I arrived in Sydney on Thursday which meant could attend a couple of TAMFringe Meetups. It was great to meet Jason @BastardSheep (who organised them) and some other Skeptwitter’ers I had been following in the lead up to the the event including @HappySinger, @Purplefae, Skeptics NZ @unifex and about thirty others. We had a lunch at Darling Harbour on a lovely day but it was sobering to see the flags at half mast honouring the Pike River Mine disaster.
I wandered back to my Hotel the long way around the waterfront, can’t miss a chance to visit the Opera House, and up through the Botanic Gardens. It was nice way to unwind and break in my feet for a week of conference related trekking.
The next morning it was back to Circular Quay for the TAMFringe Bloggers Breakfast where I met “Aura Band” collaborator @ChrysStevenson and the creators of the Placebo Band. More on that in another post.
TAMOz Friday – Deemed to be TAM Day 0!
The first panel was on “Paranormal in Australia”. While the concepts & principles discussed were interesting I wasn’t familiar with some of the examples cited. Of course some stories like the "Anti-Anti Vacination Network" work had made it across the Tasman. It was my first chance to hear James Randi speak without the aid of a television, radio or the web!
The Skeptical Activism 101 workshop opened with the legendary words from it’s moderator: “This is Brian Dunning, of Skeptoid”. It was almost worth the admission alone, The discussion ranged from best approaches to traditional media, use of new media and tactics. From the floor Craig Shearer, of Auckland Skeptics in the Pub, announced the Kiwi movement to re-brand September to Skeptember – A time for thinking”. This got a great reception and I saw a burst of tweets in the #TAMOz stream.
James (The Amazing) Randi lived up to his name. His talk included the legendary “Levitating Matchbox” and other tales. One included a demonstration of the totally useless divining machines which the US taxpayers funded, to the tune of sixteen million dollars, for Iran. It was great to see Randi speak and I look forward to his other sessions. He was a hard act to follow but the man who had that job was up to the task.
Until TAMOz I had only heard Dr Karl Kruselnicki from his radio show (via podcast) and books. In a highly energetic (did he actually breathe?) and entertaining talk he covered topics from ant hills in the outback to renewable energy economics. He debunked several “Woo” favourites including the “Bermuda Triangle”. The real story behind the familiar “Murphy’s law” was fascinating and he then proved it reaches beyond Earth with an examples from Mars & Venus (Russian probe). Dr Karl related his own use of renewable energy and studies which show Australia could, with a $37 Billion spend, could almost totally satisfy its energy demand with solar & wind power. Almost as some power would be needed from other sources in a few winter months. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see the governments commit to that on both sides of the Tasman!?
I must admit to not knowing much of George Hrab’s work before TAMOz but I am now a fan. His music, and whit throughout the event, is amazing and I’m sad that I will miss his NZ visit (as will be in the US). I’m told George’s unofficial TAMFringe Karaoke performance was also wonderful but missed that as retired early to “bank some sleep” for Autodesk University!
The Welcome event which followed was a chance for a beer, wine or whatever and more mingling. A nice end to the first, actually preview, day of TAMOz.
I missed out on tickets to the SGU Dinner but that meant the chance to see Simon Taylor’s “Pieces of Mind” show. This mix of humour & mentalism (illusion & prediction without psychic powers) was great. However, I think he saved his best performance for later in the event!