So you know before we get going, some of this is meant to be tongue-in-cheeck, mainly because I wanted to make use of a pun. It’s also got little serious bits in it and partly it’s because I just got home from QED and I need a bit more of it in my life before I let it go for another year…
Also I haven’t been blogging much lately, I don’t know why. Haven’t been inspired, also busy with new job(s) and imminent moving house! I didn’t write a post about QEDcon 2012 because I was mega-stressed with thesis-writing at the time (nearly couldn’t attend because of it) but this year I shall follow from the 2011 posts:
I love QED
As does everyone I speak to who’s been. This was its third year and it certainly lived up to expectations based on the last two. I’d looked forward to it since I left in 2012; extremely tired on the Sunday evening, I slept through the whole train journey back to Euston. Cleverly, this year I booked the room for Sunday night too – to anyone who can afford a bit of Monday off and the extra expense, I highly recommend this!
Some of the organisers are good friends of mine (do listen to Skeptics with a K if you haven’t before; one of my favourite podcasts! Also check out the infrequent but giggle-inducing InKredulous) but even if they weren’t I’d still have to give them many hugs/hi-5s/no-contact congratulations (delete as preferred) because, together with all the volunteers, they do a truly amazing job. I think I’ll be joining their ranks next year!
Rocking up on Friday evening for the mixer in the bar, coming back to a now familiar place and seeing lots of familiar faces (as well as plenty of new ones!) is brilliant. Some drinks, some chat, some hugs and a lot of excitement.
On Sunday we made a bit of a snap decision to listen to Natalie Haynes talk about similarities between Greek tragedies and soap operas, and the relevance of other classical authors such as Pliny, Juvenal and Virgil in modern life. Her explanation of why people saying quis custodiet ipsos custodes is quite hilarious was just perfect. Despite clearly being high on caffeine and sleep-deprived (which she acknowledged with comedic excellence), I hugely enjoyed her talk. With a Latin A level from school, I have missed classical literature and ancient history ever since and it was a lovely reminder.
Just before this, Carrie Poppy, all the way from the US of A, gave her talk on the value of anecdotes. I very much appreciated this. As an intactivist, a lot of the research I do in this area involves listening to people’s stories of how circumcision has had a negative impact on their lives. This is not valueless, quite the opposite. When an argument in defence of something often contains “but I’ve never heard anyone complain about it/I’m fine!”, exposing the truth that in fact a great deal of people have been harmed is very important indeed. I think a lot of skeptics could learn from this, and rein in the (often appropriate, admittedly) data or gtfo kind of attitude.
An excellent set from Chris Coltrane included a perfect bit on being bisexual and biphobia, which definitely resonated with a selection of us in the room! We shook his hand for that.
There were so many other things. I collected a promised hug from Colin, due to my having Tweeted a semi-regular plea for cheery thoughts when I was feeling sad one time… and having walked past him on the way to the station one day but not managing to stop and say hi in time!
For the unaware, here’s a quick bit of background on an incident you’ll need to know something about for the rest of this section to make sense.
There are other skeptical conferences. At one such event, a female speaker gave a talk that included some advice on being respectful to women, and after some time at the bar got into a lift (or an elevator, if you’re from the other side of the pond) to go to bed.
In said lift, a male delegate at the conference decided to ask her to his room for coffee. Possibly innocently, possibly with hopes of some kind of friendlier-than-that situation, who knows. After the event, said female skeptic (who is well-known to most skeptics) made a video for her website that was about an hour long, which included a short statement on this incident.
She asked him, and guys like him, not to do that kind of thing. If it’s late and you’re in a confined space alone with a woman, don’t proposition her (or say something that’s likely to be interpreted as such). It’s just a bad idea.
Fair point. Unfortunately this exploded into ridiculous discourse and all kinds of people jumped in with their views; why is she implying he might be a rapist and why doesn’t she shut up and die – together with deeper and deeper analyses of male privilege, misogyny and all sorts. Including a very misjudged and sexist comment from Richard Dawkins. The fall-out is still happening, somewhat absurdly.
Given this, just about every time a few of us got in the lift, someone would make a joke about “ElevatorGate”, as it’s now known. It was very funny.
We giggled. It was also nice when loads of us packed into the lift at one point and, to save space, partner and I took the opportunity to have a cuddle. After laughing about the close quarters, one girl did ask: “You do know each other, right?” – I think it’s great that people are coming out and asking that, rather than making assumptions or keeping quiet when they witness what might be an uncomfortable situation. Progress.
What wasn’t so funny was when I was chatting, wine in hand, with some other drunk folks after the Saturday night entertainment, trying to work out what strange game they were playing (it involved placing a wine bottle upright on the floor, using teamwork to avoid touching the floor with anything other than that bottle past a certain point).
When my flatmate said something like “Maz, be on our team, you’re light!” and picked me up briefly, a little way off the floor, to demonstrate this fact, we were amused.
However, when a random guy I had never met, who did not introduce himself or ask before going ahead with his copycat behaviour, proceeded to wrap his arms around the tops of my thighs and pick me quite high up off the ground with a grin on his face, which was pressed against my front – we did not laugh.
In fact, my partner told me afterwards that he’d felt like punching him at that point (not usually a violent person). In different circumstances, I might have let him.
Now, I’m not insinuating that this person was anything other than an inebriated reveler who saw something mildly amusing (he was not to know the previous lifter was well-known to me) and decided to join in the fun – I hope that’s the long and short of it.
However, at the risk of kicking off #liftgate, here is my advice – don’t do that. Don’t approach strangers and touch them somewhat inappropriately, even in a partying environment. My displeasure at this may have been enhanced by the fact I was wearing a loosely hanging dress I hadn’t worn before – and I don’t wear dresses often anyway.
But there it is. In the grand scheme, a small thing – I am not traumatised or accusing this person of deliberately treating me a bit like a bit of sports equipment free to be tried out in the shop, I expect he just wasn’t thinking.
That’s the point though; a lot of us are socially awkward, and it’s worth taking a second to think before you act (or speak). All of that is overridden by meeting loads of brilliant people this weekend, catching up with friends, learning some cool stuff and having a generally awesome holiday. Plus I got to use my pun-thing.
Edit: Following some commenting and Twittering, all is well – let this be an example of How Not To Be A Dick. We all make mistakes. Pointing things out, accepting our errors, apologising for them and being forgiven – it’s easy and it doesn’t have to turn into a giant flame war. Live and learn.
I will try to update this over the coming week or two with links I find to other posts, picture albums and so on relating to this year’s event. Feel free to tweet them at me, that would be helpful!
The amazing intro video can be watched over and over again here!! The 2011 and 2012 videos are also available. Everyone gets Milton Mermikides‘ theme tune stuck in their head for a while!
Here’s Stevyn (with whom we had a lovely lunch discussing Qi curiosities and other things on Saturday) with his favourite bits. He mentions our protesters, and I’ll try to find more mention of them. You can also read more about his Skeptical Bobby talk!
You can even listen to Saturday’s Pod Delusion Live recording!
Robin Ince mused on his panel conflict, which I unfortunately missed, but I liked reading this anyway. Here’s a summary of that session by Violetta Crisis. Daphna Shezaf has also written about the conference, and the aforementioned panel.
Some of Robin’s rage was expertly captured by @gwendes – have a look here.
Pixie359 thinks about what more can be done in skepticism.
Alex Gabriel defends Atheism+ for The Heresy Club (I missed this session too).
Hayley has put her thoughts into words.
Eventifier keeps track of twitter traffic generated by events, pretty cool stuff. Over nine thousand tweets… >480 photos, 26 videos – from more than 1200 accounts, apparently!
See Liveskeptic for some storify (collections of tweets on a particular subject/talk).
Here’s a Flickr album from Richard Cooper and here’s an open Flickr group by Kevin Friery that anyone can upload their images to. Friday (including afternoon tweet-up), Saturday and Sunday photos by Rob McDermott, plus a lovely pan of the RDF hall. The Hampshire Skeptics page also has some great images.
My photos are here but I’ll try to put them on Picasa at some point.
14 thoughts on “LiftGate: QEDcon2013”
Hello. It occurs to me that that might have been me. I was (trying) to play that game, and it seems like the sort of thing I might do when in a state of high excitement. I often forget myself. If so, I am REALLY REALLY sorry. I recognise that this doesn’t do much to exorcise the ill feeling you describe. Even if it wasn’t me, it never hurts to be reminded to think first. I should know better. Sorry
If it was indeed you, thank you for your apology, and accepted!
As I said, it wasn’t too big a deal, but I thought it was worth mentioning to a) just get it off my chest b) hopefully make a few people think and c) use my silly pun.
If it was not, standing up and saying that is a good thing and if more people could just make simple apologies when they’ve gone and done a fuckup (as we all do at times), I’m sure we’d all avoid a lot of grief.
I hope you had a most excellent weekend as well!
Well done drshroom – it sounds like a bit of slightly misguided enthusiasm rather than anything too serious, but your response is bang on.
Well judged and phrased post and elicited a good response. Brightened my day. I think I’ll try to attend QEDcon next year 🙂
Yay, definitely do that! 😀
Glad you had a great time at QED, and the line-up looked very impressive. Regarding the Liftgate thingie, no harm done I hope, just high-spirits. Reminds me of when I was a lad, so so long ago!
Changing the subject Noodlemaz, may I ask through your blog if you (or any of your readers) know what happened to the James Randi London TAMs? I attended the two in London and they were sell-outs, and very well organised by Tracy King.
I ask because they seemed to be very successful; TAM2009 had about 500 or 600 delegates, and TAM2010 (held in the larger Metropole, Edware Rd, due to the huge demand) was attended by almost 1,000 people. (I remember having a quick word with Rhys Morgan there, congratulating him on his award presented by JR himself!)
Just curious why the TAM stopped, and whether it will return to London.
Anyway, thanks again for this blog!
Thanks for linking to my pictures. You can use my actual name (Rob McDermott) if you like. 🙂
As to TAM, I understand that Tracy King stepped down from organising it and no-one else took the reins.
As much good work as the JREF does, and as much as enjoyed TAM London 2010 when I went, I prefer QED, which is a UK-run event whose profits go to UK charities as opposed to a fundraiser for a US organisation. It’s also under half the price to attend, and has a much more integrated feel. This I think is partly due to the layout of the venue and partly because they make an effort to have the speakers mix with the attendees as much as possible.
Thanks, I shall indeed use your actual name! Is there a Sunday album, too? I was going to add a link to that as well 🙂
Agree re: JREF/UK things as well. It’s a better acknowledgment and boost to UK skepticism to have it organised and run here, and supporting UK activities in return – feels less like a ‘visit’ from the all-important US skeptics!
That said, I hear good things about TAM Aus and would love to be able to go one day.
I didn’t quite finish processing my Sunday shots yesterday before tiredness overtook me. They should appear tonight some time. 🙂
I’d like to visit Vegas one time in my life and when I do I’ll probably time it to coincide with a TAM…
My Sunday shots are up now, in case you missed them. 🙂
We are very sorry to hear today that Alex (drshroom above) has passed away.
Thoughts and best wishes with his friends and family – unexpected and sad.
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