I’m far too lazy and spent to go into coherent detail about this past weekend’s ScienceBlogs.com meet-up, which was a genuine once-in-a-lifetime experience. Nevertheless I’ve uploaded some pics and will describe what happened, or that portion of the goings-on I witnessed and experienced.
Made you look. That artlessly altered photo has (almost) nothing to do with the meet-up.
Friday, August 17, 11:30 a.m. I arrive at my local AMTRAK (no link for them! Ha!) station. Although it’s wonderfully convenient to take the train into the city given Penn Station’s proximity to the Seed Media offices and other places I anticipated visiting, I have been nursing a minor grudge against AMTRAK (guess what; no link!) ever since they made me buy two tickets thanks to their own mistake and refused to reimburse me for one of them, and am wondering if I’ll follow through on any of my juvenile revenge plots during my two-and-a-half-hour ride to New York. Just as I’ve decided that none of these will do anything except inconvenience my fellow passengers or innocent AMTRAK (not gonna give ’em a linky) workers, I wander toward the lavatory to offload the results of three gallons of coffee, and am greeted by a gentleman exiting the lav who remarks: “That wasn’t me and you’ll see what I mean.”
I do. Someone has imbued the words “shitter” and “shitstorm” with new meaning. Here, an ambitious hominid has very recently done a startlingly good impression of the Tasmanian Devil in the throes of a laxative overdose, with splotchlets of faeces dotting every exposed surface of the small room except the inside of the toilet. I leave and find another, somewhat cleaner latrine.
3:30 p.m. Exiting Penn Station (no link for them either), I am immediately aware that existing in a very small town for the past several months has desensitized me to certain elements of human culture, and I stare at the sidewalk so as to not stare too much at other things. I have brought only a large backpack to this gathering, which makes me ultra-mobile and happy. I amble to the Seed offices in a light, not-unpleasant rain.
5 p.m. At Seed’s headquarters, I find those bloggers who have arrived for the hors d’ouvres that our hosts have offered as a means of allowing so many of us at SB to meet in person for the first time, a gathering that in turn serves as a segue into an almost-as-casual party at Seed Magazine publisher Adam Bly’s apartment. I find myself talking first to Chad Orzel (who turns out to stand 6′ 6″ at the shoulder), Jason Rosenhouse, and Mark Chu-Carroll. In particular, Mark and I talk a lot about how our tendencies as kids seem to have fed into what we do now. This will become a theme for me over the weekend: Given limited time, I don’t really care to talk shop so much as learn why all of us here — myself included — have nurtured a fascination not only with how the world formally and fundamentally operates, but also with wanting to discuss this and publicly express various aspects of ourselves and our lives in general.
Sheril Kirshenbaum and Jennifer Jacquet look despondent to be at Seed’s offices
With Prof. Steve Steve and Jason Rosenhouse, both of The Panda’s Thumb
8:00 p.m. We make it to Adam’s. By now I’ve met at least twelve to fifteen of my sciblings and their spouses and others of significance, and have already learned the various differences between how I apparently strike people in person versus how I “behave” on this blog. This difference is not difficult to establish among those who often write stuff that is equal parts The Onion wannabe, misanthrope manifesto, and the Book of Anti-Revelation.
Our host gives an appreciative and (I am betting, based on my own experience) unrehearsed speech about the role of science bloggers in reaching a worldwide audience and championing the delivery of science to people throughout human communities. Those aren’t the words he uses, but he gives the unmistakable impression of a man, successful in the publishing industry barely a half-decade out of high school, who is driven more than anything else by a passion for sharing and furthering wisdom. It is refreshing and encouraging.
11:00 p.m., 12:00 a.m., and much, much later. Most of us are now at a place called the Rose Something or maybe the Something Rose, a karaoke joint. Unfortunately I am stone sober and later remember everything. By 1 a.m. or so, most of the patrons in this small establishment are Sciblings, but amazingly, we appear to have picked up a few groupies. Once Razib shrieks and tears his way through a surreally unmusical and tone-deaf version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” (a song theoretically beyond butchering), the night is effectively over for sing-along purposes, as we have all just witnessed the karaoke equivalent of the apolcalypse. I remark to someone amid mutual, side-rending howls of laughter that the funniest thing about Razib’s disgraceful display was the insistence of several very attractive and almost certainly drunk bar patrons on continuing to dance throughout to the “number,” bopping to the beat in stubborn oblivion instead of stopping to stare in horrified awe. These are women who could have moonwalked their way through the peak of the Dresden air raids with nary a change in expression, and the contrast they offer smacks of the laugh track in the early scenes of Natural Born Killers.
Khaotic Karmen and “karaoke”
Chris Mooney reacts to a groupie’s boots
Saturday, August 18, 4:00 a.m.. By now it is evident that I, having not slept in well over 24 hours, will not be traveling to Central Park to watch my friend Heather (pictured somewhere above) run a five-mile road race. For approximately ninety minutes, RPM, Steve, and I, back in our Union Square hotel, have been discussing the finer and coarser points of endurance exercise, chemical dependency, religion’s funky hold on America, and the strange yet undeniable allure of human beings who are not afflicted with Y-chromosomes. Both science and blogging have been oddly neglected in this dialogue.
11:00 a.m. After a nap and some coffee, I’m ready for brunch. Here, at a joint named E.U., we are split into two tables — those who wish to be filmed by Seed and those who don’t. I’m not averse to being on camera, but demur because I know I have nothing meaningful to say. This is exactly the rationale that Steve and Shelley supply for making the opposite choice.
Several times, those at my table — including the soft-spoken and genuinely charming Chris Rowan — are politely asked to lower our voices so as to not interfere with the audio recording process going on nearby. We conclude that this request is in fact code for “please don’t discuss Ronald McDonald’s missing penis in such loudawful voices.” It is during this time that a modicum of actual science also stumbles into the conversation, although I forget all of it. The average per capita mimosa consumption during brunch is, by one rough estimate, 4.7, and I am assured that these are not weak drinks.
The Post makes a typo, perhaps (photo courtesy of Mo)
3:00 p.m. It is a bright but wonderfully mild day, so those up us not opting for a museum trip instead reconnoiter at our hotel (where a skillful baker distributes some very tasty peanut-butter-and-walnut cookies) and stroll to Washington Park to take in the sights. We then dine at a restaurant whose name escapes me, then proceed to get lost for what seems like several hours (the complex arrangement of Manhattan’s streets — with ordered natural numbers used to name both the east-west streets and the north-south avenues — is confusing). As a result, some of us, not used to so much perambulation and exercise, elect not to do the bar thing that night.
Sunday, August 19, 5:00 a.m. Having again fended off much-needed slumber in favor of companionable chatter, I decide to walk all the way to a hotel on 55th Street for an eight-mile run with the aforementioned Heather and several of her friends, stopping at two Dunkin’ Donuts beforehand so as to ensure surviving the ordeal. Fortunately, everyone but me is badly hung over and I am not dropped from the small pack.
11:40 a.m. I make it back to Penn Station, and, a few hours later, am again home.
This extended account fails to do justice to the wonderful exchanges I enjoyed with so many folks I was eager to meet. I’ll be relishing it right up to whenever the next meet-up occurs, and I extend a public and very earnest thanks to the extremely Seedy Katherine Sharpe and Ginny Hughes for their adroit and energetic leadership, not only over the weekend but on the whole.