Sunday, September 30, 2007

These were taken from my brother-in-law's balcony a few months ago. I forgot I had them until I was looking through the photos on my camera to see if I had everything copied to my computer before erasing.

This was the entire sky that I could see, not zoomed in just as it's turning pink.

Just a few minutes later...

Zoomed in to the right side of the sky...

As it got later the pinks turned to orange...

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

70th Skeptics Circle  

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The 70th Skeptic's Circle is up at Conspiracy Factory with men in black suits and the Dark Lord himself.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

Blogroll Update II  

More updates to my blogroll:

NeuroLogica Blog, a blog written by Steven Novella of the New England Skeptical Society. I listen to their podcast, Skeptics Guide to the Universe, which is very good. He writes about "news and issues in neuroscience, but also general science, scientific skepticism, philosophy of science, critical thinking, and the intersection of science with the media and society."

Horror Movie A Day, where Brian posts a review of a horror movie every day. He's really passionate about the craftsmanship (or lack of) that goes into a film and his reviews reflect it. I love the extremes of horror, good and bad, as long as it's entertaining. What better place to find out about them?

Memoirs of a Skepchick, a blog written by another member of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast crew and the editor of Skepchick magazine. Rebecca Watson writes about critical thinking and woo. She also has several guest writers in her crew.

Boobs, Injuries, and Dr. Pepper is written by the ever-humorous Crystal, about her life as a woman and a mom. This isn't a normal mommy blog. Janet, you'd love this one. Unfortunately she doesn't have a way to subscribe via a reader, so I have to remember to check in every so often.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

What is your religious philosophy?  

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

You are an Atheist

When it comes to religion, you're a non-believer (simple as that).
You prefer to think about what's known and proven.
You don't need religion to solve life's problems.
Instead, you tend to work things out with logic and philosophy.

(via Janet)

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

History of the OTA  

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mark at denialism blog has a new article up about the history of the OTA. In it he explains "what the OTA did, how it was set up, and why I think it would be rather easy to set it up again as a non-partisan scientific body."

The OTA brought scientists into the legislative branch, not only to provide lengthy reports (which might go largely unread, or worse, be cherry-picked by members), but also to serve as sources of expert scientific information and advice directly to members of congress. This information was most effective when it went into the formulation of bills, and it was understood that the most important function of the OTA wasn't to provide talking points during congressional debate, but rather to ensure that the bills that eventually made it to the floor were worth debating.
Sign the petition to reinstate the OTA.

Contact your senator or congressman about having this office re-funded.

Previous Posts:
Bring Back the OTA

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

PBS Meme  

PBS's Meme

1)Were you named after anyone?
No. My mom wanted to name me because my dad picked out all of our names. But my dad held out for longer and they wouldn't let them leave the hospital until they put a name on the gift certificate. I remember as a child wishing I'd had the name my mom picked.

2)When was the last time you cried?
Hmmm... probably the last time I was frustrated, but I can't remember specifically when. Not that long ago, I'm sure.

3)Do you like your handwriting?
Not particularly. I always liked my mom's though.

4)What is your favorite lunch meat?
I'm not sure I really have one. I don't eat lunch meat much. I guess it depends on my mood.

5)Do you have kids?

6)If you were another person would you be friends with you?
Sure. I'm friendly with most people.

7)Do you use sarcasm a lot?

8)Do you still have your tonsils?

9)Would you bungee jump?
I have to agree with PBS here. I'm not sure I'd like to be jerked around, but the free fall would be exciting.

10)What is your favorite cereal?
Cinnamon Life

11)Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?
No. And I leave them tied when I put them back on usually.

12)Do you think you are strong?

13)What is your favorite ice cream?
I really love the Dove brands of ice cream with the chocolate on the top, but really, anything without nuts could be my favorite. I love ice cream.

14)What is the first thing you notice about people?
When I meet a person for the first time usually it's about how they present themselves - whether they look me in the eye and how they acknowledge me (wave, handshake, etc).

15)Red or pink?
Red. I hated pink when I was young. My mom decorated the room I shared with my sister in all pink - pink carpet, pink walls, pink gingham bedspreads and curtains. But I'm OK with pink now.

16)What is your least favorite thing about yourself?
The fact that I bite my nails. I'm still trying to stop. I've been trying to stop since I was 7. My nails are weak though and I can't stand hang nails. Yeah, and the fact that I can be bitchy sometimes.

17)Who do you miss the most?
My niece

18)You want everyone to blog this?
if you want

19)What color pants and shoes are you wearing?
Blue jeans and brown low boots

20)What was the last thing you ate?
an ice cream sandwich last night

21)What are you listening to right now?
the thunder and the rain

22)If you were a crayon, what color would you be?

23)Favorite smells?
lavender, jasmine, bread that's baking, turkey roasting in the oven

24)Who was the last person you talked to on the phone?
my husband

25)Do you like the person who sent this to you?
I like the person who's blog I found it on

26)Favorite sport to watch.
boxing or UFC

27)Hair color.
strawberry blonde

28) Eye color?
green or blue depending

29)Do you wear contacts?
No, I had lasik 6 years ago and I'm so glad I did. I wore glasses from fourth grade until then.

30)Favorite food?
I don't have a favorite really. It depends on my mood. Some days it's a crunchy salad, some days a full on Thanksgiving feast, some days Mexican (mmmm... Mexican), and others it might be pita bread and hummus. I could go on. I love food.

31)Scary movies or happy endings?
It depends. If the happy ending isn't too sappy then I like it. Scary movies are fun if they're not too predictable.

32)Last movie you watched?
Apacalypto... a little too sappy, especially after all the brutality. And the historical inaccuracies bothered me.

33)What color shirt are you wearing?
brown tank top and green sweater

34)Summer or Winter?
Spring and Fall

35)Hugs or kisses?
Depends on who

36)Favorite dessert?
all of them?

37)Most likely to post this on their blog?

38)Least likely to blog this?

39)What book are you reading now?
Lost Languages - it's a little history about deciphering dead languages and about languages that haven't been deciphered (Linear A, Rongorongo, etc).

40)What is on your mouse pad
I don't use a mouse pad

41)What did you watch on TV last night?
Survivor (from last week) and a little bit of this documentary about this family that had 27 children (adopted 23) and a little bit of the Bachelor (it was so bad, I couldn't resist)

42)Favorite sound?
I have to agree with PBS that these are great sounds - "I love hearing the rain, thunder, or the distant sound of a train at night." I don't know if I have a favorite.

43)Rolling Stones or The Beatles?

44)What is the furthest you have ever been from home?

45)Do you have a special talent?
None at all

46)Where were you born?

47)Whose answers are you looking forward to getting back?

48)What time is it?
8:53 AM

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

Nerd Test  

Monday, September 24, 2007 says I'm a Cool High Nerd.  What are you?  Click here!

(via Keith - he's a cooler nerd than me)

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

'I Sold My Soul on eBay': Interview with Atheist Hemant Mehta  

The Friendly Atheist, Hermant Mehta, has an interview up at about his unbelief.

I don't know any atheists that are saying, “There is no God, I will never pay attention to the evidence.” I don't know a single atheist that thinks that way, even though that's the stereotype. Atheists say, “I don't believe in God. But if you show me the evidence, I'll look at it, I'll think about it.”

One of the things that would convince me that there's maybe some supernatural power at work is a miracle. If I saw a real miracle that really had no explanation, I would have to second-guess my atheism.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

Why do I blog?  

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I've been tagged by glomgold for a meme: Why do you blog?

Hmmm... that's a difficult one. My first thought is that it's because I like to ramble on about whatever is going on in my head. I enjoy the community, the people that stop by, and reading other blogs. I've always enjoyed "people watching" not so much for what's going on at that moment, but more for the insight into what makes us who we are as humans.

Mostly I enjoy the conversation that can take place in the space of a blog post, whether it's on my blog or someone else's. Sometimes it's nerve-wracking to put myself out there, but mostly it's fun to learn more about the world and in the process learn more about myself.

Sometimes it can be overwhelming to keep up with everyone. Like glomgold, I'm a "completionist". I must read every post. But I like it that way and I'd miss all of you if you disappeared. And I don't think most of you know what an influence you've been on my life.

If you're reading this, consider yourself tagged. I want to know why you blog.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

I Am Lars Vilks  

Friday, September 21, 2007

From Leftbanker:

Lars Vilks is the Swedish artist who drew a cartoon of Mohammed with the body of a dog. Al Qaeda has put a $100,000 price on his head. Muslims can be touchy fuckers at times. I think that what everyone in the West should do is draw their own caricature of the prophet and publish it. Everyone! Just like when John F. Kennedy declared, “Ich bein ein Berliner,” we should all declare ourselves to be Lars Vilks. I am a terrible artist, as you can see, but I think that it’s the thought that counts. It’s difficult to tell whether the body is a rat, a dog, or a squirrel.

This is what everyone should have done when the Danish cartoons came out and Denmark was targeted with protests and all sorts of hate from Muslims around the world. If every newspaper published the cartoons it would be a little difficult for those offended by such childishness to decide who to go after. I fully expect some Al Qaeda dipshits to take flying lessons (not bothering to attend landing classes) so they can fly a plane into their computer and kill me.

So, here is my poorly drawn entry:

And as an equal opportunity, crappy artist, here's the FSM:

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

Petition - ID Is Not Science  

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Several bloggers, including Biologists Helping Bookstores have been speaking with the Library of Congress about the classification of prominent Intelligent Design books.

Now there's a petition you can sign if you disagree with the classification.

"...we feel strongly that categorizing Intelligent Design (“ID”) as science is both inappropriate and misleading. Local bookstores and libraries unintentionally exacerbate this misleading categorization when they shelve ID books and legitimate science texts in the same section . Our goal is to convince the U.S. Library of Congress to re-classify ID books into sections other than the science section."

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

My "Green" Thumb  

Warning: If you're not into plants or gardening, this story may put you to sleep.

I've killed innumerable plants in my lifetime. I don't try to, but I'm not very good at caring for them. Does that make me an herbicidal maniac? Bad joking aside, I'm what most would consider a black thumb.

I tried tending to the plant beds around my house when we still lived there. Whatever I planted would die within a year or two. Most plants disappeared within days (seriously, I wondered if I'd imagined planting them). We have a lot of rabbits so maybe they ate them? I've never known.

A few I kept indoors, but I still had little success. I'd forget to water them or I'd leave them in the wrong conditions - too much sunlight or too little. But I had two faithful plants that lasted year after year.

The first was given to me by my mother-in-law. I even replanted it once to much success. I've come close to killing it a few times, but it always springs back. The tag on the plastic pot said China plant, but I have no idea what a China plant is.

My mother-in-law is great with plants. She bought one for herself, but it died. So I suppose it's a point of pride for me that it's still alive. It's probably one of those types of plants that doesn't like to be fussed over and that's why it's still with me.

The second is a plant I bought at a gift shop for my cubicle at work. It was very small at the time, but it's grown larger and more "spiky" since. When the leaves started turning brown just a few weeks after I bought it, my sister, who is the green thumb of our family, recommended that I water it less. It has moss along the top of the soil and I touch it once a week or so now to see if it needs watering and it seems to have prospered. I transplanted it once too and it's done well.

A few years ago a guy I worked with gave me a small potted plant for my desk when I moved into my cubicle. It was a nice gesture, especially after our department moved into that row and forced him out. The poor guy had been there for years and had to spend days packing. I felt it was a betrayal after such a nice welcome.

Anyway, the plant sat in a pot no larger than a teacup for years. It did OK, but it looked a little sickly. A few months ago I decided to replant it into a larger pot. As I pulled it out of the pot I saw how terribly crowded it was. There was more root than dirt. I split the plant into 4 and put 3 in a new larger pot and one back into the original.

I brought the larger into work to decorate my new cube. It grew beautifully. Within a couple of weeks it was hard to tell it was the same plant as the sickly looking thing I first re-potted. People at work told me how I had such a great, green thumb. Little did they know...

The plant grew so well that a few weeks ago I decided it needed to be split out again. So tonight I finally got around to it. In the meantime I brought my tiny teacup-sized pot into work and it sprouted two flowers within days. That's the first time I've ever seen flowers.

I suppose the conditions at work are much better for plants. They get 24 hours of florescent light, constant temperatures, watering at least once a week, and no cats nibbling on them.

plants just after re-potting

Anyway, here are my plants re-potted. The tall, spiky plant is my plant from the gift shop, transplanted a second time. The three sickly-looking plants are the plant I sub-divided (after sitting outside for the past week or two while I procrastinated). They were last in the pot with the red flowers painted on it and the spiky plant was in the rounded pot with the handles.

my "china plant"

My china plant is still doing fairly well, but from the shape you can tell it's been through a lot. It rained a lot yesterday, but I don't think it gets much water in the corner of the deck. It looks a bit wilted. I watered it. I'm confident it'll survive.

I can only imagine how good it would look if I took it into work.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

Talk Like a Pirate Day  

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Avast ye, matey!

Today be Talk Like a Pirate Day. So don't be shy in lettin' t' pirate out.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

Odds and Ends  

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

This weekend, other than lying around the house trying to get over being sick, I did a few things. It probably wasn't the best idea, but it did beat sitting around and feeling bad. Saturday my husband had to work (boo!) so I went with his brother and friends (venjanz for one) to the local Renaissance Festival, the theme of which was "Dancing Sheik to Sheik." *groan* I really didn't see anything different than any other time I've gone (except maybe that guy there) so I suppose the theme made little difference. Not to mention, is it really a Renaissance Festival or more Medieval themed? But despite the historical inaccuracies it was still fun.

We walked around for a couple of hours eating (I won't touch the turkey leg myself), looking at the vendors, and occasionally stopping to see part of a show. It was a beautiful day in the 60's and other than the dust I had a really good time.

And.. I took a few pictures!

a performer

the blacksmith

a beggar we dubbed "Pickle Guy"

a skull chair

My husband made it out for the Joust to the Death towards the end of the day (totally worth it! riiight), which was pretty much the same as every year. Although this year they made some effort to spew fake blood. I imagine the parents weren't too happy as a few kids got upset. But it was all in cheesy good fun.

We watched Renaissance later that night, which was interesting from a graphics perspective. It's a movie animated completely in 3D, but only shaded in two colors - black and white. It reminded me a lot of the games Dreamfall (sequel to The Longest Journey) and Indigo Prophecy.

Then I fell asleep while everyone else tried to play Dawn of War. I slept a lot this weekend.

Saturday we met for lunch and went to Half Price Books, which is my favorite local bookstore, even if it's a chain. I picked up A Devil's Chaplain: Selected Essays by Richard Dawkins and Dying of the Light by George R.R. Martin and on the way out I saw 1876 by Gore Vidal sitting on the clearance shelves outside. Several newspaper articles, one a review o the book and a few others about Adams, Burr, and Bush were inside from 2000 and 2001. At $2.00 for the hardback it was a steal. So it'll be added to my list of books to read at some point and I'm really interested to see how the newspaper articles relate to the book.

I also picked up a copy of Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword this weekend finally. And it's addicting. I spent much of Sunday playing. I really like the changes, but I think that it's still too easy to take out a city with 4 tanks by attacking with musketmen. It shouldn't be impossible, but technology and strategy should count for more than numbers.

Other than still being sick, sometimes oddly so like last night when I had a brief dizzy spell, I had a great weekend. Perhaps it was a little too much too soon. Even more odd, Matt is having some of the same pressure on his eye that I had last night. The pollen has been terrible and his allergies can get pretty bad. I think it could be sinus pressure.

Anyway, how was your weekend?

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

Nonbelieving Literati: Julian  

I tried not to read the other Nonbelieving Literati essays as I wrote this, but I did sneak a peek at the essays at Evolutionary Middleman and No More Hornets. John pointed out something I didn't know as I was reading the book, that Priscus was most likely written in as a character to express the author's point of view.

As I was reading the book I became interested in the characters and endeavored to find more about them, and though I could find a great deal about Libanius, Priscus was more difficult. And now reading John's explanation for Priscus, the pieces click into place.

I enjoyed the exchange between Libanius and Priscus a great deal. Julian's words I found frustrating. There was so much he could have done, but in the end he only substituted one religion for another. I think Priscus expressed it best in his commentary:

Julian speaks continually of his love of Hellenism. He honestly believed he loved Plato and reasonable discourse. Actually, what he craved was what so many desire in this falling time: assurance of personal immortality. He chose to reject the Christian way for reasons which I find obscure, while settling on an equal absurdity. Of course I am sympathetic to him. He dealt the Christians some good blows and that delighted me. But I cannot sympathize with his fear of extinction. Why is it so important to continue after death? We never question the demonstrable fact that before birth we did not exist, so why should we fear becoming once more what we were to begin with? I am in no hurry to depart. But I look on nothing as just that: no thing. How can one fear no thing? p.90-91
Of course not existing before birth is more of a Western religious tradition, and his argument largely does not apply to Eastern religions, but I still find a lot of meaning in his words. I don't want to die, but I accept it. I accept that I won't go on as anything else after my physical death. One day I'll be forgotten as if I never existed and it doesn't bother me.

But Julian had his spots of brilliance where he expressed philosophy and religion in terms that I think many liberal Christians embrace today, as he argued with Christian priests:
"After all, as educated men, we should realize that myths always stand for other things. They are toys for children teething. The man knows that the toy horse is not a true horse but merely suggests the idea of a horse to a baby's mind. When we pray before the statue of Zeus, though the statue contains him as everything must, the statue is not the god himself but only a suggestion of him. Surely, as fellow priests, we can be frank with one another about these grown-up matters." p.338
Why is it difficult to accept ancient religious writings as myths written by men who were trying to explain the world around them and how humans fit into that world? Surely in 3000 years our own writings on science will look just as much like myths as our understanding grows. That doesn't mean that these men weren't wise or didn't hold that kernel of truth, but that they didn't have the knowledge we have now or the knowledge we'll have in the future, if our species continues.

We build on knowledge. That's our evolutionary advantage. When knowledge is lost it's a tragedy. When knowledge is rejected it's a sin. I know that's going to be taken out of context. I don't mean there aren't things we shouldn't do, that there aren't things that are wrong. What I mean is that's it's wrong to reject knowledge because it questions our preconceived ideas about the world.

We use metaphor today when teaching. Why is it any different in ancient texts? We make mistakes, follow incorrect leads, and sometimes completely misunderstand what we're studying. Was it so different with men in the past? I cling tightly to preconceived ideas sometimes. But I hope that I'll continue to learn and question and grow despite my prejudices.

And mostly I hope I'm never to stubborn to hold onto something that I want to believe, simply because I want to believe it as Julian did. As Priscus said:
Incidentally, in his description of that seance with the Etruscans he omits my remark to him, "What is the point of listening to soothsayers, if you won't believe what they tell you" But Julian was very like the Christians who are able to make their holy book endorse anything they want it to. p.422

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

Bring Back the OTA  

Friday, September 14, 2007

Mark Hoofnagle at denialism blog is concerned about the lack of scientific analysis within the government. In 1994 the Office of Technology Assessment had their funding cut and since it has not been possible for them to advise Congress as they had in the past.

It used to be, for about 30 years (from 1974 to 1995), there was an office on the Hill, named the Office of Technology Assessment, which worked for the legislative branch and provided non-partisan scientific reports relevant to policy discussions. It was a critical office, one that through thorough and complete analysis of the scientific literature gave politicians common facts from which to decide policy debates.

Mark would like for you and I to convince Congress to fund this group once again. I agree with him. The group isn't responsible for policy decisions, just for advisement.
[The OTA] investigated the potenial unforeseen social, economic, and environmental consequences of a technology's widespread implementation and communicated its findings in language carefully tuned to congressional audiences. OTA used a process in which committees of science and technology experts served as advisers rather than as the report's authors. [...] OTA reports did not make specific consensus policy recommendations, but rather, sought the views of all the important stakeholders and then explained the possible consequences of alternative courses of action to help inform congressional debate.

If you're concerned about science education, not just among the general public, but in Congress too, write to them and let them know. Post about it in your blog to let other people know.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

What should your super power be?  

Your Superpower Should Be Invisibility

You are stealth, complex, and creative. You never face problems head on. Instead, you rely on your craftiness to get your way.

A mystery to others, you thrive on being a little misunderstood. You happily work behind the scenes... because there's nothing better than a sneak attack!

Why you would be a good superhero: You're so sly, no one would notice... not even your best friends

Your biggest problem as a superhero: Missing out on all of the glory that visible superheroes get.

(via Mike's Weekly Skeptic Rant)

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

Blogroll Update  

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I've been annoyingly sick since I've returned from Dragon Con. My energy is sapped and I feel like sleeping most of the time. I've developed this habit of taking a nap when I get home from work and then not being able to sleep later in the evening when I need to go to sleep. As soon as I get up from bed though I find myself gravitating to the couch and falling asleep, whether I turn on the TV or grab a book.

Anyway, I haven't disappeared. I've been trying to catch up on reading everyone's blogs and today I finally caught up. I've also been reading and thinking about what I'm going to write about Julian. I know what I want to say, but I haven't organized my thoughts into a central theme. Most likely I'll end up starting to write and letting my thoughts all fall out on the screen and then organizing them before I post.. which may mean that they're really not very organized.

Recently I've added some blogs to my blogroll. I've never thought of my list of links officially as a blogroll. For me it's a place to put blogs so that I can find them when I want to read them. But since I started using a reader, I don't use links much. But I suppose I'm also sharing the blogs I've found since I put them up there for everyone to see.

In any case, I've never posted when I added blogs to my blogroll, but I like the idea of doing it. So here are some blogs that I've added recently.

Higgaion, a blog written by Christopher Heard at Abilene Christian University. He writes a lot about Biblical history, but also about movies, social issues, family, and computers and software. Most of all he's an intelligent, well-thought writer.

The Primate Diaries, a blog by Eric Michael Johnson. He writes about primates, of course, but also about evolution, sociology, and psychology in general.

Evolutionary Middleman, a blog by John, a fellow member of the Nonbelieving Literati, a variety of topics from politics to atheism to science.

Travel Chile, a blog resource for foreigners in Chile written by fellow blogger mamacita chilena. In addition to the stunning pictures she gives advice to tourists, students, and others relocating to Chile.

There are many more. I've come across many as a result of Paul over at Cafe Philos. Thanks, Paul! All I can say is thanks everyone for making my day interesting and giving me a lot to think about.

I'm hoping to post more reviews soon. I'm really behind on movie reviews. I'm thinking of posting a review a day starting next week until I've caught up. I'll to see how much energy I have.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

England in two weeks  

Monday, September 10, 2007

Posting about my trip to Dragon Con reminded me of the trip to England I took a few years ago. The photo album is still up at Kodak Gallery. I never posted it here because I was blogging on livejournal when I made the trip. The pictures turned out well, but I give credit to the beautiful country. It was difficult to take a poor picture.

There are a lot of pictures and don't feel obligated to view them all, but I hope it is a fun tour through a bit of England.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

Dragon Con: Day 4  

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Warning: This post is mostly rant.

Day 4 was my travel day. My flight didn't leave until noon, but since nothing starts up at the con until at least 10:00, that meant no con activities for me.

I decided to get up early, get a good breakfast, and repack before heading to the airport three hours before my flight. Well, I left the hotel about 3 hours before, but there was travel time and it was a holiday and I had no idea how busy the Atlanta airport would be.

Breakfast was fine. I forgot to bring a book with me, so I ate alone and watched the people at a table near me. They were there for the con obviously as many were dressed in costume. Their order was completely screwed up and the waitress kept bringing by the wrong food. I didn't get the right thing either, so I'm guessing it had nothing to do with it being a large table of people.

I had mostly packed the night before, but I decided after breakfast to stuff everything into my suitcase and check it and only bring a small bag on the plane with anything valuable. I normally never check luggage. I hate having to wait for it after the flight. I hate knowing that it might get lost or damaged. But I do have to say it worked out this one time. I didn't have to lug a heavy suitcase around with me all day.

Airport check-in was mostly fine. Air Tran ticket agents can't print tickets. When I left to come out to Atlanta all I brought with me was my boarding ticket for my flight out. I forgot to print out the information the return flight information. I called Matt before I left and got the flight number and time it left because I only vaguely remembered. The ticket kiosk wouldn't let me print a boarding pass without the confirmation number even though I swiped my credit card to bring up the flight information. So I go to the ticketing agent who writes down the confirmation number and sends me back in line to print my ticket. Then I have to go back to her after I have a ticket to check my bag. That's pretty a pretty stupid way to handle check-in if you ask me. Of course since I don't normally check luggage I usually just walk straight to security because I usually print my boarding pass before I leave for the airport.

Anyway, the line for security was long, but not terribly long. Of course if I had upgraded to first class I could have gone through first class security. That's right. The Atlanta airport has a special security line for first class, business class, and special assistance customers. I know it shouldn't irritate me, but it did. (The special assistance part doesn't bother me at all incidentally.) Why do first class customers get preferential treatment when it comes to security? If I flew first class all the time I'm sure I'd be glad, but I'm a curmudgeon and I want all of the rich people to suffer along with the rest of us cattle.

I hate security. I'm not afraid of flying, but I absolutely hate security. I just always feel like a criminal when I go through the checkpoint. I know that's probably not the intent, but it's the result.

I used to fly a lot for business many years ago. I'd fly several times a week out to client sites and I loved flying then. Security was still there and I still had to go through the metal detector and have my luggage scanned, but I didn't get treated like dirt. I didn't have to worry about packing all my liquids in small containers or carrying fingernail clippers. The people around me were generally in a good mood and most of all, I didn't feel like a criminal.

I didn't get the pat down this time through security like I did on the way out. Seriously, I never take anything metal with me through security. I don't even wear jeans because of the zipper (and button and rivets). I wear flip-flops that are easy to take off. I never set off the alarm, but I almost always get a pat down.

Here's the thing about me. I like following the rules. I just need the rules to be clear. One of the things that drives me crazy is getting admonished for doing something wrong when I had no idea that what I did was wrong. Make what I'm supposed to do clear to me and I'll do everything exactly the way you want it. Make things unclear and you get one pissed off bitch.

So I'm sailing to my gate and I'm two hours early. I stop and get a drink and settle down to wait. I have a good book. The worst (security) is behind me. I get surrounded by a family that has a very public fight right there next to me. I ignore it. There's a lady that sits of the floor next to me eating a sandwich making grunting noises. I ignore it. It sucks to be at the airport. No one likes it. I can't expect normal.

Finally boarding is called. I paid extra to get an exit row. See what I mean about if I had first class I wouldn't complain about preferential treatment with security? I'm a hypocrite in that sense. But let me explain. When you book a flight on Air Tran you can pay $5 extra to get a seat assignment at the time of booking. Otherwise you're assigned a seat when you check in. I'm no dummy. I don't want to sit in the middle seat. I paid to have a window seat on my way out. It's $15 to get a seat assignment in an exit row. When I was booking I figured I might have more luggage on my return, so I selected an exit row for the comfort and extra room.

I'm in the first group for boarding. I get buckled in, shove my bag under the seat in front of me, and settle in to read while people are filing in. I can be patient. After all, the worst is behind me. In two and a half hours I'll be getting off the plane on the other side, collecting my luggage and heading home. Right? I'll have most of the day to spend with my husband before I have to go back to work the next day. I'm at peace with the world.

Just before the doors close the flight attendant seats a guy next to me. He's very tall, so I understand. It has to suck for a tall guy to squeeze into the tiny rows of an airplane. Except he smells. And there are only two seats on my row and he's right next to me. All weekend my sense of smell has been extremely acute. And now I have to sit next to someone who's been sweating for probably hours. Of course I start complaining in my head about how this guy got an exit row seat for free. How unfair! I realize how extremely selfish I am, but I still hate the thought of the flight home.

The captain comes online and tells us that there's a maintenance problem and it will be 20 minutes at least until we leave. I turn on my iPod and notice that it's already 10 minutes past when we were scheduled to take off. Great. Thoughts of sitting on the plane for 7 hours flash through my mind. But I convince myself that it will be OK. I have a good book. 20 minutes isn't so bad.

30 minutes later we're told that the maintenance problem can't be resolved and we're being sent to a new gate. Everyone gets up, but we can't get off yet. We have to wait for the plane to arrive at the other gate. We wait 10-15 minutes. I call my husband and tell him I'll be at least an hour late.

I finally get off the plane and rush to the other gate. I'm almost running. Looking back at it I'm not sure why I was in such a hurry. I get there and we have to wait for the flight attendants to board first. Everyone applauds when the reach the gate. We board. I get back to reading. The tall guy never shows up again and I'm slightly happier. Poor guy.

The fight was uneventful itself. We land. I hope my luggage was transferred. It was. 45 minutes later I'm home. And I'm so happy I forget all of my frustrations with flying until I write this.

Unfortunately I have to fly again later this year.

See also
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

Dragon Con: Day 3  

Friday, September 07, 2007

Day 3 was the say I stopped taking pictures. I caught two in the morning, but we were in such a hurry and it was even more difficult to get around. On Saturday I didn't think it would be busier the next day.

My first talk of the day was with the lovely Dr. Pamela Gay on "The Improbable Universe." The talk was way above my head. I know next to nothing about physics. But, it was really interesting. It wasn't an event I planned to attend. I got up early to see the local dealers room, but by habit I walked into Henry and sat down. (Henry was the room that most of the science track panels were in.)

Afterwards I skipped out on the questions and browsed around the local dealers for a little bit before heading back up to Henry for "Geological Hoaxes & Frauds" hosted by George Hrab. Who should appear in the room but the glorious Flying Spaghetti Monster. Two sitings in two days! (Actually I saw her a few more times on Sunday but my mind blanked every time I would have normally thought of pictures.)

The discussion was interesting, but it turned into almost a free-for-all question and answer session with the crowd trying to take over. It was a little bit too emotionally driven for me, but Dr. Hrab tried to keep the discussion on topic and he pretty much succeeded.

That's him in the sunglasses. He seemed like a pretty neat guy. I wish I would have seen him in more panels.

After that I caught up with my friends in the local dealer rooms. We wandered around a bit, but mostly I sat and waited and tried not to fall asleep. I planned to attend the "My God is Smitier than Yours" in the afternoon, but after about 10 minutes I left. The panelists were fine, but it was a bit disorganized and I realized that I'd be better served with a nap. I slept for about 30 minutes before meeting my friends for dinner.

We talked about going to the "Cannibal Flesh Riot! and The Henchmen" short film festival, but we ended up skipping it because we were lazy. Can you imagine being too tired to see zombie movies? We did make it to the "Apocalyptic Shorts" film festival at 9:00 and it was pretty good. I don't remember the names of most of the films. We saw a reprise of Zombie Love and a short called something like 7 Minutes or something like thatAfter. It was a zombie movie filmed in black and white from first person perspective. It reminded me a bit of a video game. It was pretty good and the creator (director & writer) was really nice. I wish I remembered if that was the right name. Update: Jantis reminded me that it was named After in a post he wrote.

We played Carcassonne again with a new player that showed us how it was actually supposed to be played. I lost badly. It wasn't as fun, but maybe that's because I was relearning the rules.

I went back with my friends to their room afterwards to say goodbye. I had an early (ish) flight in the morning and knew I probably wouldn't see them. That pretty much ended the Con experience for me, but it was still a long way home.

See also
Day 1
Day 2
Day 4

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

Dragon Con: Day 2  

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Day 2 of Dragon Con dawned pretty brightly. I was up before 9:00 to attend 'Is It a Ghost: A Skeptic Reviews' with Alison Smith of the Skeptical Analysis of the Paranormal Society (SAPS). This was, as most science track panels, over in the Hilton, which was a several block walk. Really, I'm not usually such a baby, but there was a lot of walking.

Alison did a great job of showing us footage of a couple of different unexplained experiences and letting us decide what we thought. She asked the skeptics to approach the videos from the perspective of believing in ghosts and the ghost believes to approach it as a skeptic. I think most people in the room were skeptics and we all pretty much ignored her good advice and were skeptical.

She admitted to not believing in ghosts herself, but she explained that she always tries to approach anything she's examining with an open mind.

Next I putzed around for a while in the main Dealer's rooms, which were in the same building before heading back to the Hyatt to attend Michael Shermer's reading of Why Darwin Matters. It was a small group and an enjoyable conversation. He was selling hardback copies cheap and signing autographs. I picked up a copy and it'll be bumping my reading list down by one - as soon as I finish Julian.

After that panel, friends of mine found a table (in the role playing section in the Marriott, no less) and set up to play Carcassonne. I've never played the game before, but two things I like about it - it has interesting strategy and it's short. A game can be played in less than 45 minutes.

The game is simply a set of tiles and some units that represent each player. Each person in turn draws a tile and places it. It must logically match the tiles it's placed next to and must connect to at least one tile. After placing a tile the player can optionally place a unit. If the unit is placed in a city tile it becomes a knight; on a road, a robber baron; on a farm, a farmer; or on an abbey, a monk. Points are scored based on claiming the area with your unit. Other players can challenge your unit as tiles are placed.

That's not a very good explanation, but it's not an easy game to explain without visuals.

Trevor trumped us all by winning by a wide margin. His farmers ruled all of our knights. Of course later we would learn that we were playing the game wrong. But I think it was fun the way we played it.

I also caught a picture of what I thought was Cthulu at first, but turned out to probably be a mind flayer on second thought. In any case he was a nice guy and stopped and posed for us when I requested a picture.

After that we got some dinner in the Hilton because my friends had a panel there. I was so hungry. The lines were long at restaurants and I often got through the morning and afternoon on milk, juice, and an energy bar from breakfast. Finding a place to sit after ordering at walk-up and order places was also tough, especially if the place happened to be located in one of the hotels.

After that I rushed back to the Hyatt to attend Smackdown! Skeptics vs. True Believers. After waiting in line for a few minutes I learned that the panel we were waiting in line for was the Ghost Hunters and my panel had been moved to the Hilton. Arghh! So I ran back over to the Hilton and made it just as the panel was starting. It was crowded, so I ended up sitting on the floor near the front row.

Alison Smith, Michael Shermer, Patrick Burns, and another guy were on the panelGraham Watkins. I'm so sorry I don't remember his name and I didn't write it down. He's not on the official panel speaker's list. It was a good, polite debate until Patrick BurnsGraham Watkins called James Randi a fraud. The crowd booed.

Jeff Wagg, here in the audience, looked unhappy. Other than that it was an interesting, if not very controversial debate. The reason they're all looking towards me in the picture is because a guy on the floor near me was asking them a question. It was a great photo opportunity. I didn't use a flash (as in most pictures) and so the photo turned out a little blurry.

Later the FSM was sighted outside the main Dealer's rooms. I had no idea her deliciousness was female, but it has been confirmed. At least, it's confirmed that she chose to show herself to us as a member of the female persuasion at the Con.

Just thinking about it right now and I crave a noodley blessing.

I did manage to snap one more picture on our way back to the room. This costume reminded me of the imp in Heroes of Might and Magic V. I know it can't possibly be that. My husband thinks it must be from Spawn.

We planned to see something later, but unwisely we headed back to my friends' room for a little while we realized that we weren't going to be persuaded to go out again. It felt too good to relax. I headed back to my room to read, catch up with my husband, and get some much needed sleep.

Which reminds me, I forgot another panel we went to late on Friday (Day 1), which was 28 Minutes Later, a discussion about the two movies 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. The discussion was mildly interesting, but I was tired and I about fell asleep a couple of times. The fun thing was that it was in one of the Brit track rooms and they had a lot of posters up about the new Dr. Who. Since I have friends here at work that are fans it made me think of them. Obviously I have to include a reference here just for them.

That was Day 2. It was probably the most grueling day of the four days for me, but it was a lot of fun.

See also
Day 1
Day 3
Day 4

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post

Dragon Con: Day 1  

Monday, September 03, 2007

I'm back!

Dragon Con was just as exciting and tiring as always. Unfortunately it was also as problematic as always.

(Apologies in advance. I have an old digital camera, which doesn't do much to enhance my poor photography skills.)

My flight left promptly and it seemed to be a good start. I began reading Julian, which I really am enjoying, but more on that later this month.

I got in and received a message from my friends that the hotel had completely screwed up and assigned the four of us to a tiny room with one double bed. They managed to squeeze in a cot for their son, but they weren't optimistic that the hotel would have another room available or that they'd be able to find another cot. After a brief, panicky call to my husband who was working and finding my PSP didn't want to work on the airport's wireless, I thankfully locating a touch screen yellow pages and I managed to find a hotel with a room. It was more than I planned to pay, but it was better than sleeping on the floor. :)

World War Army Costumes

Then it was a MARTA ride to the hotel to check luggage and a short walk to the Hyatt for registration. As I walked around to the Baker Street entrance I caught a few photo ops. I really enjoyed the Army costumes.

Registration was already lined up way down the street. The first conferences started at 1:00 and I was pushing it to make that time. I called my friends, let them know I was able to get a hotel and that I was in line for registration. We made plans to meet back at their room as soon as I was through.

And boy was I glad that I pre-registered. That's the line for Ticket Master pickups, which was also out the door and around the corner of the hotel. The empty purple rows shown there are for pre-registration.

I felt kind of guilty when I walked past people that had been standing in line for hours, but then that's the benefit of paying early, I guess. I was out of there in about 20 minutes. Later in the week on Saturday and Sunday one-day registrations were even longer. I think I heard that there were 40-60,000 people there for the weekend, but I don't know how accurate those numbers are. I caught a picture of a "sim" in line as I was waiting.

After registration I went upstairs and found my friend's room. It really was a lovely room, but it was small. They were going to a panel at 1:00, but I wanted to see "Skeptics and Skepticism 101" at that time, so we split up. I treked a couple of blocks down to the Hilton, where the science track meetings were largely held.

The room was already very full when I arrived and I ended up taking a seat right up front next to the projector.

Michael Shermer, Jeff Wagg, and Ben Radford were on the panel and it was one of the best of the weekend. It was mostly a Q&A from the audience, but there was a lot of good discussion about skepticism, woo, and religion in general.

Shermer performs healing magic.

I met my friends near the main dealer rooms. We walked around a bit looking at booths. Many of the vendors were the same as last year. Personally, I found most vendors to be rude. I know it's busy, but the general attitude of most vendors was terrible. Chessex was one exception that I found.

But these guys were around as advertising mostly. I'm not sure which booth they were for. Nearby there was a coffee vendor selling different types of undead-themed coffee. Actually, to tell the truth, there were many vendors I didn't visit, so to say that most were rude is only my perceptions of the ones I visited. And this only includes the main dealer rooms, not the local dealer area.

At 3:00 it was time to check-in so I headed back the several blocks to my hotel checked-in, picked up my luggage, and saw my room for the first time. It was nice. It was huge. Both years I've gone my friends have been assigned to a tiny room and I've been given a big room even though they are reserving for three or four people and I reserve for one. My view wasn't so great though. Their view? I don't even remember if they had exterior windows in their room. If they did, I never even looked out.

Then it was a hunt for my friends again. Phone reception inside the hotels was spotty, especially in the basement. I took a few more pictures of people posing around the Hilton and on my way to the Marriot, where all of the gaming rooms were located. The Marriot is undergoing renovations and it wasn't easy to navigate. Plus, by this time the hotels had become very overcrowded. It was work sometimes just to get from one side of a room to another. I tripped over so many people, winced, and said, "I'm sorry," so many times over the next few days that in the end I just accepted that no matter how careful I was I was still going to trip over someone.

At several points during the weekend the fire department closed off entrance to the Hilton and wouldn't let anyone in the front entrance until areas could be cleared.

At that point, after only half a day of walking, I was beginning to ache. I blame the concrete floors, but I must really be in worse shape than I realized.

I took a few more pictures of people in costume and a few pictures of the crowd from above in the Marriott. The best places to catch people posing is in the lobby of the Hilton and lower level (not basement) of the Marriott. Outside of the main dealer rooms was also a popular spot this year.

I didn't take as many pictures of costumes this year. I tried to get the more unusual or better ones, but the crowds turned me off enough that I didn't stop very often. The few pictures I got were more candid or at odd angles.

This was taken when I escaped the crowds at the Marriott of a guy posing with a light saber-wielding group. You can see how difficult it can be to navigate, especially when people (like me) are stopping to take pictures.

A couple of people had props with them. A full-sized R2 droid was making the rounds near the people with Star Wars costumes.

Eventually I met up with my friends again for dinner, which usually is somewhere at the Peachtree Center food court for us (and many, many others). Yami Yami is wonderful for sushi. It's always fresh because it's gone as soon as they put new rolls out.

At a previous panel my friends had heard mention of a screening of a zombie movie, so we decided to go to it. I managed to capture this costume on the way, which I thought was fitting.

The screening was in the frigid Learning Center in the Hilton, which is where we saw the Lovecraft film festival last year. I brought a jacket, but I was still cold. We only saw one film, Zombie Love, but it was good. I'm not much of a person for musicals, but this one was comic, especially the choreographed dance scenes. The songs are still stuck in my head. That's not necessarily a good thing for any song, but still if you get a chance to see it, do. And stay for the credits. :)

And that was the end of the first day. We were tired. I walked back again to my hotel and after a hot bubble bath, some Motrin, and some more Julian slept well.

See also
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post


Design by Amanda @ Blogger Buster