Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Amazing Meeting 2013 -- Day One

Although I'm currently suffering from TAMnesia, I've managed to upload the photos that will be featured in the next several posts, as well as make up for the lack of housework in my absence, attend the day-after TAM skeptic meetup, etc.
` I've been going through my notes, photos and videos, and find them inadequate to describe my experiences, to say the least. Then again, I did spend plenty of time at TAM interviewing folks for The Spoony Show, Podcast of Doom.

For now, I shall bring you photos from my first day of TAM, starting with high altitude shots of such dramatic landscape features as Mount Rainier:

jux 106 - Mt Ranier, I think

I like to pronounce it Ran-ye, for the entertainment value. And, there was more...

While Mount Saint Helens was on the other side of the plane, I did get a good view of Mount Adams:

jux 111

Not to mention, farther on there were some barren landscapes with occasional farms and giant blobs of water, like so:

jux 114

Even these gave way to open desert dotted with the shadows of small clouds, which I find to be charmingly minimalist and not entirely un-Martian:

jux 116

Although I could hardly take my eyes off the ground, not much caught my eye until I caught sight of this enormous forest fire in the mountains around Las Vegas:

jux 121

Here's a completely different plane, but we can pretend it's mine, as it flies close over the natural disaster in progress:

jux 141

The blaze was visible from the actual airplane that I was in, although we didn't go right through it. Here's the view from beneath the left wing as it banked right:

jux 123

Since my phone service has barely worked at my house for the past few weeks, I've been text messaging a lot. Naturally, I wondered if it would be possible to text message someone about what I saw, from this altitude -- and it worked!
` Greg Dorais, texted me back, saying that he had already checked in at the South Point hotel after driving in from California. Amazingly, the plane I was in also stayed in the air and nothing at all happened to our flight path.

jux 125

As this region is also known bat country, I kept my eyes peeled -- but alas, the bats managed to elude my obsessive window-staring.

jux 127

No matter how closely I looked, I never saw an enormous, flittering formation, although I checked for some sort of mind-warping cave that might shelter such beasts. Would this be a likely place?

jux 128

Bats or no bats, I must ask myself why anyone would want to build a city in the middle of all this hazardousness. Is it to discourage the gamblers from leaving?
` The temperature was at 113 degrees before I came in for a landing, although a bit of drizzle had lowered it to 110. Drizzling or not, I wasn't the most surprised that this golf course was empty.

jux 130

Despite my having sent a text message, everyone on board survived, and the plane came in for a landing much like this one did:

jux 140

Although I had failed on my first attempt to cause trouble -- without first getting my feet on the ground! -- I still managed to succeed before arriving at the South Point hotel.
` I would need to take two shuttles at the airport: One to take me to the next one, and the next one to take me to the hotel, so finding the first one was essential.

This didn't take long, and I managed to reach the line just as the shuttle was boarding. I got to the end of the line, within arm's reach of the next person, and thought to myself, 'That was lucky!'
 ` As the person ahead of me stepped onto the bus, I reached for the handrail. Then, the door shut in my face, so I banged on it.
` I continued this banging until I realized that I was running alongside a bus while shouldering a camping backpack and a laptop. The passengers saw me through the windows, yes, but not the driver.

Feeling defeated, I called Greg Dorais, and he rescued me in his shiny new Prius, which got 51 miles per gallon despite the surrounding wasteland's lack of recharge stations.
` Greg, I owe you so much by now, it's not funny.

jux 131

After all was said and done at the registration desk, and I had even managed to cause more trouble with a permanent marker, I then experienced my first act of extreme absentmindedness.
` I didn't see my coat and cell phone sitting right beside me on the counter, nor did I hear my phone ring when Greg called it from my other side. So, we walked all over the hotel, looking for them, before I finally remembered that I had left them on the counter.

Assuredly, none of this occurred even before the mescaline kicked in. And when I say mescaline, I'm talking about sleep deprivation. Not at all the same thing, but I did see some pretty patterns and colors with my eyes closed. Really.

Figuring that the Amazing Randi Himself might find this exercise in inattentional blindness to be somewhat amusing, I walked over to the nearby table he was sitting at. Much to my surprise, he was the one to solicit a hug from me!
Then, whose arm should appear on the other side of Randi, but that of Jamy Ian Swiss, closeup magician extraordinaire. Although Randi is the Amazing one, Jamy and his many identical-looking hats had a seemingly amazing amount of work ahead of them.

jux 132 - James and Jamy

At some point, Randi did the mentalism trick where he "guesses" the same word that someone has selected from a book, or some such. It was pretty good. Then, he made a point to say that some people who didn't know it was just a trick might assume that he had psychic powers.
` Instead of becoming a charlatan himself, of course, Randi has been exposing and otherwise raising awareness about them. That's why he founded the James Randi Educational Foundation -- it's also why the theme for TAM 2013 was "Fighting the Fakers".

The activity, including more than one person doing magic tricks, kept me fixated on the room around me rather than my notebook. After some time of this, I decided to really get up to no good by putting a microphone in front of myself and this guy called Steve Bauer, and recording the results.
` After going downstairs to the Del Mar Lounge, I continued this behavior with mangaka Sara Mayhew, freelance writer Kyle Hill and others, until my laptop was almost out of battery.

While I stopped to record some video before searching for somewhere to plug in the laptop, I was verbally accosted by an Adonis-like man who wanted nothing less than my attention. Oh, goodness me!

Since I could find no electrical outlets inside the bar, I had to find a place by the outer wall, where he had my undivided attention. As I recall, he was one of several attractive men who received compliments on their language patterns.
` As I was busy immersing myself in actual human interactions that evening, my only record of this span is a bad picture of Jamy Ian Swiss, Tracy Lockwood and B J Kramer:

jux 134

This "real life" interaction stuff was cut with pineapple juice, although this did not impair me from getting up to a fair amount of no good. Although I don't remember much, I hope to find some kind of audio recording that will help me piece together what happened.
` One thing I am sure did happen -- there was a mentalism trick involving four cards, three of them blank, one of them was the Queen of Diamonds or something. I remembered saying something like, "Arrrgh, Jamy, I know you made me pick that card, but how?!"

As for the rest of TAM, the corresponding posts shall be forthcoming, after I recover my ability to hold my head up more easily.

Edit: Read The Next Installment! You know you want to!

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