TAM London, Saturday

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Unusual to use an off-line computer. The wifi in the Hilton London Metropole is ridiculously expensive, so I use the complimentary service in the lecture hall and have none in my room.

I wonder if it really makes business sense to make people pay separately for the wifi instead of sharing the cost over all the guests’ bills. It is after all 2010. When I look at hotel rooms on the web I don’t go “oh look, free wifi included, what a selling point”. I just react badly when it’s not there. Still, being off-line does improve concentration no end.

Anyway, I’m in London for the second Amazing Meeting London skeptics’ conference, as a delegate for the Swedish Skeptics. I came here Friday night, did some socialising with skeptical buddies and went to bed early. Notable from an Sb point of view is that I met PZ Myers live for the first time after having been around him in the backstage forums for almost five years. As everybody always remarks, he is a charming soft-spoken man live. I even got to fondle his tentacle beard while Rebecca Watson shot the above pic. On the subject of curse words such as the coarse Swedish expletive “Devilish shit of Hell”, I explained to my company that the Swedish word for cunt originally meant “small fen”. “I take it you Swedes make sure they are generally moist, then”, observed PZ sagely.

Saturday was solid talks and socialising. My M.O. is basically to walk up and shake everybody’s hand within range, say “Hey, I’m Martin from Stockholm, Sweden” and chat for a while. My most exotic catch so far was a charming young couple from Istanbul, but I’ve talked to innumerable Brits and Scots and Irish and Americans and Scandies, a few Germans, a Belgian, a Dutchman, a Swiss lady, a few Italians, well, it’s really a blur by now. The crowd is a very good mix of age and gender, even some high school kids.

The talks.

Sue Blackmore was probably slipped some acid in her tea once back in 1970, attributed the effects to the paranormal and then spent 25 years doing parapsychological research before realising that it was all crap. A lot of fun to listen to!

Richard Dawkins thinks that just like the study of the Classics once formed the uniting anchor in a good education, so should the study of evolution today.

Cory Doctorow spoke eloquently about copyright.

Adam Rutherford entertainingly related his experiences taking the evangelical Christian Alpha Course.

The Amateur Transplants, a musical duo consisting of two doctors, played hilarious short send-ups of pop songs. For example, they interpreted Nora Jones’s 2002 hit song with the chorus “Don’t know why I didn’t come” just the way I always have. I mean, the way that wench looks you’d think a guy might put in that little bit of extra effort.

Richard Wiseman interviewed his old actor buddy Andy Nyman (of whom I had never heard) about his participation in a successful stage play (that I haven’t seen) and other projects of his such as writing and producing shows with Derren Brown (never seen them either), and I experienced cultural disconnect.

Karen James spoke about a project to build a replica of the HMS Beagle on which Darwin sailed in his youth, and I failed to understand why this might be worthwhile apart from as a lark.

Paula Kirby, a collaborator of Dawkins’s, spoke at length about how nasty a small English organisation named the Christian Party is, and then revealed that it got only 0.5% (or was that 0.05%?) in the last election. Pretty pointless worrying about kooks like them, I think.

Simon Singh, former lib-dem MP Evan Harris, Sense About Science director Tracey Brown and David “Jack of Kent” Allen Green did a panel on skeptical activism.

Robin Ince interviewed James Randi about old times and I experienced cultural disconnect again.

Well-deserved awards were handed out to Ben Goldacre and promising youngster Rhys Morgan. Holy crap, was I really his age when I lost my cherry? Probably months younger, actually. Well, we all mature at individual rates.

I had nice Japanese breaded pork with rice and veggies and soy for dinner with new friends.

Saturday evening’s Tim Minchin gig started out with a series of opening acts, of which the Amateur Transplants were again very good, and Jon Ronson’s rendition of some violent Insane Clown Posse raps over Tim Minchin’s beatboxing was hilarious. After a break, Mr. Minchkin performed three or four stellar songs, and then followed the premier of the animated film set to his stellar poem “Storm”. In my opinion the film is well made, in a neo-50s Power Puff Girls style, but does not add much to the whole thing. Finally came a very long chat amongst the filmmaker, the producer and Minchkin, toward the end of which the audience shouted for more songs and Minchkin said he was tired and didn’t feel up to it. Then people started leaving for pubs, but I too was tired and didn’t feel up to it, so I went up to my room and wrote this missive before crashing out.

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Comments

  1. #1 paddy
    October 17, 2010

    I am in no way, or in any sense, jealous. At all.

  2. #2 Birger Johansson
    October 17, 2010

    It seems like the greatest concentration of cool people since… no, I cannot think of any analogue.
    I hope you crammed your luggage full of English books instead of paying Amazon.co.uk an insane amount to have them shipped by mail.
    (The photos appear to have been taken late, after thorough sampling of the various kinds of whisky produced in Her Majesty’s Realm. And that scary bloke with the beard looks like a Bond villain. Or possibly Angleton, from the Laundry novels of Charles Stross)

  3. #3 Ingvar M
    October 18, 2010

    Darned and blast. I knew it was, but (unfortunately) the delights of “Service Protection Duty” (telecom-ese for “on call”) made me stay at home the whole weekend.

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