The Skeptical Gamers

Bringing critical thinking to Gen Con Indy

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

2012 Events Are Pending!

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 8, 2012

Good afternoon, Skeptical Gamers fans! I just submitted a boatload of events for Gen Con 2012. We’ll be repeating most of last year’s catalogue with, as I said in my last post, a few tweaks. Those tweaks include, so far:

  • The panel that used to be called “Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture” has been retitled to “Lies, Damned Lies, and Pop Culture: A Choose-Your-Own-Panel Adventure,” so look for the new name when you’re getting tickets. New name, same utter awesomeness.
  • “Cargo Cult Science” has been removed from the catalogue for reasons involving its difficulty finding an audience, the difficulty we always have sticking to the time limit, and the fact that Sara Head covers cargo cults in her archaeology talks.
  • We have added two new panels. The first is titled “Mixed Media Nonsense: Pseudoscience Across Geek Culture” and will be like our classic choose-your-own-adventure panel but the emphasis will be on movies, TV, comics, and games and what we can learn about real science from the bad science they often contain. The second is called “When Will I Ever Use This?” and will cover all sorts of awesome uses for the math and science that students so often complain is completely useless.
  • The talk “Crazy Conspiracies and Coverups: Secrets THEY Don’t Want You To Know About” has been expanded from one hour to two. Last year we went overtime and still didn’t have time for a Q&A. It was a packed house in a very large room and everyone seemed to totally dig the content so we’ve expanded it to give ourselves some breathing room and the ability to cover more ground.

That’s what’s changed so far. I’ll update here if anything else gets added or removed and, as I did last year, I’ll post the full event schedule as soon as Gen Con has confirmed it and sent it to me.

See you in August!

Edit 3/9/12: We’ve decided to double up on both “Mythical Monsters and Folktale Fauna” and “Crazy Conspiracies and Coverups: Secrets THEY Don’t Want You To Know About” since they were both huge and a ton of fun last year. I also got my good friend Rob, one of the founding panel members from way back in 2009 (who has been absent since then) to commit to a talk this year. He’s a math PhD student so his talk is titled “1=0.9999…How Innumeracy Affects the Educated World.” He’ll also hopefully be joining us on the “When Will I Use This?” panel.

Advertisements

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Regarding 2012

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on February 20, 2012

Things are heating up, Skeptical Gamers fans, but I’m not going to lie to you: 2012 is in a bit of limbo. I am finishing my Master’s and this means two things: I’ll likely be relocating within the next few months and I am quite poor. Tom, my right-hand man, is looking at buying a house. Together we have a lot on our plates already but that isn’t stopping us from planning for Gen Con 2012.

At present, we’re looking to repeat last year’s catalogue almost verbatim. We’re likely dropping “Cargo Cult Science” as it has struggled to find an audience and it never fits into the time constraints anyway. And besides; Sara covers cargo cults in her talks so it’s kind of redundant. We’ll be replacing it with some new stuff, though; we’ll likely be doubling up on last year’s hugely popular “Mythical Monsters and Folktale Fauna” and we have some other stuff in the works, like “When Will I Use This?”, a talk all about the common complaint people have about math and science.

We’re also retitling the general-purpose panel from “Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture” to “Lies, Damned Lies, and Pop Culture: A Choose Your Own Panel Adventure.” The original title, while descriptive, wasn’t exactly eye-catching. So if you were one of those who like the big panel in 2009, 2010, and 2011, make sure to look for it under its new name in 2012.

I will have a full schedule posted as soon as it is available and if anything comes up to stand in the way of a full Skeptical Gamers presence at Gen Con 2012 I will post it here with an explanation. See you in August!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

A Loss for Gen Con

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on July 27, 2011

Some bad news, folks. Elyse Anders, Skepchick and founder of the Women Thinking Free Foundation, who was originally slated to be on both “Women’s Intuition and Other Myths” and “Skepticism, Pop Culture, and Critical Thinking,” has been forced to cancel due to personal reasons.

It’s nothing bad, mind you, I’m just not sure I’m allowed to go public with it yet. So good luck, Elyse, and we’re going to miss you here in Indy!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

2011 Talk: “Cargo Cult Science”

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 23, 2011

Also returning from an acclaimed 2010 run (of one venue) is “Cargo Cult Science,” presented by myself and Tom Foss. This one even had buzz last year; we were recorded for a podcast, the URL of which I have since lost, so if you’re reading this, podcast guys, please send me the link so I can give you a proper shout-out for being so awesome.

“Cargo Cult Science” looks at the phenomenon of people who believe they are doing science but don’t understand the process enough to actually be performing it properly. Instead they act in almost scripted ways based on their flawed understanding of the method, believing that by going through the motions, their results will be useful.

The metaphor is borrowed from Richard Feynman, who first  used it to refer to activities that have only the outer patina of science without the proper guts on the inside. “Cargo cults” refers, in the most well-known sense, to a phenomenon wherein colonialized cultures misunderstand the actions of their colonizers and begin acting out their “rituals” in ways that clearly communicate that misunderstanding. Of course, as with most things in anthropology, things aren’t quite that simple, so the talk will open with a brief introduction to the phenomenon of cargo cults and why it is such a useful metaphor for pseudoscience.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

2011 Panel: “Mythical Monsters and Folktale Fauna”

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 23, 2011

One of last year’s most popular talks was “Myths, Monsters, and Legends,” delivered by Colin Thornton. Colin has bowed out of Gen Con 2011, and to fill the void of his absence, Tom Foss, Jon Maxson, and I are stepping in to give a panel focused on the fun folklore of cryptids and cryptozoology.

We’ll look at Bigfoot, Nessie, Mothman, and who knows what else. We’ll focus on the methods used in the searches for these creatures and the evidence presented for their existence. We’ll look at some real-life analogues and draw connections between mythical creatures and real ones. We will also, of course, crack lots of jokes.

Finally, I’ll tell the harrowing tale of the Bigfoot hunt I undertook in February 2009 across the entire state of Indiana and share some pictures and videos of that incredibly silly trip.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

2011 Talk: “Culture and the Paranormal”

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 23, 2011

Back for 2011 after great success and acclaim in 2010 is my one-man talk “Culture and the Paranormal.” It will remain largely unchanged from last year.

“Culture and the Paranormal” will be a cross-cultural survey of paranormal beliefs and occurrences in order to examine the hypothesis “If paranormal events and beings exist in reality and not just in the mind, then they should be relatively homogeneous and not differentiated along cultural lines.”

My main thesis, to answer that hypothesis, is “Paranormal explanations for experiences generally draw almost exclusively from prevailing cultural narratives and fill in perceived holes to help explain the anomalous or extraordinary.” I’ll look at different cultures across time and space, and what they view as anomalous or extraordinary circumstances, and the different ways in which they recourse to paranormal or supernatural explanations for those circumstances.

I’ll also look at how different cultures conceive of analogous supernatural beings, from ghosts to werecreatures to nocturnal visitors. Finally, I’ll bring things forward to the present and look at how modern popular culture affects paranormal beliefs and experiences. Modern pop culture has inundated us with flying saucers, alien abductions, ghost orbs, and crop circles, and there’s scientific evidence that our perceptions of such things are heavily influenced by their portrayal and popularity in the mass media.

This talk will be perhaps the most academic of all of our talks. I’ll be drawing on disparate fields, from cultural anthropology to folklore to media studies, and, with some work and some luck, I’ll pull together the different threads into a wide-ranging and thought-provoking presentation.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

2011 Events Are Final

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 23, 2011

Gen Con has finalized the times and locations for all of our events. You can find a permanent (and regularly updated, should the need arise) schedule at the Event Schedule page, but, to make things easier just at the moment, here is the current lineup:

Date Time Event Presenter(s) Location
Thursday 4 August 10:00AM – 11:00AM Archaeology vs. Pseudoarchaeology Sara Head Marriott, Indiana Ballroom C
Thursday 4 August 2:00PM – 4:00PM Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture Don Riefler, Tom Foss, Jon Maxson, Sean Bennett, Elyse Anders Marriott, Indiana Ballroom B
Thursday 4 August 4:00PM – 6:00PM Women’s Intuition and Other Myths Jen Myers and hopefully some other fabulous Skepchicks Marriott, Indiana Ballroom B
Friday 5 August 10:00AM – 11:00AM Between the Nazca Lines: Archaeology vs. Aliens Sara Head Marriott, Indiana Ballroom B
Friday 5 August 11:00AM – 12:00PM Cargo Cult Science Don Riefler and Tom Foss Marriott, Indiana Ballroom B
Friday 5 August 3:00PM – 5:00PM Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture Don Riefler, Tom Foss, Jon Maxson, Sean Bennett, Elyse Anders Marriott, Indiana Ballroom D
Friday 5 August 6:00PM – 7:30PM Mythical Monsters and Folktale Fauna Don Riefler, Tom Foss, Jon Maxson Marriott, Indiana Ballroom F
Saturday 6 August 9:00AM – 11:00AM Women’s Intuition and Other Myths Jen Myers and hopefully some other fabulous Skepchicks Marriott, Phoenix
Saturday 6 August 11:00AM – 12:00PM Culture and the Paranormal Don Riefler Marriott, Indiana Ballroom D
Saturday 6 August 3:00PM – 5:00PM Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture Don Riefler, Tom Foss, Jon Maxson, Sean Bennett, Elyse Anders Marriott, Indiana Ballroom B
Saturday 6 August 5:00PM – 6:00PM Crazy Conspiracies and Coverups: Secrets THEY Don’t Want You To Know About Don Riefler and Tom Foss Marriott, Indiana Ballroom D

We have lost a couple of talks from last year, but we like to think of it as cutting the chaff and working to our strengths. We’re experimenting with a couple of new talks which we think will go over very well. We’ve also expanded the annual choose-your-own-adventure panel to three events, and that’s always a blast for presenters and audience alike. We’ll see you there!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Volunteer Schedule Spreadsheet

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on July 6, 2010

Long radio silence over here. Apologies for that. I was busy with finals, a wedding, a honeymoon, and way too much other stuff. Throughout, Gen Con plans have continued to develop, albeit sporadically.

So today’s big announcement is that I’ve put up a GoogleDocs spreadsheet where anyone who wants to help out can sign up to volunteer in the vaccination fundraising booth. You can find the spreadsheet here. Gen Con requires that it be manned at all times while the exhibit hall is open, so we can use all the help we can get.

I’ve broken each day down into fifteen minute chunks so we can exercise some fine control over the volunteer schedule, and I’ve already put myself in for most times when I’m not giving a speech or sitting a panel. Anyone can edit the spreadsheet to add themselves, so feel free to tell your friends, family, and and slaves or indentured servants who might be interested in helping raise vaccine awareness in Indiana.

So get on over there and start signing up. With your help, Gen Con is going to be awesome this year!

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Impending Organizational Stuff

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on April 19, 2010

Finals week is immanent here in sunny West Lafayette, IN. What that means for me is I’m finally about finished with this damned second bachelors, and I finally get some much-needed R&R after a year and a half of non-stop full-time work and class.

What it means for our volunteers is that, the week after finals (the second week of May), I will be sending out a ping to get a feel for everyone’s Gen Con plans so I can put together a loose vaccine booth schedule that will ensure it gets covered at all times. I’m also looking into organizing a dinner for all of us at one of downtown Indy’s many awesome restaurants, likely Saturday night. So all the volunteers will be hearing from me pretty soon…

Anyone else still want to volunteer? We’d love to have you! Plus you get to have tasty dinner with a bunch of awesome people!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Schedule Updated

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on April 18, 2010

Heads up, folks.

At the last minute, Gen Con changed the date of one of our events. William Brinkman’s talk, “Confessions of a Fictional Tabloid Writer,” was moved from Friday at 11 – Noon to Saturday 11 – Noon. It’s been changed on the event schedule page. Like I told William, if this is the biggest problem we run into, we should count ourselves lucky.

See you all at Gen Con!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »