About a fortnight ago I went to the Australian Skeptics National Convention. I’ve been putting off writing about it, largely because I expected to see a lot more material I could link to (such as other people’s reports, videos, etc). That hasn’t been the case, but there is a report in episode four of The Skeptic Zone.
The best part of the convention was the opportunity to meet people. I started a conversation with Martin Bridgstock almost immediately, and sat next to him during the first couple of talks. Martin was not a speaker at this convention, but I have a lot of respect for him based on videos of his talks at other events.
Later I met Richard Saunders, Kylie Sturgess (Podblack), and other members of the Skepic Zone team. Kylie collects sceptics — she owns about a hundred sceptics preserved in bottles and another fifty with their heads mounted on a wall — but all she got from me was a photograph. (OK, I made up the bit about her collection, but her enthusiasm for scepticism is such that you might almost believe it.) On the second day of the convention, Richard Saunders gave me a copy of an Astronomy Cast CD, containing Astronomy Cast episodes 1-48 inclusive.
I also spoke with Barry Williams, but very briefly. The truth is that Barry speaks so softly in conversation that I struggled to pay attention to what he was saying over the background chaos of the room!
As for the talks, I think my favourite was the one by psychologist Glen Smith on optical ilusions and so on. But I’d have to see each of the talks at least twice to absorb enough of them to write about, or to be really confident which were my favourites. (I expected that the videos would all be posted online, but I’m pretty sure they’re not.)
The worst thing about the convention was the catering. The organisers seemed to treat us as clones (“I like pre-made salad rolls, therefore everyone likes pre-made salad rolls”) and didn’t even go to the courtesy of attaching labels to the trays, listing exactly what ingredients are in the rolls. (This basic etiquette is particularly important if one of those ingredients is mayonnaise or some other type of salad dressing, because such things are the foulest substances known to humanity and have nothing whatsoever to do with food.) Being hungry didn’t do anything for my mood, nor for my ability to concentrate on what the afternoon speakers had to say.
Overall, there were a lot of good things at the convention, but I should have brought a packed lunch. No complaints about dinner.