I had some success doing things at the SCA, I spoke at TAM, and I spoke at Dragon*Con, but I’m not sure how one turns a couple of successful speaking gigs into regularly being invited to speak at conferences.
I got up early to get ready to see the papers, and to make sure I was there to watch everyone else’s papers because they usually aren’t crowded. TAMmers leave in droves on Sunday before the event is over and the papers were really poorly advertised this year. There was no program, there was no schedule that anyone had access to, our names weren’t printed anywhere, certainly our subjects weren’t printed anywhere. It was poorly done, I have to say — we’re not headliners, but we are people who still had to pay despite the fact that we’re talking. The least they could have done is put our names somewhere so people would know what they were listening to.
Anyway, I went to the papers. I was fairly nervous, but it was OK, I was the last to go, so I had to sit through 6 other papers before it was my turn and, unfortunately, the paper before me ate into my time a little, so I had to shorten mine up on the fly. Which was also fine, because I could see anything thanks to the lights reflecting off of my glasses, so I couldn’t really read my notes anyway.
It went over very well. The presentation was about the importance of using emotion and recognizing emotion in discussions, using the failure of the LGBT side in the Prop 8 campaign as an example of how emotional messanging works. There’s a huge tone debate in the movement at the moment, for those of you who don’t remember DBAD, because some people think that other people are too mean or confrontational. The point of my speech was to say that emotional content is one of our most useful tools, and being a dick creates an emotional response. It’s a useful tool in the tool box. But most importantly, just because the movement is about logic and rationality that doesn’t mean that ignoring emotion is the right way to go about convincing others — ignoring human emotion is irrational. Including within the movement — skeptics are not immune from being human, we should start taking that into account better when we argue.
I got a large applause when I was done, and after I left the stage a little crowd of people came over to thank me or talk with me about the issues. It was very cool. I was expecting some backlash — perhaps from being on the internet for too long — I thought some people would tell me that emotions have no place in rational debates or that they didn’t appreciate my assumption that everyone in the room was pro-gay rights, but the responses were great.
I was too keyed up to sit through the next presentation, especially as the World Cup Final was about to take place, so I just went into the hallway and talked to people who came up to me to say thanks about my presentation. To pat myself on the back a little, I’m going to write some of the Twitter responses:
kefox: Great talk this morning on communicating w/emotion. Our side is smarter & really ought to be the Jedi masters of this.
Tasutari: Ashley could easily have given a full talk – good slides, good content, well presented. Plus, there was a Joss Whedon quote.
charlesj: Ashley tells us what we need to hear, continuing from Tavris’ talk yesterday
jennifurret: Ashley nailed it on using emotions when arguing skepticism. Sometimes you need to be a dick!
TCTheater: Ashley is kicking ass and taking names. Excellent capstone to papers segment.
SkeptiCareBear: Propaganda bad, but lack of all emotion worse. Good talk by Ashley.
StevenTheWonky: Ashley is kicking ass.
ArcheoWebby: A presenter that knows how to use a computer. Nice. Good Job Ashley.
So that was awesome. Then I went to watch the soccer game and it was so depressing, partially because there was no food at the bar and I was starving to death while also watching the US kill themselves — I’m happy for Japan, but we lost that game because we made a lot of stupid, careless mistakes and couldn’t get shots on Target. My heart goes out to Abby Wambach.
Then I heard the end of the diversity in skepticism panel, which I sort of lost interest in thanks to DJ seeming to think that getting conservatives and religious people in the movement should be some sort of a priority. I’m with Jamila on the whole getting active about causes that skeptic people should be able to see are ridiculous — the war on drugs, the prison policy.
Sean Faircloth gave essentially the same speech he’d given at the SCA Summit and it went over very well. He’s a very good cheerleader.
Then there was the closing remarks from Randi and we were done. I ran into Randi in the hallway and thanked him for letting me speak and he said he’d heard I’d done very well. I’m sure he was just saying that, but it was still awesome. I went down to the Del Mar and hung out with a lot of people who were still there and then went to Penn and Teller over at the Rio. Boy are Las Vegas cabs expensive, by the way. We were in the first seat in the Mezzanine, which was actually excellent because it was easier to see how they were doing the tricks. A lot of their tricks have been on their show or on other shows, but it was still a lot of fun. And then someone in the line for cabs recognized me and thanked me for my talk, so people at the Rio cab line probably thought I was some important person. Buahaha.
Then I packed and went to bed.
Monday, I got on the airplane and swallowed my crown. And I’m freaking out about it. Yep.
I got up early on Saturday and headed to the Del Mar bar to meet Ginger Campbell, super awesome brain and ER doctor, to watch the 3rd place World Cup match between Sweden and France. I didn’t stay for the whole thing, but Sweden ended up winning. I missed a panel about paranormal investigation and a talk by Sadie Crabtree. I fully intended to watch Sadie Crabtree, but got caught up in a conversation with Heidi Anderson in the Presenters room.
ASIDE: I am on the airplane and having a slow freak out because a crown on one of my teeth isn’t there and I have apparently swallowed it. It doesn’t hurt, I didn’t notice when it happened, but now my throat hurts. I assume I’m not going to die from swallowing a crown, right? I wish this airplane had internet so I could send out a distress signal.
Anyway, I then got a tdap vaccine because I don’t want to get whooping cough. My arm still hurts.
I got caught up in a discussion with PZ Myers and a group of guys about Elevatorgate and women in the movement. It’s always weird to be the only woman in discussion about women because you’re treated as like a representative of the whole gender. It was a good discussion though. When they realized I was giving a talk the following day, they asked if it was going to be about women in the movement and seemed disappointed when I said it wasn’t going to be. I told them that women join the movement because they care about skepticism and issues other than being a woman, I don’t want to be put in some ghetto where it’s my job to talk only about women.
Then, there was a panel about placebos and how and why they worked, and if it was possible to use the placebo effect intentionally and honestly. It was an interesting discussion, though I wonder if it would have been better as a presentation rather than a panel discussion.
Elizabeth Loftus then spoke about manufacturing memories and how unreliable human memories are. I found this very interesting because I’d just finished reading The Invisible Gorilla, which is about much the same thing. Or at least I think it was, but I could be manufacturing that memory too…
Richard Wiseman was up next, but I don’t remember his talk at all. Then it was lunch, where we talked about Mansplaining, Poe’s Law, and Godwin’s Law.
After lunch the magnificantly awesome Carol Tavris spoke about cognitive dissonance. Her main point was that when you’re arguing with someone you have to be careful because if you say that their beliefs or opinions are stupid they won’t be able to agree because it won’t jive with their image of themselves as smart people.
Then! Oh Then! Then it was Bill Nye the Science Guy! His talk was interesting, he was interesting, and we’re all pretty sure he is the Doctor. It’s the bow tie. After Bill, it was Richard Dawkins, who I didn’t actually think was that interesting. He talked about his new children’s book, and then about aliens. After PZ had been so entertaining on the subject Friday, Dawkins was a bit dry. But, he started taking questions and that was fairly interesting. We were all trapped in the room because there was a Chuck Norris convention at the hotel as well, and they were taking up the hallway. Dawkins, adorably, didn’t know who Chuck Norris was.
That evening I went to a presenter’s reception, and got to spend some time hanging out with a lot of awesome people who were going to be speaking, including Debbie Goddard who I had not previously spent much time with. But there was a drunk british guy from Shrewsbury who would not leave me alone. I hate wine breath. And I was not nice to him, but he kept following me. He was so annoying that every time I tried to escape and enter a new conversation, everyone who was in that conversation would leave and leave me stranded.
He also kept touching me, which I found very disconcerting. Fortunately, I was eventually rescued, and he was asked to leave, but it was pretty gross.
I was hungry, went to Steak and Shake, one of the two take out restaurants at the hotel — it took 45 minutes to get food. It was horrible. And the food was only OK as well. Then I went to bed early, so I could get up for the papers on Sunday.
So, yesterday I arrived in Las Vegas. It was hot, but actually less hot than it was in Columbia, SC for the last few days. I then immediately got some Baja Fresh, because brown salsa is amazing.
Then iw went to the hotel. I ended up hanging out with Heidi Anderson in the speakers rooms with the logic that I am speaking. I ended up spending time with the awesome Ginger Campbell, a fellow women’s soccer fan, Elizabeth Loftus, and a guy named McGaha.
We ended up talking a lot about the ethics of the porn industry, which wasn’t what I was expecting to talk about in the speakers room. They must keep that coolness on the DL.
Then was dinner with the SC contingent. And then the reception.
I hung out with Jennifer Michael Hecht, Jennifer McCreight, Greta Christina, Sean Faircloth, Richard Dawkins, Jamila Bay, Debbie Goddard, Sara Mayhew, and lots of other people who didn’t have their names listed in the program.
After the reception, I went to drinking skeptically where I had a diet coke and saw some people from the SCA Summit.
Then it was time for HP7.2! It was amazing. Despite the fact that it didn’t start until 3AM eastern time, I didn’t almost fall asleep once. It did complete justice to Snape, Neville, and Mrs. Weasley.
So far, there’s been a fair amount of talk about elevatorgate, but not too much. A few jokes, some serious conversation. Also, there’s apparently a musical, “Menopause the Musical” – I’ve heard it’s very dry.
As faithful readers of the blog will know, I am going to TAM in Las Vegas this weekend. I am currently writing from the airplane because I was bored enough to shell out the $13. It is the future.
Today, I will land around 1PM and then I’m going to go get food at Baja Fresh. I’m very excited, it’s been so long since I’ve had Baja Fresh and it’s amazing. There are workshops going on all day but I didn’t have the money to be going to all of that. Tonight Rebecca Watson is having some thing that also costs money, so I probably won’t be going. I also don’t understand what the thing is, so that doesn’t help.
OMG trying to use wordpress from this droid browser is going to make me shoot myself. FFS.
Tonight, I am insanely going to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 at midnight. This is insane because it won’t start until 3AM east coast time, so I’m going to be very very tired. But how often do you get to go see the last Harry Potter the first night it comes out? Never, exactly.
Then tomorrow is filled with all sorts of stuff and I don’t even know what the schedule is. I feel somewhat guilty about that, like I should have paid more attention, but I’m going to all of it, so there’s no real point in looking into it more. Tomorrow night is Penn’s Donut Party, and I’m quite excited about that. I mean, it’s donuts and Penn Jillette, what isn’t to love? I even brought a special party dress! It, alas, doesn’t have a donut on it.
Saturday is more talks that I don’t remember who is when, the third place WWC game is that day between France and Sweden, and I honestly don’t care that much so I probably won’t watch, and then that night I get to go to a double top secret thing that is going to be awesome so you should be jealous, and also feel pretty cheated that I won’t even tell you what it is. On Sunday, I am presenting my paper at 9:50 AM. Awesome, right? There’ll only be like a thousand people in the audience, so no pressure. Then! Then then then!!! USA vs JAPAN, EPIC BRAWL 2011!
I want the US to win, but I have to say I would be really happy for Japan if they won. The team is really amazing, and it’s the first time an Asia side has gotten this far in the WWC. Plus, the whole tsunami meltdown thing. But, I want the US to win so that people will pretend to care about womens soccer for a few more days, I would find that greatly pleasing.
I am on the plane! On the plane! So bored on the plane! I’m on a plane and it’s going fast and I got a aeronautical themed pashmina afghan
Weirdly enough, George Hrab, the MC of the event, is on the same flight as me. I met him originally at the SCA summit in Washington DC where he performed and we took silly pictures and sent a message to a friend of mine who was insane jealous. Mostly because I don’t listen to the Geologic Podcast and he does, so I don’t have a terribly good knowledge of the George Hrabness. Anyway, he’s sitting behind me and threatening to throw things at me, though I think he’s so absorbed in his iPad or whatever it is that he won’t remember to do that. Plus, they don’t hand out free snacks, which is really the best thing to throw at people.
T-minus 1 hour to Las Vegas. Woooooooo!
Hopefully you’ll get lots of really boring updates from me, because I know you’re all really friggin jealous! I’m going to be hanging out with Heidi Anderson, Jenna Marie Griffith, Jen McCreight, Neil deGrasse Tyson (he will hang out with me, dammit, it will happen), and like 200 other awesome people who are awesome.
Alright, enough of this, I’m going to go back to surfing the web in an attempt to find something to write about for social axcess, I can’t find anything worth writing about.
I love Richard Dawkins. I like his books, I love watching him read his hate mail, I loved listening to him talk at TAM last year, I loved watching him smirk about everything, I loved his documentary and I just like him in general.
But he doesn’t get what it’s like to be a woman. Not that one would expect him to have a total understanding, he is not a woman, but you would think that he’d be able to empathize just a little with women. Apparently not. Apparently if your genitals aren’t being mutilated and you’re complaining about creepy behavior from men at conferences, you’re just complaining about nothing. Wow, that’s great PR from a movement trying to get more women involved.
Have some background:
- Rebecca Watson was part of a panel about feminism.
- A stranger followed her into the elevator at four in the morning, waited for the doors to be closed, and tried to get her to go back to the room with him.
- She was creeped out majorly by this behavior. And was bothered that her talk had apparently made no difference and that her wish to go back to her room and sleep, which she said to a large room of people that included the stranger, was being ignored by someone who thought it was his right to hit on her regardless of what she wanted.
- Another female blogger, Stef McGraw, said she was overreacting.
- Rebecca Watson mentioned Stef, by name, in another panel.
- Stef then said it was abuse of power for Watson to call her out in a panel.
- A bunch of guys in the movement started protesting that if you can’t approach a stranger in the middle of the night (in an enclosed, inescapable space) then how will you ever meet anyone in the movement??? Plus, Freedom of Speech!
- PZ posted about it, which garnered much response and vitriol from various people.
- DAWKINS came into the comment thread and said basically that it was OK for guys to be creepy because some women get their genitals mutilated. That the creepy behavior was NO DIFFERENT from someone chewing gum on an elevator. Richard Dawkins said this, PZ confirmed it was actually him.
- My head exploded
Here’s some advice for guys: If a woman, particularly a complete stranger, can literally not get away from you, that’s not a good time to proposition her. If you’ve got her trapped in a small space or are between her and her escape route, don’t imply, on any level, that you’d like to do things to her body. Just don’t.
Why? Because she doesn’t know if you’re a good guy or not and she’s trapped in a space suddenly with someone who doesn’t care about how safe she feels, and in this particular case, has already intentionally ignored her stated wishes. Why on earth would she think you’re not going to ignore it when she says NO? There are lots of opportunities to express interest in ways that don’t feel incredibly dangerous to a woman — if you put yourself in her shoes and think, “Would this seem safe if I was a woman who might get raped by a strange man?” If the answer is anything but, “Yes,” DON’T DO IT.
Here is an amazing post about how not to make women feel scared shitless when you try to hit on them. Don’t act like a threat! Don’t ignore what people say! Don’t ignore body language! And don’t accuse women of complaining about meaningless crap when they’re afraid for their safety because some people have it worse!
I'm going to have a busy summer!
Secular Coalition for America's Summit in Washington DC from May 19-21. I haven't been to DC since I was 13, so this is exciting, and I've been invited as Future Leader and will get to talk strategy, which is also cool. Still need to figure out travel plans, it's a bit far to drive, probably.
The Amaz!ng Meeting 9 in Las Vegas from July 14-17. I've submitted a paper proposal that I was told was "pertinent and interesting", so fingers crossed there. I still need a room. And hopefully a roommate. And a plane ticket.
Dragon*Con in Atlanta from September 2-5. Travel and lodging are pretty easy, since I know people in Atlanta and it's not too much of a drive. I need to get a ticket, but I'll be speaking! So that's exciting!
If only traveling and registration wasn't so expensive… I'm going to be out probably $1500 between these three. And that's assuming I can resist the myriad temptations to buy awesome crap at Dragon*Con. Which I failed at the last time I spoke there, about my short film, and ended up dropping a couple hundred on a really awesome corset… But then, when I went to Comic Con I didn't spend any money except to go to the San Diego Zoo (which was awesome).
Hey, I'm teaching myself to sew, maybe I should make a costume. People are more likely to take you seriously in costume, right?
So, I’m leaving tomorrow morning to go to TAM. I probably won’t have much internet access beyond email, so there (probably) won’t be any updates while I’m there. I will, however, be taking notes analog style, so I’m sure there’ll be stuff to post when I get back.
So, if you’re going to TAM feel free to either e-mail me, or facebook friend me, I’ll be primarily available by text message and my phone number is on my FB or I can email it. It’s times like these that I wish I had some sort of intelligent phone machine.
I’m going. I gave in — what are credit cards for, right? I’ve been obsessing over it for 2 months, I figured I must actually want to go if I still care. I spent a lot of time debating if I wanted to go to TAM or get an iphone. Now the trick is to resist the temptation to get an iphone too.
I’m gonna go down after work Thursday (7/8), and stay for Friday, Saturday, and hopefully enough of Sunday to see Jen McCreight from BlagHag. I haven’t had a vacation since February. Weirdly, I stayed at the same hotel. Anyway, it’s been a rough six months, getting away from LA is an incredibly necessary thing.
So, if you’re also going to TAM, let me know!