Stupid O’Clock on a Saturday

I’m here.

Because I like events and Best Buy throws a heck of a Grand Opening party. I arrived at 6:30am and am about 25th in line. The first people in line arrived at 2:30am; they came straight from the bar after closing time. I’ve met the people in front of me; they’re here to try for the chauffeured ride to today’s University of Minnesota vs. Northwestern game (everyone wearing maroon and gold is eligible to win that). They’re big football fans; the guy traveled to Iowa last weekend to watch the Gophers play.

Free breakfast is at 7:30am, doors open at 9am. Wrist bands and bags containing gift cards go out sometime between those two. One of the first 300 people will get a $1000 card, everyone else gets $10, free breakfast and first access to sale items.

If I win the $1000 gift card I’m going to buy camera equipment. Or a PS3. Yeah, maybe a PS3. But probably a new lens and some filters. Oooo…or an iPad. I kinda want a free iPad.

What would you buy?

Stupid O’Clock on a Saturday
{advertisement}

Stupid O'Clock on a Saturday

I’m here.

Because I like events and Best Buy throws a heck of a Grand Opening party. I arrived at 6:30am and am about 25th in line. The first people in line arrived at 2:30am; they came straight from the bar after closing time. I’ve met the people in front of me; they’re here to try for the chauffeured ride to today’s University of Minnesota vs. Northwestern game (everyone wearing maroon and gold is eligible to win that). They’re big football fans; the guy traveled to Iowa last weekend to watch the Gophers play.

Free breakfast is at 7:30am, doors open at 9am. Wrist bands and bags containing gift cards go out sometime between those two. One of the first 300 people will get a $1000 card, everyone else gets $10, free breakfast and first access to sale items.

If I win the $1000 gift card I’m going to buy camera equipment. Or a PS3. Yeah, maybe a PS3. But probably a new lens and some filters. Oooo…or an iPad. I kinda want a free iPad.

What would you buy?

Stupid O'Clock on a Saturday

Twin Cities – Get Involved TONIGHT!

There are a couple of interesting-looking events happening in Minneapolis this evening:

Minnesota Voter Identification Amendment – Community Awareness/Education Event

Congressman Keith Ellison is hosting a community forum and panel discussion to discuss the Minnesota Voter Identification Amendment that will be on the Minnesota ballot this fall. Representative Ellison is encouraging constituents to come out and learn about “the dangerous photo ID constitutional amendment and how you can take action to defeat it.”

The forum is taking place tonight from 6:00 – 8:00pm at the Sabes Jewish Community Center, which is located at 4330 Cedar Lake Road S, St. Louis Park, MN 55416. Click here for a map. For last minute questions you can contact [email protected] or call (612) 522-4416.

Dr. Eugenie Scott at the University of Minnesota

Dr. Eugenie Scott will present a free public forum on “Climate Science in Schools: The Next Evolution”. The event is tonight at 7pm and will be held in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Cowles Auditorium (301 19th Ave S , Minneapolis, MN). Here’s the write up about Dr. Scott that I found at the Minnesota Atheists meetup group:

Dr. Eugenie Scott, is the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). For the past 30 years NCSE has primarily focused on defending the teaching of evolution in the classroom. In 2012, in response to complaints from teachers that they were coming under fire for teaching global warming and other climate change concepts, NCSE decided to support the teaching of climate change in addition to evolution.

Scott has been both a researcher and an activist in the creationism/evolution controversy for over twenty-five years, and can address the nature of science in education. She launched NCSE’s new climate initiative in January 2012 and has appeared on a number of media outlets, including NPR’s Science Friday, The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, and more. She holds a PhD and eight honorary degrees.

Event sponsored by the Will Steger Foundation and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs’ Center for Science, Technology and Public Policy.

There’s never a dull moment around this place!

Twin Cities – Get Involved TONIGHT!

6 O'Clock BS – I Am Your Dancing Monkey

Okay!  I’m starting to get a little nervous and super excited about tomorrow’s Blogathon to benefit the Secular Student Alliance’s SSA Week.

My first post will be up at 6am CST, and I’ll be posting every 30 minutes after that for a full 24 HOURS!

I have a list of topics that I could write about (but nothing pre-written or pre-scheduled!), and a few gimmicks that I’m looking forward to rolling out. I’m not going to give away (hint: GIVE AWAY <—subtlety!) all of them here, but I wanted to introduce a couple of ideas tonight.

The first person to comment on my 6am post tomorrow morning gets awarded the Golden Coffee Bean. There’s no physical prize, just bragging rights. Also you have to make me coffee. Well, you have to at least pretend like you’re making it for me (shhh…I’ll never know the difference!). This doesn’t financially support the SSA; I just want to see a friendly face at tomorrow’s kick off. But speaking of…

ZOMG DONATE TO SSA!

Donate early. Donate often. I want your money! $5, $10, $25, $50, $50,000 (thanks, Todd Stiefel!) – whatever you can give in support of the SSA and its mission of supporting secular students, secular student groups and scientific and critical thought in our schools. That’s why we’re all doing this, right?

And this is where the “I am Your Dancing Monkey” part comes in.

When you donate, there is a place at the bottom of the form that allows you to leave a “topic suggestion” for a given blogger. It looks like this:

Donors choice. I will write about – or do (where’s that video camera?) – a good many things to earn your monies during my 24-hour blogathon. Write your suggestion in the box and I’ll try to make it happen.

Myself, I have two other ideas (other than blogging topics) of how you can use that space if you’re contributing to the Biodork blogathon:

1) Tell me WHERE to blog! I like this one and hope someone makes use of it. My blog tagline is “Thoughts from the big cherry”, which is a reference to the Spoonbridge and Cherry at the Walker Art Center. I love my adopted city and I love exploring it. You pick the place and I will scramble to get there in between blog posts. Don’t know the area? Jump on Google Maps or search for “Minneapolis landmarks” or similar. Pick a place and I’ll get there.

So here’s how it works. Donate a minimum of $10 to SSA and in the “Topic Suggestion” box write “Visit” and a place that is a) in Minneapolis, b) can be found if I google it, and c) is easily accessible to the public. No residential or private addresses please. Businesses, landmarks, etc. are cool. I will blog from that spot and put up a photo of me on location. I can’t promise that I’ll make it everywhere during the blogathon, but if you submit a location suggestion, I will try. I’m going to cap “travel blogs” at six locations so I can do some actual writing instead of spending all of my time driving around. If I don’t make it to your spot during the blogathon, I will do a wrap up post of those locations that were missed and have it up within one week.

2) Tell me to write about YOU! Do you want me to write a story about you and how badass, sweet and mild-mannered, supervillany or just plain AWESOME you are? I’m fairly decent at writing fictional, off-the-cuff stories, and it would be my honor to make up a fictional story about you! If you donate a minimum of $10 to the SSA I will write and post your story (approx. 250-500 words) during the blogathon. In the Topic Suggestion box write “Story About Me” and (this is important) include five words that you want me to include in your story (psst – they don’t have to be words that describe you – they can be any random words you want!)

Housekeeping note: If you donate and have made a request of me, and want to really, really make sure I see it, the best thing to do is to forward me your SSA donation email receipt (or send me a copy-paste of the relevant information). An administrator is going to be forwarding me requests as they come in, but the admin may not be on the clock for the full 24 hours. You can reach me at [email protected]

You can start sending in requests any time. Aaaaaany time between now and 6am this Sunday morning. Well, it’s over at six, so let’s cap requests at 5am Sunday morning.

That’s a lot, I know. And I’m planning on doing some serious writing in between all of the silliness! I am very much looking forward to this wild ride, and hope you choose to spend some of it with me.

Okay. It’s time to go buy energy drinks!

6 O'Clock BS – I Am Your Dancing Monkey

6 O’Clock BS – I Am Your Dancing Monkey

Okay!  I’m starting to get a little nervous and super excited about tomorrow’s Blogathon to benefit the Secular Student Alliance’s SSA Week.

My first post will be up at 6am CST, and I’ll be posting every 30 minutes after that for a full 24 HOURS!

I have a list of topics that I could write about (but nothing pre-written or pre-scheduled!), and a few gimmicks that I’m looking forward to rolling out. I’m not going to give away (hint: GIVE AWAY <—subtlety!) all of them here, but I wanted to introduce a couple of ideas tonight.

The first person to comment on my 6am post tomorrow morning gets awarded the Golden Coffee Bean. There’s no physical prize, just bragging rights. Also you have to make me coffee. Well, you have to at least pretend like you’re making it for me (shhh…I’ll never know the difference!). This doesn’t financially support the SSA; I just want to see a friendly face at tomorrow’s kick off. But speaking of…

ZOMG DONATE TO SSA!

Donate early. Donate often. I want your money! $5, $10, $25, $50, $50,000 (thanks, Todd Stiefel!) – whatever you can give in support of the SSA and its mission of supporting secular students, secular student groups and scientific and critical thought in our schools. That’s why we’re all doing this, right?

And this is where the “I am Your Dancing Monkey” part comes in.

When you donate, there is a place at the bottom of the form that allows you to leave a “topic suggestion” for a given blogger. It looks like this:

Donors choice. I will write about – or do (where’s that video camera?) – a good many things to earn your monies during my 24-hour blogathon. Write your suggestion in the box and I’ll try to make it happen.

Myself, I have two other ideas (other than blogging topics) of how you can use that space if you’re contributing to the Biodork blogathon:

1) Tell me WHERE to blog! I like this one and hope someone makes use of it. My blog tagline is “Thoughts from the big cherry”, which is a reference to the Spoonbridge and Cherry at the Walker Art Center. I love my adopted city and I love exploring it. You pick the place and I will scramble to get there in between blog posts. Don’t know the area? Jump on Google Maps or search for “Minneapolis landmarks” or similar. Pick a place and I’ll get there.

So here’s how it works. Donate a minimum of $10 to SSA and in the “Topic Suggestion” box write “Visit” and a place that is a) in Minneapolis, b) can be found if I google it, and c) is easily accessible to the public. No residential or private addresses please. Businesses, landmarks, etc. are cool. I will blog from that spot and put up a photo of me on location. I can’t promise that I’ll make it everywhere during the blogathon, but if you submit a location suggestion, I will try. I’m going to cap “travel blogs” at six locations so I can do some actual writing instead of spending all of my time driving around. If I don’t make it to your spot during the blogathon, I will do a wrap up post of those locations that were missed and have it up within one week.

2) Tell me to write about YOU! Do you want me to write a story about you and how badass, sweet and mild-mannered, supervillany or just plain AWESOME you are? I’m fairly decent at writing fictional, off-the-cuff stories, and it would be my honor to make up a fictional story about you! If you donate a minimum of $10 to the SSA I will write and post your story (approx. 250-500 words) during the blogathon. In the Topic Suggestion box write “Story About Me” and (this is important) include five words that you want me to include in your story (psst – they don’t have to be words that describe you – they can be any random words you want!)

Housekeeping note: If you donate and have made a request of me, and want to really, really make sure I see it, the best thing to do is to forward me your SSA donation email receipt (or send me a copy-paste of the relevant information). An administrator is going to be forwarding me requests as they come in, but the admin may not be on the clock for the full 24 hours. You can reach me at [email protected]

You can start sending in requests any time. Aaaaaany time between now and 6am this Sunday morning. Well, it’s over at six, so let’s cap requests at 5am Sunday morning.

That’s a lot, I know. And I’m planning on doing some serious writing in between all of the silliness! I am very much looking forward to this wild ride, and hope you choose to spend some of it with me.

Okay. It’s time to go buy energy drinks!

6 O’Clock BS – I Am Your Dancing Monkey

SSA Week Twitter Challenge Results

I know that y’all were up at midnight central time, waiting with bated breath to see the results of my SSA Week Twitter Challenge, and as such you’ve already seen these tweets, but I thought I’d put ’em up here again. You know, for posterity. Or something.

Last night (this morning) I immediately went to the SSA Week contribution form and sent in our donation. We did it! Thanks everyone for making my Twitter Challenge a success!

Later today I’ll be posting about my impending upcoming blogathon. T-20.5 hours until BLOGATHON!!!

SSA Week Twitter Challenge Results

Skepticon 5 T-Shirts are (almost) here!

You know you want one.

Just click on the image below. And if you enter FtBFtW in the Special Code section you get a free gift. No, I don’t know what it is. But I’m going to find out!

T-shirts will go into production by July or whenever they reach 75 shirts ordered. So the sooner everyone orders, the sooner we all get our shirts. And FYI – last year they sold out of almost every size long before the event.

Continue reading “Skepticon 5 T-Shirts are (almost) here!”

Skepticon 5 T-Shirts are (almost) here!

Calculus: The Musical

On Tuesday a friend invite me to join him for a show at Huge Improv Theater called Calculus: The Musical. It was a small production. Two actors portrayed many different characters, there was no intermission, and there were several frenzied costume changes during the show. Both actors played guitar at points, and one had several pieces on an electric keyboard. It had all the elements that I love in a musical comedy: Witty characters, fast-paced dialogue and action, a dash of slapstick, various overdone accents, a multimedia presentation, a blending of musical styles (from classical to rap and a lot in between), and a man playing Sir Isaac Newton talking to a little action figure of himself (“Little Isaac”) and then having the action figure answer back in a higher-pitched version of his true voice. Okay, that last was specific to Calculus: The Musical and not at all something I look for in musical comedies.

As the name might imply to those among you who are particularly quick-witted, it was about calculus. As a mathphobe who never made it all the way through a calculus course I was worried that all of the jokes would go right over my head. I did miss some of them; several times my friend’s giggling indicated that something humorous had transpired on stage after some dialoguey gobbledygook about derivitives, functions, limits and infinite series. But the writer managed to incorporate calculus without making the storyline completely unintelligible to the uninitiated.

You can listen to songs from the musical at maththeater.com. Here are the lyrics from the only song that I can actually claim to have understood entirely. It’s called 5 Sizes of Numbers:

There are 5 sizes of numbers,
Big Infinity and small Zero,
And the Finite in the middle,
They’re the ones, I’m sure you know.

But now we look between Finite and Zero.
To numbers so small, they’re nothing at all,
But still a little larger than a Zero.
Their name is Infinitesimal.

On the other side of Finite,
There are numbers too large to say,
Infinites are what we call them,
They are big, in every way.

But they will never quite be Infinity,
They’re not quite as big, not even close.
We’ll use all of these numbers in Cal-cu-lus,
The numbers, I love the most.

It only gets nerdier from there. They have a song about Bernhard Reimann in the style of Eminem’s Without Me. Just sayin’.

Calculus: The Musical has been touring nationally for six years, and it stopped in Minneapolis only for a couple of days. But they have shows scheduled from now through May of 2012 in different parts of the country. I had a good time, maybe even learned a thing or two, and it reminded me that I really need to stop procrastinating and start reading that copy of Jennifer Ouellette’s Calculus Diaries that I got for Christmas and have left languishing on my bookshelf for the last year!

Calculus: The Musical

Minneapolis Chevy Sonic Adventure

On Saturday I participated in the Minneapolis Chevy Sonic Adventure. I posted about the race last week, and since then I’ve had people emailing me for more information. Apparently the race is going to be held in several cities across the U.S., and enterprising individuals are looking for clues or trying to decide if they want to get in on the action. I’m not going to share specific clues that we given here on the blog, but I’ve made a couple of lists about my experience with the Minneapolis race.

Top Ten Highlights

1) It was FUN. I had a really good time.This was an enjoyable scavenger hunt, especially for someone like me who enjoys logic games, friendly competition, a little exercise, and exploring.

2) Well-organized start. The starting location was huge and there was plenty of room for people to leave the park at their own pace when the race opened up. There was no craziness or fear of being trampled as people raced out of the area. Not getting trampled was a nice way to start the day.

3) The clues were really quite well done. I was worried that the challenges would either be too easy or impossible, but the people who were responsible for creating the clues for Minneapolis managed to make them challenging without being frustrating. We didn’t have to know the city to figure out the clues, but it did help to have a general sense of direction of where we were and where we were headed.

4) We got some exercise. My partner and I walked several miles on Saturday, which was lovely because the weather was PERFECT – sunny, a gentle breeze and somewhere in the low 70s.

5) I love group activities. The organizers handed out pale pink shirts with the logos all of the supporters written on the back. When we were walking around the city we’d run into each other and there was a sense of camaraderie. Also, there was a bit of hint-helping – you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. No one that we ran into were super-competitive jerks, and most of the teams were smiling and laughing. It felt nice to be part of the group. And one amusing thing about 500 people running around the city in pink shirts was that it confused the crap out the cabbies and other downtown Minneapolis regulars.

6) Seeing the city with new eyes. I’m pretty familiar with downtown Minneapolis, but I discovered new parks, landmarks and stores that I had never noticed or paid attention to before participating in the race.

7) They planned ahead with the no-bike rule. The organizers did not allow bikes or other wheeled transportation (with the exception of medically necessary wheelchairs). There were up to 500 people racing around crowded downtown Minneapolis on a Saturday afternoon. I am so grateful that no one from our group was on bikes; that would have been a nightmare with the pedestrian and car traffic.

8 ) Well-organized ending. When the game was over, the app and text number were disabled. It was a very clear message that the game was over and it was time to head back to HQ.

9) Treats and Prizes! At our game the organizers had a bunch of different kinds of granola bars, fruit snacks, candies and water waiting for us at the end of the race (totally not expected as we hadn’t paid an entry fee). And at our location, one of the local radio stations helped sponsored the event and handed out some swag by random drawing. Finally, the organizers awarded tickets for local events, an MP3 player and a couple of digital cameras to the top eight finishers. I’m not sure what the first runner-up won, but…

10) Someone actually won a freaking car! As I mentioned in my earlier post, the details for the race were quite vague. There was a statement about how participants might win a new Chevy Sonic. My partner and I thought maybe the top winner would get entered into a drawing, or maybe someone would have to hit a certain number of points to win the car, but no. At the end of the race they actually gave away a car to what I’m assuming was the team who ranked the highest in points. That was really neat.

Top Five Disappointments

1) Crowd control during registration. The race was advertised as starting at 11am. We showed up at 10:30 to register and were told that registration didn’t open until 11am (oh, that’s what they meant by starting at 11am). There was no help for queuing up, so at about 10:50 everyone started bunching up and pressing into a huddle around the reg tent. When emcee announced that registration was open the crowd surged toward the table. A couple of orderly lines eventually formed, but not without some shoving, nudging, elbowing, grumbling and generally jerkiness. It took the organizers over an hour to register everyone and we didn’t leave the park until sometime after noon.

2) Runners had the advantage. The name of the game seemed to be hit the most number of clues (and correctly answer them). Those who were able to keep up a steady jog made it to more places. I’m not saying that it was unfair, but those who were used to walking or jogging for long periods of time definitely had an advantage.

3) SCVNGR sucked it up BIG TIME. Don’t get me wrong – the SCVNGR app is really well designed. We pulled it up at the start of the race and all of the  locations were mapped out and the clues were all listed. We planned a route that would cover the greatest number of points in the most direct lines. The app was beautiful. And then the f*cking thing crashed. They weren’t ready for the traffic and we ran into many groups who were having trouble getting the map and clues to refresh or open up. We eventually switched over to the text mode of playing, but we lost a lot of time and a few clues in the process, and…

4) The text message mode of play is at a big disadvantage to the SCVNGR app. The text message mode of play was more reliable than the SCVNGR app for us, but WAY more inefficient. With texting we were sent to one location at a time and we couldn’t pick or choose which location it would send us to. We were sent back and forth across several blocks and had no ability to plan our route. E.g. – it sent us to 7th Street, then up to 10th street, then back down to 8th Street, then to 10th street again. That was frustrating. If they wanted to make the race more even, they would limit everyone to use of text messaging.

5) Battery Life!!! My phone had a 2% charge left at the end of the race. If it had gone any longer we would have had to stop and charge up or throw in the towel. All answers were tied to one phone – not an account that you could log in to from anywhere – so once we had started answering questions, we needed to keep using the same device.

Conclusion: DO IT.

Overall it was a GREAT day and I would recommend the race to anyone and everyone who likes this kind of competitive gaming. The few annoying things were not enough to ruin the overall awesomeness of the event. The thing that made participation a no-brainer for me was the free entry. For $0 from all of us the organizers provided a wonderful afternoon of entertainment, plus a free t-shirt, snacks and prizes.

I would suggest getting a bunch of teams together that all know each other. My teammate and I didn’t know anybody else, so we were our own little world of two. Teams were strictly limited to two people, but there were a couple of larger groups of two-person teams who all sat together before and after the race, and I imagine they had fun running into each other downtown and competing against each other.

And, you actually have a pretty decent chance of winning a car. In Minneapolis the challenge was limited to 250 teams, and one of those teams won a car. If you consider that some of the groups that pre-registered probably didn’t show up, that means each team had a better than 1:250 chance of winning the grand prize. Those are better odds than most of us will probably ever have of winning a car in other types of contests (radio call-in contests, raffles, etc.).

There are photos and video of the event over at the official Minneapolis Chevy Sonic Adventure website. And knowing what I know now…there are some clues about the types of questions and answers you might expect if the Chevy Sonic Adventure comes to your town!

Minneapolis Chevy Sonic Adventure

Dragon*Con

First, if you follow me on twitter or facebook, I must apologize. I just went and dropped this Dragon*Con chaos on you with very little warning. So if it’s been annoying, I do hope you laughingly shrugged off all of the dozens of wacky, zany status updates and ignored me.

If, however, you have been vicariously experiencing Dragon*Con through my updates…this event is AWESOME! (Here’s where you say, “I know, RIGHT???”)

I originally came to Dragon*Con, strangely enough, not because of my scifi/fantasy nerdiness, but because I heard about it through my involvement with skeptic podcasts, blogs and groups. I had thought that I would spend most of my time in the room dedicated to the Skeptic track. And don’t get me wrong, I could have. But this. is. DRAGON*CON!

DRAGON*CON!!!!

Or shoot, no, I meant:

DRAGON*KHAAAAAAAN!

Okay, enough of that specific brand of silliness.

So, because Dragon*Con has all sorts of sci-fi/fantasy/science/gaming/pop culture offerings I have found a whole slew of interesting panels to attend. I’ve managed to go to panels in four out of the five hotels and have hit six different fan tracks: Skeptics, Podcasting, Main Programming, American Sci-Fi Media, Anne McCaffery’s Worlds, and British Sci-Fi Media. I’m a little proud of myself.

I could spend a couple or three hundred words telling you how thought-provoking the Coming Out Skeptical (JT Eberhard) and Everything Evolves (Dr. Eugenie Scott) panels were, or how exciting it was to be in the front row for the Paul and Storm Talk About Some Stuff for Five Minutes podcast, how neat it was to be in the same room as Gates McFadden and Brent Spiner for a Star Trek Q&A, and later to see Eddie McClintock from Warehouse 13, Felicia Day, Amy Okuda, Robin Thorsen, and a bunch of other famous people in the autograph room, how suprisingly pleased I was with The Ship Who Sang reading which had a full cast of people playing characters (including Anne McCaffery’s son Todd McCaffery) and made me cry like a baby, how fun it was to participate in the British Sci-Fi Media fan-led panel on all things Neil Gaiman, and how super excited I was to get a good seat for the live podcast of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe.  

But we all know that you mostly want to see pictures.

Here’s me – Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree!

I had fun in the Marriot – a suprising number of people recognized me as The Giving Tree, a bunch of other people yelled “A shrubbery!” (from The Holy Grail), only two people guessed that I was an Ent (from Lord of the Rings), and a lot of people wanted to take photos with me. I actually scared a few people because I was standing against a wall and they thought I was a lobby plant until they met my eyes, which I found hi-larious! Unfortunately, I underestimated my ability to move around the uber-crowded public areas and almost took out a few eyes with my pointy tree branches. It was nerve-wracking, and I really needed a handler. Also, finding room in the hotel elevators was pretty hellish. Overall, though, it was a good experience and I enjoyed walking around in costume.

And here’s some of the other amazing costumes. Amazing. Really, really fascinatingly amazing. Enjoy.

Characters: Han Solo frozen in carbonite, Princess Leia, Jigsaw, Not sure who the dragon and guy in the tech suit are, Queen of Hearts, Characters from Batman universe, Harley Quinn, Bat Women, K-9 (Doctor Who), Iron Men and Woman, Beaker, Flasher C3-PO, 9, Robotic Flying Shark, Nyan Mouse, Death (Sandman), R2-D2, Superman with young Yoda and Batman, Waldo, Freaky Clowns, Zelda (Delirium from Sandman in background), Unknown characters in front of a TARDIS, Brent Spiner and Gates McFadden at a Star Trek Q&A (okay, not technically “characters”, but awesome enough to get a photo in the slideshow).

Dragon*Con