(This is part of an unknown numbered series of blog posts about The Amazing Meeting 2014)
The Thursday before TAM is always workshop day. The number of workshops I attend varies from year to year, depending on the topic and timing. This year I only attended two workshops, but I’m sure they were all excellent.
The first one I attended was “Advancing Skepticism in the Media” with Sharon Hill, James Underdown, Richard Saunders, and Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki. Anyone who follows me know I’m a big fan of Sharon Hill’s Doubtful News (and Sharon Hill herself). I’ve praised Saunders’ “Skeptic Zone” podcast many times. I’ve seen James Underdown do a workshop before on UFO’s and I thought it was excellent. This workshop was the first time I’d ever heard of Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki. As expected, it was an excellent workshop. Each speaker brought a different facet and angle to advancing skepticism in the media. I thought each segment flowed nicely to the next. There was not a dull moment.
The second workshop was “Rhetoric and Argumentation for the Skeptic” run by Miranda Celeste Hale, Robert Blaskiewicz, and Eve Siebert. Last year, I had to miss a similar workshop they did and I made a point to make it this year. They’re a different kind of skeptic, and I wanted to learn more about the non-sciencey side of skepticism and how to make better arguments. The night before Bob had told me that they were going to do something a little different. What I saw was three people who worked well together, and had a conversation with us the audience about rhetoric and argument. The room was packed, and the time passed quickly. I really enjoyed it.
I decided that after the workshops I would go to the High Roller ferris-wheel like thing with some friends despite my normal apprehension about heights. My plan was to get a couple drinks in me fast, get a little buzz, and then try the ride. I met up people and we went in two groups up to the High Roller. Richard (who’d I’d only met in person for the first time this TAM) drove one car with his family, and Travis, Andrew (another new person I met!), and I took a cab. Well, somehow it took a while for Richard to make it there, and by the time we approached one of the pods, I was completely sober.
The pods, which are 120 sq feet or so, are constantly moving. As I came up to the pod, I was mumbling to myself, “This isn’t a good idea. I’ve made a terrible mistake”. But, it was too late, and I was going. I shuffled into the pod, and immediately took a seat to kind of get my bearings. As it turns out, there isn’t nearly as much feeling of motion and movement as I expected. As we got higher and higher, I started to feel more comfortable. I won’t say that I became completely at ease, but I was not panicking, and I never really had any real fear of the height.
I eventually stood up and that was even better. For some reason, when sitting down, you can feel little bits of mechanical thunking, but when you stand up, you don’t feel any of that. From then on, I really enjoyed it. I still had a minor level of nervousness, and I still had a psychological block to standing right on the edge, but I was able to take lots of pictures, have a conversation, and honestly enjoy the great view we had as we got to 550 feet. I was actually a little disappointed when it was over.
We got back to the South Point Hotel just in time to hear DJ, George Hrab, and Randi say a few words at the TAM reception, and then it was on to socializing for a little bit. I talked with a few people at the reception and then down at the Del Mar, but it was an early night as I had precious cargo to pick up the next morning: vegan donuts.