Today at Balticon, I will be involved in the following discussions:
It’s A Pandemic! at 10:30am – panel on pandemics & how they are successfully (or not) translated into games & media, such as the board game Pandemic. Since this is on the Gaming track, it will be immediately followed by a bunch of people playing… yes, Pandemic. Greatness, this.
Quantum Dots: The Medical Applications at 2pm
Attack of the Flying Syringes at 4pm – everything you wanted to know about mosquito-borne viruses, and yes, we will be talking Zika
Well, Balticon ended up being a bust, as I (possibly, with irony) came down with an awful respiratory plague in the 24 hours prior to the con starting. Which amounts to Pre-Con Crud, perhaps? I was medicated aplenty and manage to soldier through my Skeptical Journal Club talk Friday night, but afterwards slunk back to the hotel, febrile, and ended up not meaningfully making it back to the con all weekend. No good. To top it off, Laura came down with the same thing as well shortly after her Women In Science panel, and then entered quarantine with me for the remainder of the con.
That said, my Skeptical Journal Club seemed well-received (with some lessons on my end to tweak things for future iterations), and Laura’s talk had rave reviews, so that was a win.
Not being Patient Zero at Balticon due to self-isolation? An even bigger win.
Fast forwarding to the present, we have just arrived at Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, which is in smokey downtown Spokane in Washington state. Neither of us are on any panels this time around, which means we can relax and enjoy the festivities unfettered, especially the Hugo Awards ceremony, which should be… interesting. If you are unfamiliar with the situation surrounding the Hugos this year, I’ll point you to this post from John Scalzi, which will tell you of and link you to plenty of details. In very brief summary, given that the Hugos are based on popular voting, this year a group of folks gamed the system to ensure a specific slate of finalists made the final nominee cut; the people who engineering this slate have a certain specific vision of what themes should be more represented in science fiction and fantasy literature; that vision appears to be rather negative towards the emphasis of diverse gender and racial topics, in many cases; the general SF&F community is rather upset the finalist list; this has led to people of “both sides” of the issue behaving very badly online; the result could be the first Hugo Awards where the general voting public may vote No Award in multiple categories instead of voting for the candidates associated with the slate. So, it will be… interesting… to see how all this plays out.
For those of you attending my first panel at Balticon tomorrow, here are the links to the two journal articles I will be discussing during The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Medical Studies: A Skeptical Journal Club at 4pm. Paper copies (ancient technology, I am aware) will be available at the panel itself. Both are from open-access journals, so are free to access without paying or signing in.
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 …
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 was a rather enjoyable time, as always. Here’s the Monsters versus Aliens panel, which saw me leading into the final question, but ultimately lose because 1. I was a fool and didn’t prep correctly, and 2. no one defeats Scott Sigler in a movie reviews contest when Matt Wallace isn’t in the room:
I will be at Balticon this weekend at the Hunt Valley Inn in, uh, Hunt Valley, MD, talking all manner of science-y things. My official stuff includes:
Friday, 5:00pm – Monsters Versus Aliens – The indefatigable Bruce Press shall lead a panel comprised of A. Kovacs, Scott Sigler, and yours truly on an @Midnight-style competition based off science and skeptical topics recently in the news.
Saturday, 5pm – In The Hot Seat – Possibly the most random panel ever, in which a motley collection of authors and science-types are assembled to attempt to answer any question posed to us.
Monday, 9am – SYPHILIS~!, Or, I Know What You Did Last Night – At long last, I will be giving a solo talk on my all-time favorite infectious disease.
Monday, 11am – Medicine In Science Fiction – A group of us shall rant/discuss/enumerate on the right and the wrong of incorporating medical science into speculative fiction.
Monday, 2pm – Dealing With Drug Addiction In Science Fiction – A panel of us will chat about the good, bad, and the ugly of dealing with the topic of drug addiction in speculative fiction.
Friday 6:00 pm – Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Vaccines – What is HPV beyond “that virus that can cause cervical cancer”? What is the latest on the HPV vaccines and the controversy that surrounds them? (M): John Cmar
Saturday, 1:00 pm – Games for The “Non-Gamer” – Did you ever want to play a game that is fun but does not require too much thinking? Come learn about games that take little or no skill but will make you laugh and have a great time. (M): Ann Rudolph, (S): John Cmar
Sunday, 6:00 pm – Secret Lair Design For Minions 101 – In this highly informative educational session, the staff of the Secret Lair will work with the audience to design and implement traps and countermeasures to keep those meddling heroes out of The Secret Lair. Special Guest Star Jared Axelrod will play the part of The Hero, describing how he would attempt to break into The Lair. The audience (minions) will have to assist the Lair staff in designing traps to foil the hero. (M): Chris Miller, (S): John Cmar, Jared Axelrod
Sunday, 8:00 pm – The Secret Lair Live! – Join Overlord Chris Miller and Doctor John Cmar for a live recording of The Secret Lair. Surprise guests! Games! Shetland-Bonobo Pony rides! Fun for all ages! (M): Chris Miller, John Cmar
Monday, 10:00am – International Space University: 25 years of fostering cooperation in space – The International Space University is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Learn from a graduate about this interdisciplinary, international, and intercultural space educational program. (M): Laura Burns
Monday, 1:00 pm – The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Panel – Stay Alive, Our panel of experts will tell you how they plan to make it through the impending zombie apocalypse. (M): Paul Elard Cooley, (S): Gary L. Lester, Doc Coleman, Brennan Taylor, John Cmar
Balticon is incoming this weekend, and for the 10th year in a row – that’s rather scary to contemplate, actually – I will be in attendance. According to the official schedule, I will be offering equal measures of wisdom and snark on the following panels:
Alien Sex: What Could Go Wrong? – 5/27/11 9:00 PM – No matter what kind of life we find out there, you know someone is going to want to #$%* it. What could go wrong?
Extending Human Lifespan – 5/28/11 10:00 AM – Panelists discuss scientific advances in expanding human lifespan as well as the ramifications of humans living longer lives.
Unlikely Disasters to Plan For – 5/28/11 10:00 PM – So much attention is paid to how one might survive the zombie apocalypse or robot uprising. But aren’t there a whole lot of other things we should be planning for? How about mole men? Insect sentience? Or grey goo? Join our panel of possible-apocalypses scholars enumerate the conceivable threats. We might even have time to figure out how to survive one or two! Audience participation encouraged!
The TRUTH About Adult Content – 5/29/11 3:00 PM – We’ve all seen the signs. “Warning: Adult Content.” “Not Safe For Work.” “Men’s Restroom.” But how many of us know the TRUTH behind these slightly ajar doors of forbidden knowledge? What, if anything, is contained inside an adult? How sexy is danger in the workplace? Does anyone really rest in those rooms? These answers and more will plunged, examined and ultimately ignored as Doctor John Cmar (a real doctor!), Professor Jared Axelrod (not a real professor!) and Commodore Christiana Ellis (up for debate!) bring you the TRUTH about Adult Content.*
Medical Studies for the Non-medically Trained – 5/29/11 8:00 PM – Looking at the many pitfalls that go into medical research, why doctors can get it wrong, and why most media gets it worse.
Zombie Survival Plan: Have You Got Yours? – 5/30/11 12:00 PM – “They” are coming. Regardless of when the outbreak occurs, “They” will swiftly take over the planet and destroy civilization as we know it. As any movie or video gaming buff knows, “They” are the zombies, and they want to eat your brains. Will you be prepared when the apocalypse happens? Bring your plan so you can compare it with those of the master zombie survivalists on our panel.
If you want to catch the one thing that I’m most enthusiastic for, then please stop by my solo talk Sunday evening on Medical Studies for the Non-medically Trained. It will be far more interesting than the title might lead you to believe, and I expect that RANTING~! will occur. As to the others, I… really don’t know what to make of the alien sex panel, but it should, at least, be entertaining. As to The TRUTH About Adult Content, well, all I will say is that it is the sequel to the Truth About The Universe panel from last year. If you weren’t there to see it, then the best way to explain it is to show you (many thanks to Chooch for getting this online):
As is my wont, I will be attending Balticon this coming weekend. I have been pulled bodily into the following events:
Lessons From the Influenza Pandemic of 2009 (Saturday, 6pm, Salon A) – While it seems that the recent influenza pandemic is long past us, the truth is that we’re in the midst of post-outbreak data analysis, and new insights are hitting the news almost daily as a result of research being done on the 2009 pandemic. I’ll be changing this presentation up a bit from what I’ve given over the last few months, so even if you’ve heard me talk about this recently, be sure to stop by. (Note that this was just moved from it’s original timeslot of Sunday at 6pm.)
Baltimore Fan Culture (Saturday, 9pm, Derby) – I… really have no idea. Whatever we talk about, I’m sure it will be entertaining. And, perhaps, involve “refined libations.”
The TRUTH About the Universe (Sunday, 2pm, Chesapeake) – In which myself and Jared Axelrod will speak the truth, and nothing but the truth, for an hour, with the audio-visual assistance of Laura Burns and J. R. Blackwell. No lie. Except for the stuff we make up… which, uh, we won’t.
Story Improv (Sunday, 5pm, Chesapeake) – There will be authors, and me with a mic, and stories will be created on the fly. ’nuff said.