A Skepticon Retrospective: From Crasher to Speaker

I attended my first Skepticon in 2012. Jen McCreight happened to be in the same carpool as me. The night before, she told us that she had a workshop that she wasn’t quite into the idea of facilitating. I joked about taking it from her and she suggested that we could co-facilitate it. That workshop ended up going swimmingly and Jenn went from my hero to my hero and my friend.

Funnily enough, I crashed another workshop at last year’s Skepticon. Faisal Saeed Al Mutar did one on Islam and modernity. Due to technical issues, the original ex-Muslim woman he wanted to bring in for another perspective could not be Skyped in as planned, so he invited me to sit in with him for his Q&A. Towards the end of the weekend, I told Lauren Lane (one of the many tireless people who make Skepticon happen) that I ought to have my own workshop. That Monday, I emailed her with the subject line “First!” asking for one.

What I got was far, far more than that.

This past weekend, after months of anticipation, I attended my third Skepticon. It was the first where I facilitated my own workshop as well as, to my surprise and delight, was invited as an Official Speaker. Obviously, I deported myself in only the most Official and Speakerly of fashions the entire time. Obviously.

I can’t adequately explain how awesome it is or accurately list out everything/everyone that I enjoyed about it, but here are some highlights.

Friday Afternoon: Delighting My Hack Sexpert Heart
I spent most of my college years as the hack sexpert in my social circle. More than once, I had to get Plan B* for a friend or acquaintance because the condom had torn or broken. Every one of those times, lube was not part of the sexual equation. Now, two of my favorite orgs are helping to prevent that all-too-common mistake: Both the Secular Woman and the Planned Parenthood table at Skepticon had not only free condoms, but also little packets of lube.

Unfortunately, due to my flight time, I had to miss the Women, Sex, and Islam workshop given by two of my EXMNA comrades and friends, Sam and Yaz, but I heard excellent feedback from others about it. My own workshop, a more interactive (and less Heina-is-sick-as-a-dog) version of my SkepTech talk, went very well.

Friday Night: Use of the Hotel’s Many Fine Facilities
Some people I know and like were sitting by the pool during the evening but weren’t going in. I thought that was silly and started the exodus into the hot tub. We knew the pool hours ended at 11pm but figured that, if we kept it quiet, we’d have no trouble. Sadly, at 11pm almost on the dot, a hotel employee made us get out, after which we proceeded to sit in the adjacent area and be very loud indeed. Some of us spotted an ambulance and a police car at around 1:45am; the person for whom they had arrived was a hotel employee rather than a Skepticon attendee.

The awesome hotel has an exercise room as well as an indoor pool and hot tub and an outdoor pool. Did you know that exercise rooms tend to be empty at 2 in the morning on a Friday night even at hotels that are filled to capacity with conference attendees? I learned something.

Saturday Morning: Giving a Talk on the Big Stage
As I tend towards conversational rather than lecturing, I give myself a lot of space in my notes for talks so that I can meander and tell anecdotes. To my surprise, I only spent a bit over half my time on the Skepticon stage giving a talk. That meant a longer Q&A than is traditional at Skepticon, but I don’t think Lauren is too mad at me (are you, though, Lauren?). I received compliments on it all weekend long, including from some sources about whom I have mixed feelings, but all seemed sincere, so I suppose all is well.

Walt Whitman in a coy boobs-and-butt post, captioned "Leaves of Ass"
Drawing of Walt Whitman in a boobs-and-butt pose by the incomparable Dale DeBakcsy. Buy his stuff.

Saturday Afternoon: Fire-ception
The hotel was nice enough to donate a fancypants suite to the Skepticon organizers. Some of us had lunch there after wandering though it and exclaiming at its luxuries, from a tub big enough for all the attendees (okay, maybe more like big enough for five people, no joke) to a heated toilet seat with washing jets to a spiral staircase to a fake fireplace. When I loudly declared the fake fireplace not fancy enough, JT Eberhard, who was wearing a classy sweater, joked that we ought to set it on fire. More fire is obviously more fancy.

Saturday Evening: Prettification
I had promised to help several people with their makeup, and so I did. It was really fun to come up with ways of making people’s faces shiny and colorful. Props to Ashley Miller for helping me to help others, especially since I don’t have much experience with makeup for people of paler persuasion. Getting ready should always be so affirming and fun. Next year, I will definitely budget more time for my own preparations and/or enlist others to help me with everyone else; my planned 40-minute grooming was compressed to about half that amount of time due to bad planning on my part.

Saturday Night: Boogie!
SkeptiProm was everything I wanted and more. Before the boogying, we speakers received Nerf Rebelle guns and took lots of photos on the stage. At the dance itself, Ben Sweatervest Blanchard and I reinvented the Hokey-Pokey, since we now know what it’s actually all about: ethics in video game journalism. I danced until my feet were achy and swollen (so sexy). I only regret not getting to dance with everyone I wanted to dance with and never making it to the photobooth.

Sunday Afternoon: Lots of Blinking
As I had stayed up until 5 or 6am, I didn’t really rouse until near noon. I did manage to make it out in time for lunch, when I interviewed with We Are Atheism for the second time (my first interview, which was at my first Skepticon, was lost in a hard drive crash) and Matt Dillahunty for the first time.

As an astute commenter points out, I was blinking a lot. In my defense, I was tired. What the video doesn’t show is Beth Presswood lying on her side on the bed with her hand in her mouth to suppress her laughter regarding the pig orgies.

Sunday Evening: Making the Best of It
There is never, ever enough time at Skepticon. I had meant to hang out with a lot of people who I ended up barely seing, let alone spoking with. Happily, one of those people, Matthew Facciani, was on the same flight out of Springfield as me. We chatted in the shuttle and at the airport, later joined by Kayley Whalen, who I had met and come to admire at Women in Secularism earlier this year. Unhappily, our flight was delayed, and delayed again, to the point where we all missed our Atlanta connection flights to home. Exhausted and annoyed, we decided to split the discounted room offered by Delta. We ended up laughing and talking for hours, bonding in what I decided was a mishap-filled buddy travel comedy.

Throughout, I reaffirmed friendships and camaraderie, got shot at with Nerf guns while taking up the Cap’s shield, found new people to fangirl, and — this is so new for me! — got fangirled.

By the way, lovely commenter Donnie kept his promise and sent me some Skepti-funds (sorry) on Friday. I used them to get real food and drinks at the hotel’s fairly-good restaurant instead of the usual snacks-and-scraps meal plan to which I adhere at con. Plus, I didn’t have to leave the hotel all weekend thanks to that bonus cash, so I didn’t, and made the most of the time. Much, much gratitude his way for that.

Until next year, my beloved Skepticon. I’m already planning my outfits.

* This was before Plan B went OTC/generic. Most of the people I knew who needed it couldn’t wait for and/or afford a prescription; ponying up an unexpected $100+ is hard for most students. I used to go to Planned Parenthood for my birth control and well woman checkups. Every time I went in, the NP asked me if I wanted Plan B, and I’d say yes. When she’d ask me how many I wanted, I’d ask for as many as I could get. I made it known to everyone in my acquaintance that I had Plan B for free, no questions asked, to anyone who asked me for it. I’m fairly sure the NPs knew I was giving it away rather than using so many myself, but our unspoken agreement seemed to signal their approval of my guerilla reproductive rights tactics.

A Skepticon Retrospective: From Crasher to Speaker

5 thoughts on “A Skepticon Retrospective: From Crasher to Speaker

  1. 2

    I hope I can go to skepticon at some point, it sounds awesome.

    Also, I used to do that too with planned parenthood and plan b. I’d get that, condoms (latex and non latex), lube, dental dams and whatever else seemed useful and let it be known that I had free all of that and was willing to answer whatever sex related questions people had or help them find the answers. I think this is what led me to focus my studies in sex and gender actually. When I lived in the dorms at uni I’d put the condoms, lube and dental dams in a basket outside my door. I’d get regular post it’s thanking me it was great to use my ability to get that stuff to help the people I lived around like that but the post it’s helped too.

  2. 3

    About the video,

    RE: pigs, xD Really? If pigs actually do that, it’s a pretty cool reproductive strategy. Gettin’ babies is too pugilistic in most species. But I suspect in a natural state pigs are also competitive for mates, because of the sexual dimorphism in size and natural weaponry. Now amphibians and fish – those are animals that often have all-out orgies. Don’t eat fish!

    RE: wanting punishment, I was just saying how much I find that desire compelling on a thread plagued with racists on Pharyngula. But, like most people here, my desires and my sense of reality aren’t that strongly entangled.

    RE: debate, no thx. Glad people like you are into it tho.

  3. 4

    That was a good video, I would love to watch/hear you debate Zakir Naik.
    Not sure he would have the courage of his own conviction to give you a fair opportunity though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *