Meeting My Sciblings

Aug 19 2007 Published by under Meta

This weekend, Seed Media, our benevolent and beloved corporate overlords, sponsored a Scibling gathering: ScienceBloggers from all over the country (and outside) all gathered in New York, ate, drank, and partied.

It made for quite an interesting weekend. I didn't end up being able to hang around nearly as much
as I would have liked (I missed the drunken Karaoke! As someone who never gets drunk, watching
my drunken sciblings singing badly would have been a kick!) Alas, as the father of two small kids,
I'm subject to the schedule of family/babysitters, so I couldn't hang aronud. (Plus, to make matters worse, my wife became sick friday night, and I started feeling sick saturday afternoon. I'm writing this from bed.)

But I did manage to meet quite a lot of folks, even in my limited time there. It's quite an odd experience in its way; between our blogs, and our back-channel forums, we've become a tight-knit community, and the people there were my friends, even though I'd never seen them before. It
was a whole lot of fun. My impressions are below the fold. They're just off the top of my head; I'll probably edit this
later as I remember more.

By the way, that ScienceBlogs mug that Seed is offering to give away in the subscription ads? They gave us each one as a gift, and theyre great. It's a very nice, heavy glass mug that looks like a cross between a mug and a beaker.

  • Kevin Beck, from Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge: A whole lot mellower than I expected. On his blog, he comes up as very acerbic. In person,
    he's a terrific guy, rather soft-spoken, and a pleasure to be around.
  • Suzanne Franks, aka Zuska: pretty much like I expected, only smaller :-). When you read what she writes, you get this sense of someone with an imposing physical presence. When you meet her, she's a pleasant mellow person. Talk a bit, you can definitely see the intensity, but not in-you-face like on her blog. A delightful, passionate person. Definitely the kind
    of person you'd want on your side in an argument.
  • Bora, aka Coturnix: definitely the most completely hyperkinetic person I've ever seen. The guy never stops moving. I never saw him sit down, or ever stand still. Seems like a nice guy, but he never stopping jumping around long enough for me to have a conversation with him.
  • Orac, of Respectful Insolence: the guy who inspired me to take up blogging. I've met him before, but it's always a pleasure to see him: he's amazingly personable for a box full of blinking lights.
  • Janet, our resident ethicist: a very funny, fun lady. Nothing like what I expected. (Not that I didn't expect her to be fun; but I didn't quite expect the hyperkinetic part of it.) She's crazy, but delightful. The image that sticks in my mind: Friday, as we were leaving Seed for dinner, we were having elevator trouble, so there was a gang of 20 of us standing it the tiny elevator lobby outside the Seed office. About a dozen piled into one elevator, which refused to move. After several attempts, most of them came out. As we were standing there, smashed together, waiting for an elevator, Janet with a big goofy grin on her faced shouted "I love this! I'm with my people!"
  • Grrlscientist: pretty much what you'd expect from her blog, except a bit more bouncy. Her personality comes through in her blog more than anyone else that I met there.
  • Greta Munger, of CogDaily: one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. A very mellow, pleasant woman. Seems like the perfect college
    professor: passionate about her subject, but also passionate about teaching, and not just about
    teaching, but about sharing her enthusiasm with her students. I didn't get to see her husband, Dave, this
    gathering.
  • Jake Young, of Pure Pedantry: a laugh a minute; a non-stop fount of bizarre stories. He can take the most mundane of situations, and somehow turn it into a story that has you rolling on the floor. Also has good taste in beer; he took us to a brew pub for dinner
    that served one of the best oatmeal stouts I've tasted.
  • PZ: very much shyer than I expected. I tend to be a painfully shy person, so I'm rarely the one to start conversations. The two or three times PZ and I ended up next to each other, we both sort of sat there looking awkward, like "who's going to say something?"...
  • Razib of Gene Expression: Razib almost gives Bora a run for his money in the kinetic energy department. Once he gets started on a subject, he talks a mile a minute - a pure bundle of enthusiasm. Definitely fun to be around.
  • Carl Zimmer: Nothing like what I expected. I'm not sure quite what I expected, but he wasn't it 🙂 He reminds me of someone that I used to know, but I can't figure out who, and it's driving me crazy. But a very nice guy.
  • Chad: Big guy. Really big guy. Towers over everyone else; he must be a solid 6 foot 7 or so. I didn't get to talk to him, so no personal impression other than size.
  • Shelley: I barely got to talk to her; one of the people I wish I'd had more time to hang around with.
  • Rob Knop: I might have some competition in the next geekoff. At the Seed offices, Rob broke out the dry-erase markers, and was drawing pictures on a whiteboard explaining second life to someone.
  • Mo, from Neurophilosophy: I was a bit nervous about meeting Mo, because we'd gotten into a bit of a fight in the back-channels, because I overreacted in
    an egregiously annoying way to something he said. But he was a great guy in person.
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  • Blake Stacey says:

    It's becoming a smaller and smaller world all the time!
    I've had that same problem with sitting around wondering who's going to speak first. (What, my name appears on 2,070 distinct pages in the ScienceBlogs.com domain, and you think I didn't have any social problems?) Fortunately, in such situations I'm often with a person who has a few geeky interests in common with me, and I can sometimes hit whatever switch in my brain makes me outgoing and theatrical. Of course, then I wonder if I'm becoming overbearing. . . You can't win.

  • Jonathan says:

    Strange, taking serious bloggers out of their element and making them interact f2f. Saw pictures on another blog, some of them illustrated the awkwardness you mention.

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM says:

    interact f2f

    You mean from b2b 2 f2f? Don't you just need the proper software for a VW? 😛
    Cool experiment though, answering if bloggers exist outside the blogosphere. I guess we needed to know.

  • Blake Stacey says:

    Torbjörn Larsson, OM:
    "Answering if bloggers exist outside the blogosphere"? How can you be sure? After all, we've only heard about it via their blogs!
    🙂

  • llewelly says:

    Your link to Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge is busted, having an excess instance of 'scienceblogs.com' in it.

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM says:

    How can you be sure? After all, we've only heard about it via their blogs!

    I trusted the photos at Pharyngula - but of course they could all be fakes, come to think of it.
    I may have to contact that karaoke place and check out if they remember having any of the above as guests. For example, a drunken talking box with blinking lights should be easily remembered - normally they short out when liquored.

  • gg says:

    MCC wrote: "I was a bit nervous about meeting Mo, because we'd gotten into a bit of a fight in the back-channels, because I overreacted in an egregiously annoying way to something he said. But he was a great guy in person."
    I'm reminded of something my thesis advisor used to say quite often: "We may fight and argue about the science, but at the end of the day we're all friends."
    The best science-types are like that -- as long as the angry comments remain in the science (and don't become personal attacks), everyone can get along afterwards just fine.

  • coturnix says:

    With 30+ of us there, and beer freely flowing for two straight days, it was hard to have a long serious conversation with everyone. Mark, next time, we'll make sure we do so - I promise to sit down and sit still for, like, eternity, e.g., more than 5 seconds.
    And nobody remembered any of our past online skirmishes at all - we were all too happy to meet each other to care about such stuff.

  • Vorn says:

    Sci-bling? Did you wear diamond-studded safety goggles and lab apron?
    Vorn

  • Badger3k says:

    Posted this at PZ's, but since it involves bad math, wanted to give a nod here. Scienceblog (http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/proof-existence-god-13963.html) has a rather muddled proof for the existence of a conscious designer of the universe that is called god (although it seems to be a HeShe or SheHe rather than an It - odd for a god). I am assuming that the idea that for something to be considered "true" it must "equate (=)", and "all approximations must contain at least one untruth" are mathematical rather than philosophical concepts - or is my incomplete knowledge showing?
    Sorry to post off-topic, but I just thought of the last and figured I'd ask someone who knows more math than I (even though I just discovered I may be teaching it this year).

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM says:

    Badger3k:
    I'm not a mathematician, but here is my 2c:

    It is an absolute truth that only that which equates ( = ) is true, that each approximation is founded upon a minimum of one untruth, and that, as such, each approximation is, technically, untrue.

    Truth values are variables in logical models, in philosophy or math. (And as such, inequalities and approximations can be made true as well.)
    But empirical knowledge is what we get from studying nature. Any logical model may or may not be applicable to some empirical situation. That doesn't change our observations much.
    This guy wants to make observable facts ("approximations") out to be false. 'Nuff said.

  • Mo says:

    Well, I too was a little nervous about meeting you. Sorry we didn't get to talk more.

  • DharmaHunter says:

    Blake-
    "Answering if bloggers exist outside the blogosphere"? How can you be sure? After all, we've only heard about it via their blogs!
    Could blogging be a vehicle for a Turing test?

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