Category Archives: Friends and Family

Balticon goings-on

Physician v. Admiral
Physician v. Admiral from Balticon 2005, CC BY-NC-SA image by docoperon via Flickr

Memorial Day is nigh, which means another Balticon approaches, which means SCIENCE and other tomfoolery on my part as a guest of that august event. My schedule for the con is as follows:

  • Friday, May 22, 4:00 PM ~ The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Medical Studies: A Skeptical Journal Club ~ Salon A (50 minutes) ~ One of the most important aspects of being a healthy skeptic is knowing: just because a certain topic is studied and an article published, does not mean the study was conducted scientifically, nor that the authors reached a conclusion supported by the data. So, when someone states that a study ‘has major flaws’ or ‘was well-done,’ precisely what does that mean? Join us as we analyze two different journal articles in detail, focusing on the good, the bad, and the ugly of how studies are done and interpreted.
  • Saturday, May 23, 12:00 PM ~ Blood, Sweat, and Fears: Infectious Outbreaks Among Us ~ Salon A (50 minutes) ~ Infectious outbreaks have swept through the human population throughout the existence of our species. Despite technological improvements and medical advances, pandemics continue to create illness and fear. We’ll look at how three different infectious outbreaks are trying to kill us, and how we are fighting back — Ebola, Chikungunya, and Enterovirus D68.
  • Monday, May 25, 10:00 AM ~ Allergies on Alien Planets? What would REALLY kill you? ~ Salon A ~ Sam Scheiner PhD (M), John Cmar MD, Perrianne Lurie MD, Thomas Talbot MD (50 minutes) ~ So your space ship has landed on that Gem of a New Planet, you’ve established a colony. YEAH! Then folks start getting ill …
  • Otherwise I will be lurking about the Science, Skeptical Thinking, and New Media tracks, as well as doing my fair share of gaming, specifically committing vast amounts of dragon-murder in D&D Attack Wing. Or so I hope. It’s the little things, you see.

As always, I will be accompanied by the beautiful and crafty Moon Ranger Laura, who’s schedule is as below:

  • Saturday, May 23, 9:00 AM ~ Women of Science: A History ~ Salon A (50 minutes) ~ A look at the influential women of SCIENCE past.
  • Saturday, May 23, 6:00 PM ~ Parsec Awards 10 Year Anniversary ~ Tack ~ Laura A Burns (M), Christiana Ellis, Tee Morris (50 minutes) ~ A Parsec Award Winning Podcaster, Parsec Judge, and Steering Committee Member discuss what it takes to craft an Award winning entry. The panel will cover a review of this year’s rules, submission criteria and tips from the experts.
  • Sunday, May 24, 10:00 AM ~ In Search of New Podcasts ~ Tack ~ Laura A Burns (M), Christiana Ellis, Tim Dodge, Patrick Scaffido (50 minutes) ~ This is the age of Serial and Welcome to Night Vale. Podcasts are bigger than ever. But what are the podcasts in the margins, the ones that haven’t hit it big? Panelists will share their top recommendations. Bring your notebooks and your podcatchers, and prepare for new audio pleasures.
  • Sunday, May 24, 6:00 PM ~ International Space University: The Update! ~ Salon A (50 minutes) ~ A discussion about the International Space University, it’s programs and how you can participate, even if you aren’t a student.

Balticon 2015 is May 22-25, 2015, at the Hunt Valley Inn, 245 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley, Maryland 21031. Follow me by my trail of Twitter-droppings, and if you happen to be there, please say hallo!

Cmar is also… Thom Cmar, NRDC Staff Attorney

There are, of course, other people carrying the surname Cmar in this world. One of them is my brother, who in this video gives an excellent accounting of what inspired him to enter his current legal career, and why he does what he does. Suffice it to say, I am proud.


The Cmar Beard Awards for 2010

(This is crossposted from my column at The Secret Lair. The original can be found here.)

And so, it has come to pass that we find ourselves in “awards season”, wherein fond looks are taken back at the prior year in media, and trophies are doled out for various forms of perceived excellence in movies, television, and music. Much attention is showered upon the festivities and celebrities involved, and much ado is paid to the recipients of said awards. That noted, the Grammys last weekend made one thing glaringly clear – beyond his inability to competently carry a tune or strum a guitar, Justin Bieber cannot grow an award-winning beard.

Now, it is time to give awards to those who can.

Every November, whoever shows up to shave and post a select group of Overlords and Minions come together to sacrifice facial smoothness for mammary health. The annual How Not To Grow A Beard Month event has grown from a mere bit of National Novel Writing Month inspired silliness, into a somewhat larger bit of silliness that has raised nearly $8000 over the past two years for breast cancer research. HoNoToGroABeMo 2010 was the largest yet, both in terms of total donations and number of participants. Pete DiLillo and his lush man-thicket ended up dominating the donation race, earning him the title of current, reigning, and defending Champion of HoNoToGroABeMo. Witness his half-shorn shock:

Oh the horror, image by Pete DiLillo via
Oh the horror!!, image by Pete DiLillo via

Bob’s recap sums up the experience, and as a participant, I will add my own effusive thanks to all who donated. Their generosity for our boob-buffoonery was amazing.

All that said, it is time to bestow The Cmar Beard Awards for HoNoToGroABeMo 2010. These have nothing to do with any donations received, and everything to do with the glorious pictography of crackling virility hedges:

  • Best Beard Photo: There were many entries during the month that stood out for creativity, humor, or photographic skill, but the trophy for best beardy picture goes to Jim Van Verth for Day 14: Abra-abra-cadabra. The facial contorting, posing, and expression convey that he’s not only gonna getcha, but he’s gonna getcha in a way you may never recover from. This is Mr. Van Verth’s second year in a row winning this category, so step it up, gents.
  • I want to reach out and grab ya, photo by Jim Van Verth via
    I want to reach out and grab ya, photo by Jim Van Verth via
  • Man Most Exemplifying How Not To Grow A Beard: One might think that this would be the closest category to judge, but that turns out not to be the case. Even though he allowed his neck beard to stay strong this time around, for the second year in a row, Jeff Greiner takes the prize. C’mon gents, step it down and give him some competition.
  • One year ago today, image by Jeff Greiner via
    One year ago today, image by Jeff Greiner via
  • Best Time Lapse Photo Series: All participants were varied in their choice of poses on a daily basis, but only one of us had enough consistency of follicular posture and backdrop to take this category. Jason Penney, that would be you! (Click through to view the slideshow.)
  • Man Most Exemplifying How To Grow A Beard: As noted above, the ability of many of us to generate a thick face mane is somewhat surprising. While several of us were in the running, Adam Johnson gets the award by sprouting a 30 day untamed jaw jungle, even after some judicious trimming.
  • Got the shrubbery all trimmed on the neck, image by Adam Johnson via
    Got the shrubbery all trimmed on the neck, image by Adam Johnson via
  • Best Use Of Non-Facially Generated Props: Our overall champion, Pete, also is the obvious winner in this category, both for framing his beard on a daily basis with an endless supply of amazing headgear (click through for the slideshow), and for this epic hat-gasm on the final day:
  • Clearly I never win at Tetris, image by Pete DiLillo via
    Clearly I never win at Tetris, image by Pete DiLillo via
  • Daily Commitment To The Task: November is a busy month, and few find the time and the stamina to start on Day 1 and produce a post for all 30 days. Our founder, Bob, led the pack in this regard as he does each year, and finds himself co-accepting this award with Jeff, Pete, Jim, and Jeffery for 2010.
  • Best-Spun Beardy Yarns: Everyone strove to lay down some manner of words each day with their posts, and a few of us were able to tell some good tales. However, as clearly as he showed us how not to grow a beard, Jeff Greiner blew us all away with his sincere and excellent beardy yarns each day. With topics ranging from gaming to education, they are well worth your time to read.

Congratulations to all of the winners! To all the participants, it was a pleasure joining you once again in this endeavor, and to give recognition where recognition is due. To everyone else, I’ll merely note that only 257 days remain until HoNoToGroABeMo 2011, and this whole mad affair will start up again.

less than 24 hours to sponsor a beard to end breast cancer!

Beards Are Evil, cc by-nc image from jwelcher on Flickr
Beards Are Evil, cc by-nc image from jwelcher on Flickr

One of the worst side effects of my recent blog-neglect has been that I have not promoted, at all, my second year of participation in How Not To Grow A Beard Month. Today is the last day to donate, so if you can, please do – it’s for the excellent cause of funding research into curing breast cancer.

Scour the site, especially my own pics, and give generously if you are able. Both the beards, and the boobs, will be grateful.

making the rounds, la familia edition

in which i was not eaten by flying polyps


The Miskatonic University 2010 Australian Expedition has returned. I was not mind-jacked by Yithians. I did have a scare in which I was sure I was being attacked by flying polyps, but they were merely birds – friendly, if a bit aggressive:

more birds, image via jvsquare on Flickr
more birds, image via jvsquare on Flickr

The trip was a blast, while the post trip jetlag was less so. Autopsy reports, of course, will be forthcoming.

How was your September?

weekly rounds

Matt Wallace and Mur Lafferty, cc by-nc-sa image from nlowell on Flickr
Matt Wallace and Mur Lafferty, cc by-nc-sa image from nlowell on Flickr
  • That shift in the universe you felt this past weekend? Yup. That was reality taking a moment to revere the birth-anniversaries of Matt and Mur, as is only right and proper.
  • Even though Balticon feels like it ended only a few days ago, ReConStruction and Aussiecon 4 loom ever closer. I must prepare. You may tremble if you choose… it is recommended.

fortnightly rounds

Janet Biggs: Nobody Rides for Free, via Janet Biggs on Facebook
Janet Biggs: Nobody Rides for Free, via Janet Biggs on Facebook
  • Laura and I had the chance to meet up with my never-before-met cousin Bob and his wife Janet last weekend, among other Cmar relations. Janet has a damn cool solo video and photography exhibit at Connor Contemporary Art in Washington DC entitled Nobody Rides For Free. From the announcement:

    Conner Contemporary Art is pleased to announce Janet Biggs’ first solo exhibition with the gallery, Nobody Rides for Free.

    In new video and photographs, Biggs delves into the desire to explore remote lands. To create this work, the artist embarked on an expedition in the high Arctic, traveling aboard an ice-class, 2-masted schooner, built in 1910. During the voyage, Biggs filmed Fade to White, focusing on a crew member as he navigated the ship through iceberg filled seas, and paddled a kayak past glacier walls and polar bears.

    As she photographed the explorer, Biggs tested her own will and endurance. The visual tension of her uncompromising imagery bespeaks their mutual struggle to maintain balance and purpose. Yet, the video also reveals the use of extensive rigging, exposing the myth of the solitary white male explorer. Biggs explains, “The desire to hold onto the notion of the ‘great white north’ as a blank space awaiting interpretation only reinforces the idea of the colonial polar hero. The ‘virgin’ north has now been mapped, surveyed, and mined, but increased knowledge has not replaced endless fantasies of discovery.”

    Loss and change are implicit in the video’s title, Fade to White, which refers to an editing technique used to evoke death or transcendence. Biggs integrated her Arctic imagery with sound and video footage of counter tenor John Kelly, whose age, androgyny, and mournful voice parallel the vanishing Arctic landscape and signal the waning of male dominance.

    Vanishing Point, the artist’s recent video featuring biker Leslie Porterfield and the Harlem Addicts Rehabilitation Center Choir, will be on view in the media room.

    The exhibit will run through July 30, so if you are in the DC area, be sure to swing by Connor and check it out.

  • Balticon approacheth this weekend. You have been warned. And will likely be warned again in more detail, within the next couple of days.
  • Over on the GLF, I note two soon-to-open beer establishments in the area – the Biergarten Haus, DC’s first traditional German beer garden, and De Kleine Duivel, a “classic Belgian brasseire” in Baltimore.
  • Laura @ the San Diego Science Festival

    San Diego Science Festival 2010

    The San Diego Science Festival is going on as I type this, and will be bringing the awesome with SCIENCE all this week. A bit of context from their site:

    The San Diego Science Festival strives to create exciting and interactive experiences that showcase the remarkable science of greater San Diego, a community recognized as one of the Nation’s scientific leaders. Our wide variety of programs and events inspire all ages, with a special focus on building a pipeline of future scientists and STEM thought-leaders.

    The University of California, San Diego is lead organizer for the second annual San Diego Science Festival (, a week of community events designed to focus awareness on the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. This year’s Festival will take place March 20-27, culminating in a Science EXPO Day at PETCO Park on Saturday, March 27.

    The Festival’s EXPO Day is planned to inspire San Diego’s youth to pursue science-oriented education and careers. Parents and families are encouraged to attend, as are all members of the San Diego community. With the theme of “Excite Your Mind,” EXPO events will include over 150 hands-on science exhibits for attendees of all ages, a Rubik’s Cube Speed Tournament involving 45 local school teams, a science-inspired art show and even the dissection of real brain specimens. Last year, over 50,000 people took part in the San Diego Science Festival EXPO Day activities alone.

    Amidst the amazing number of events going on, I am vastly tickled that Laura has been invited as a guest to host the Star Party tomorrow night! Behold:


    In addition to hosting the Star Party (including a discussion of the latest news about the James Webb Space Telescope) tomorrow, Laura will also be speaking about Citizen Science at the massive Expo Day on Saturday. For details about these and all the other excellent activities, check out their site, hit them up on the Facebook, and follow them on Twitter. Most importantly, if you are in the area, stop by and bask in the radiant beauty of SCIENCE.

    weekly rounds

    • I think Laura said it best:

      Hello Feb 1! Can I pretend that this is the start of 2010 and that January didn’t happen?

      And so I shall leave it at that.

    • Apple also happened to announce a shiny new thing this past week. Ken encapsulates exactly why I’d want one, while Chris examines why the iPad (and, to a lesser extent, the entire Apple product line) are less “computers” and more “appliances”… and why that may be a bad thing.