her talk last year was by far the best.

    I’d be interested to see your ratings after you go to these talks/panels/shows (the ones you’ll go to).