Here’s a pro tip: Use the Southpoint’s free airport shuttle service. The JREF doesn’t mention it in their materials or their website, and even on the Southpoint site, you kind of have to hunt for it, but the hotel runs a free shuttle to and from the airport. Cab rides are more than $20, so the free shuttle is a good alternative. You have to make a reservation, and I would recommend doing it as far in advance of the event as possible. Call 1-866-791-7626. Airport shuttle reservations are required to be at least 24 hours prior to arrival. Here’s the schedule:
|Airport Shuttle Times|
|Depart South Point to Airport||Pick Up At Main Terminal|
Once you get there
1. Upon check in, you will be given a little booklet of coupons. Keep it. Contained therein (if the past three years are any guide) will be two valuable coupons: (1) A coupon for a free meal at the casino buffet and (2) a coupon for a free drink at the Del Mar Lounge. Even if you don’t like buffets and don’t like bars, you will surely find someone else who would appreciate the coupons.
2. Head to hotel shop. I know what you are thinking, that Vegas casino shops are overpriced and sleezy. That is usually true, but not the case for the Southpoint. The casino shop has a pretty good liquor store, with a nice selection of wines, beers, and spirits. The prices are surprisingly good–in fact usually much better than the price I would pay for alcoholic beverages back home at the grocery.
3. Head to the Del Mar Lounge. The Del Mar is a smallish bar off the main casino floor. It is the hub of social life at TAM. The drink prices are cheap (or free if you use the one coupon you get upon check-in), and the conversation is the best you will ever have in a bar–think of how educated and intelligent you fellow drinkers will be.
4. Go get your conference registration taken care of before the first morning, if you can. No line.
Your conference registration covers breakfast Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and Lunch Friday and Saturday. You will probably want to have at least one meal at the Buffet, which is mediocre, but if it is free, it is a good value.
The eating options at the hotel are pretty good:
The Del Mar Deli. This place is right next to the Del Mar Lounge. You can take the food back to the Lounge and eat it there. It is pretty much New York style deli fare. Good (and freaking huge!) sandwiches. You can get a nice meal there for about $10 or less. They don’t post a menu, but here is a list of there daily specials.
Steak ‘n Shake. No menu posted. Essentially a burger bar. Pretty good burgers. It has always been crowded, but they have carry-out available.
The Big Sur Oyster Bar. A nice seafood place, I would think about the King Crab plate for $26, but then SA loves King Crab. The oysters a pretty good, too. I would plan on having at least one dinner there.
Don Vito’s Italian. An average-nice Italian restaurant. The prices are about $30 for an entree, but the pasta is reasonably priced. Worth a visit.
Primarily Prime Rib. I think that this place is new since last year, so I have not been. The menu looks reasonable, and the prices look extremely reasonable. Probably worth a dinner.
Baja Miguel’s Mexican Restaurant. Pretty much a typical/nice Mexican restaurant. If you like Mexican food, I would plan a dinner there.
Coronado Cafe, A nice all around inexpensive restaurant selling casual food. Open 24 hours.
Micheal’s Gourmet Room. An old school expensive restaurant. The food is really good. The menus they hand to the women don’t have prices! Plan on at least $100 per person.
The Thursday “workshops” are pretty laid back, and a lot of fun. They are one of my favorite things about TAM. Based on past workshop attendance, and what I know about the speakers, I would recommend the following workshops as “don’t miss”:
9:00 – 10:45 am
WORKSHOP 1B – From Witch-burning to God-men: Supporting Skepticism Around the World
Presenters: Richard Saunders, Leo Igwe, and Brian Thompson
Belief in pseudoscience and the paranormal can cause harm all over the world. In this workshop, you will learn how you can help promote evidence-based thinking from a distance.
Requires separate ticket or All Workshop Pass.
4:00 – 5:45 pm
WORKSHOP 4A – Investigative Methods for the Skeptic
Presenters: Ben Radford, Karen Stollznow, Blake Smith, Carrie Poppy, and Ross Blocher
Join a panel of seasoned paranormal investigators as they teach you the best methods for examining extraordinary claims.
Requires separate ticket or All Workshop Pass.
For Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I suggest getting there early. Breakfast starts at 7:30 a.m., and the events start at 8:00. SA’s suggestion: get there no later than 7:15 a.m. Except for some reserved seating in the first couple rows for speakers and people who pay $1000 for a special ticket, seating at TAM is open. If past experience is any guide, there will already be people waiting, and the only way you are going to get a seat where you see stuff with your own eyes (as opposed to on a jumbo screen) is to get there crazy early and join the mad rush to get a seat near the front. Think the Who Concert in 1979 in Cincinnati. So, stay back from the main group and try to get a good, but not great seat. You will thank me for it.
Let’s take a look at the schedules for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and give you some highlights.
Friday Highlights (A few talks of special interest)
8:00 a.m. Live SGU Show. The SGU crew has been doing this gig for the past few TAMs, and it is always fun. Plus, planning on an 8:00 a.m. event is a great way to get there nice and early to get a good seat.
10:00 Eugenie Scott. The future of creationism. Eugenie is always a great speaker, and this sounds like a great topic.
12:15 Karen Stollznow Talking to Tomorrow – Prediction and Language. I am making this my Don’t Miss Talk Of The Day. Karen is always great, and this sounds like a great topic. To my memory, she has not given a plenary talk at TAM (has been on panels), so it is also something that will be fresh and new to people like me who have been to multiple TAMs.
2:45 – 3:45 pm PANEL – The Future of Skepticism. Panelists include Jamy Ian Swiss, Tim Farley, Reed Esau, and Barbara Drescher. Moderated by D.J. Grothe. What a great bunch of experts. Not a dud in the bunch. Should be the best panel of TAM.
5:00 – 6:00 pm FRIDAY KEYNOTE – Carol Tavris A Skeptical Look at Pseudoneuroscience. A great speaker. A great topic. Looking forward to it.
11:00 pm – ? TAM LATE NIGHT – Penn Jillette’s Rock & Roll, Doughnut and Bacon Party 2: Bring the Stupid Be forewarned: This really is Penn’s private party. He’s paying for everything and JREF has nothing to do with it. Everyone at TAM is invited, and there is a suggested twenty dollar donation to attend, with proceeds going to the JREF. Penn’s has put out a warning for the faint of heart, and this event was a hoot last year. I would highly recommend it.
Compared to the fantastic lineup on Friday, Saturday seems like a vast wasteland. But here are a couple of thoughts:http://www.skepticalabyss.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=67&action=edit
9:00 – 10:00 am PANEL – Skepticism and the Humanities Panelists include Amy Davis Roth, Miranda Celeste Hale, Robert Blaskiewicz, Eve Siebert, and Hai-Ting Chinn
Moderated by Brian Thompson. The topic sounds pretty boring, but I am looking to see whether they can make something of it, so I will be there. It has potential to be really bad or surprisingly good. I don’t expect much in between.
10:45 – 11:15 am Deirdre Barrett. Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose. Topic sounds interesting.
11:15 – 11:45 am TALK – Steven Novella Your Deceptive Mind. Interesting topic, but we will have a lot of Novella at this TAM, and a little Novella goes a long, long way.
4:15 pm Lawrence Krauss. The Future, and Nothing. Krauss was hands down the best speaker at TAM9, so this should be good.
5:15 – 6:15 pm SATURDAY KEYNOTE PRESENTATION -Penn & Teller. 38 Years of Magic & BS. Let’s be honest, for the past few TAMs Penn and Teller have called it in. They have nothing prepared, they just get up and answer questions. Based on the description in the TAM program, I was expecting more, but Penn said on a recent podcast that this year’s appearance would, once again, consist of a “Q and A.” If it starts out as a Q and A again without any actual content, SA will not be happy, and may bolt.
9:00 – 11:00 pm EVENING SHOW: A Carlin Home Companion Deftly weaving her amusing yet poignant family stories with classic video footage of her father’s career and family memorabilia, Kelly Carlin, the only child of iconoclastic comedian George Carlin, takes the audience on a roller coaster ride of emotions and pulls back the curtain on their life together off stage. Join us for this unexpected, loving and revealing look at the man who constantly redefined himself in order to redefined 20th century comedy. Requires separate ticket. Growing up on the prairie, watching George Carlin specials on TV was the closest thing to skepticism I was allowed to experience. Really looking forward to this one.
8:00 – 10:00 am PAPERS – Curated by Dr. Ray Hall. I’m going to call this my “don’t miss moment” for TAM. The papers are always the most interesting part. Brief, interesting, and fresh from the community. If you were planning on playing hookie for all but one part of the conference, this is the part you need to make. Seriously. Don’t miss the papers.
Nap time: 12:15 – 12:45 pm TALK – Lyz Liddell. Unstoppable Secular Students. This sounds like the most boring topic of any TAM I have ever seen.
2:45 – 3:45 pm PANEL – How Not To Be a Paranormal Investigator. Panelists include Karen Stollznow, Ben Radford, James Randi, and Banachek Moderated by Carrie Poppy. An interesting take on an interesting problem. Looking forward to it.
3:45 – 4:15 pm TALK – Sean Faircloth. Beware the Religio-Industrial Complex. If you have never seen Sean before, then by all means go to this talk. He is a former elected official and a great public speaker. But every Sean Faircloth talk seems like the exact same speech. If you have seen him before, it will seem like deja vu all over again.
7:30 – 9:00 pm SPECIAL EVENT – Live Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge Event. I don’t know what they have planned for this, but if you are a Randi fan, how can you miss a million dollar challenge event.