As many of you know, I ventured south, across the border, WITHOUT my family this past weekend to meet up with some friends and attend a sciencey-type conference in Las Vegas.
I also realize that many of you have mixed ideas or feelings about what exactly that conference was about. And that’s fine. (In fact, there were a couple sessions at the conference that spoke directly to the public language that is used to define and explain those… for lack of a better word… “philosophies and ideas” to others without sounding like a pretentious wanker, particularly in this modern climate of anti-intellectualism. But that’s another discussion, and one I’d prefer to have in person rather than on this particular blog.)
I thought I’d share a few of my most memorable highlights of the conference at least from my meager perspective. And, the “what-happens-in-Vegas…” rule still applies for the rest of the stuff. Much of this is so, in a few years when I’m reading back through these archives, I have these as a memory. I’m not expecting you to be impressed or envious (name dropper… *cough, cough*) or whatever. It’s just some odd, surreal, or inspiring moments for me, and for something that I’ve been excited about for many years now. What I think I’ll remember most is:
– watching with a bit of selfish pride at the growing influence and respect of a small group of folks who (while I’ve had little effect on recently) five years ago I helped catalyze the initial meetups and seedling discussions of, and some of whom are now significant contributors and speakers at major international events like these, and deserving of far more kudos than I can ever offer here or otherwise.
– ‘shooting the breeze’ with Bill Nye (yes, “the Science Guy”) in the hotel lobby a few hours after attending his presentation on the future of humanity in space (he was representing The Planetary Society). And a day later, seeing him jogging around the outside block perimeter of the hotel was kinda surreal, too.
– eating bacon and doughnuts shortly after midnight in a crowded hotel banquet room-turned-concert stage for Penn (of Penn & Teller fame) to host a rare and awesome performance of his personal band, while the odd collection of quasi-famous writers and scientists mixing with a hoard of nerds and geeks clambered to adapt to the surreal experience. And that guy filming the whole thing with his iPad was kinda weird, too.
– after nearly tripping over the guy a couple times a few hours earlier, standing in line for an hour with my dog-eared and ancient (pre-bachelors’ degree) copy of “The Selfish Gene” to grab a fleeting moment with the author and his signature in the front cover. Meanwhile, in a drawn-out moment of cultural cognitive dissonance, in the banquet room next door the participants of the other big event being hosted at the hotel, some martial arts competition, waited in line to meet Chuck Norris.
– explaining, to a slightly tipsy group of Americans, the awesomeness of Minecraft, while sitting in one of the hotel lounges shortly after midnight.
– listening in quiet awe for a hour to the familiar voice of Doctor Pamela Gay, who’s science and astronomy podcast I listen to (sometimes repeatedly) and who’s passion for science education bubbled from her every word, and realizing that she makes an awesome role-model for budding science-inclined kids (maybe even Claire) and that I might need to track her down for a chat at some future date with Claire in tow, maybe around age ten, and say “see, look what you can do, too.”
– experiencing the (perhaps not-unexpected) ability of Neil deGrasse Tyson to not only give an informative and interesting presentation about all sorts of interesting and otherworldly topics, but also to have most of us howling with laughter at the humor intertwined with his talk, swapping between the one well-known persona of mild-manner science professor and the lesser-known and (what I can only describe, perhaps offensively as) the other, a will-smith-esque smack-down personality.
– once again finding myself eating lunches, late-night-appies, breakfasts, and other off-hours bevies with quasi-famous and solidly-interesting people from all over the world and having my (already lacking) ability to conduct a linear and cohesive conversation dribble away with my (bah!) unsweetened iced tea.