Brave Men Run

Matthew Wayne Selznick, musician, do-it-yourself advocate, podcaster and a hell of a nice guy, also happens to be the author of a really good book. Brave Men Run – A Novel of the Sovereign Era. I listened to Brave Men Run when it was originally podcast (still available on I bought a copy of the original release which was then greedily consumed by my son and wife. I will be supporting Matt as his book finds a new publisher, new cover and a new release date — this Sunday, July 13th, 2008.



The Amazing Meeting 6 (Next year, for sure!)

I was unable, again, to attend the James Randi Educational Foundation’s , The Amazing Meeting (TAM) in Las Vegas. It conflicted with the trip to Costa Rica. Which was awesome and more important to my marriage.

Nonetheless, with the help of some of my favorite podcasters, I’ve been able to experience some of the better moments.

This was George Hrab‘s first year at TAM, and he was on the bill! It’s worth listening to his post-tam episode, just to hear what someone sounds like when they get what they always wanted.

Skepticality is running a series of episodes featuring interviews from TAM 6. The first two interviews, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Adam Savage from The Mythbusters.

The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, recorded a live episode at TAM and will be incorporating interviews from the meeting into future episodes.

The Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, has blogged of the event and included a cool video.

Soccergirl episode #286 and #287 has some great video footage from TAM 6.

These are only the ones I’ve managed to get to since I’ve been back from travel. I’m sure there’s more great coverage out there I haven’t found yet!

But are not the dreams of poets and the tales of travellers notoriously false?
H. P. Lovecraft


Balticon 42 Reflections (Part 1: What are those kids doing here?)

So, over Memorial Day weekend the wife and I brought the kids to the annual convention of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society better known simply as Balticon.

This is our third year in attendance. Science Fiction literature, Science, Fantasy, original fiction and even music. Each year has been more enjoyable and fulfilling than the last. This is a weekend that we look forward to all year. All of us. Even the kids. Especially the kids. Yes, my 16 year old son and 14 year old daughter are really the driving force for this outing.

For many of the panels, mine were the only kids in sight. Not the only kids at the convention, of course. Plenty of young people gaming and in cosplay. Not many (any) in the Science Panels and just as rare in the the Podcasting panels where we spend much of our time.

Over the last few years genre podcasting has become something of a virtual Greenwich Village. It is a place for risk taking, edgy creation and the free sharing of ideas and talent. The community developing around this new market is particularly tight-knit and supportive of each other, finding “cons” like Balticon and Dragon*Con rare opportunities for in-person socializing and collaboration.

My son and daughter were 14 and 12, respectively, the first time we went to Balticon. Being more outgoing, my son found the game room and made friends. My daughter clung pretty close to my wife and I. We’re the introverted ones. Really more like spectators than participants. It was a pretty big deal for us to muster the courage to say “hello” and gush a bit on a favorite author (Tee Morris) and Podcaster/Essayist (Mur Lafferty).

Last year, we were a bit better and had actual conversations with very cool people like Steve Eley, Matt Selznick, J.C. Hutchins, Michael Mennenga and Evo Terra.

When this year rolled around we consciously committed to be more like my son and step out of our shells. We spend countless hours over the course of the year listening to these people read their stories, talk about their lives and keep us informed on the latest in geekdom. It was such a waste not to engage with them in person when the chance presented itself.

It wasn’t easy. Getting out of your comfort zone never is. Then again, it is where the biggest rewards are.

This is going very long, so I want to wrap up. The point of all this talky-talk is to thank the wonderful group of podcasters who treated us so well, AFTER providing us with countless hours of entertainment. I think the following fragment of an email I sent to Soccergirl after bringing my 14 year old daughter to her very ‘R’ rated show, helps to explain:

"I'm a conservative person by nature. OK, maybe I should say introverted,
not conservative. My kids, however, really are not and I think that is a
gift. I've always told them that "just putting it out there" reaps far
greater rewards than playing it safe. Even if it is very difficult for
me to demonstrate that personally.

So, there you go. It was kind of like Steve Austin upping somebody's
clearance. The kids are in a new ball park now. Whether they choose to
take risks in the same way you did, or just carry with them how exciting
it was to see someone be emotionally brave, they're probably better off
for the experience."

I could have written very similar sentiments to George Hrab, Mur, Tee and many others who have inspired and enriched us.

I found this particular post very difficult to write, not emotionally or anything like that. I just had a lot to say and I didn’t know how to structure it. Oh, well, there it is.

— Icepick



I recently heard an interview with Brian Dunning on Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe and was very impressed with him, so I pulled down his podcast. I’ve now gone back and listened to all of them.

Skeptoid is a very different skepticism-oriented podcast from the rest I subscribe to. It is not a round table, it is not interview-oriented. It is just one guy, who does his research, and presents one topic per show in a straightforward intelligent manner.

His topics range from Homeopathy, and other medical buffoonery, to 9/11 conspiracies and the war on Terror. Along the way Brian sprinkles in some good education on Critical Thinking and how to spot Logical Fallacies and Fallacious Arguments.

Brian is committed to just getting clear information out. All of his podcasts are available for free, they are also reproduced as essays on his site AND now many of them are collected into his new book, SKEPTOID: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena with a foreword by none other than James “The Amazing Randi” Randi.

He doesn’t even accept donations, he only asks that you spread the word. So, in my little way…

“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it.” — Margaret Fuller (1810 – 1850), journalist, critic, women’s rights activist


Jonathon Coulton: or Dragon-Con Consolation Concert

Friday evening my wife and I took the kids down to the Jonathan Coulton concert at The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA.
As contributing troubadour to Popular Science magazine, you might expect Coulton to have a somewhat geeky audience. Yeah, you’re right. If you weren’t going to be at Dragon Con, this is really where you should have spent your Friday night.
Opening for Jonathan Coulton was Paul and Storm, a more local act which, to my shame, I had never really heard of before. These guys were a heck of a lot of fun and a great complement to Coulton. In fact they both took part in each other’s sets, which worked out really well. Their repertoire is very humorous and they have a ton of talent to carry it off. I think the thing I found most amusing was Paul’s insistence on holding a guitar when he wasn’t at the keyboards. He took it very seriously, even adjusting the capo between songs, yet he NEVER PLAYED A NOTE. Crazy. 🙂

Jonathan Coulton was marvelous. His song writing is so good he really needs nothing but his guitar and his engaging voice, yet the addition of Paul & Storm for about half the set added depth and a little extra “fun”. The audience was primed for this unassuming troubadour and treated him like a beloved rock star, in return Coulton appeared to be genuinely flattered by the attention. The thrown stuffed animals and gummi brains seemed to amuse him as much as the audience.

There is just something great about live music in a venue as intimate as the Birchmere, an opportunity to “connect” that doesn’t exist elsewhere. The spontaneous audience-driven rendition of “Sweet Caroline” rarely occurs in a larger house.

While some of the music played had rather grown up themes, I can’t feel anything but pleased about bringing my kids along. Beyond having the opportunity to see such talented and genuine performers live, the kind of audience these people draw is a treat to be around. Our table had a couple celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary and, at the other end of the spectrum, a young couple getting married in a few weeks. All of them were engaging, interesting and treated my teens as people.



I just realized that I haven’t successfully completed and published a post in quite a while. I think I’ll have to get more disciplined about this whole thing.

Well, here it is the start of a new week and my kids will be off to school soon. Yet it’s me that has learned stuff already today.

I used to be a huge fan of Slacker Astronomy. Then, around the time the reorganized into Slackerpedia Galactica and Dr. Pamela Gay moved on to Astronomy Cast with Frasier Cain, publisher of The Universe Today, my ADD kicked in and I wandered away to any of the other 50 podcasts I seem to be subscribed to.
Well, this morning, I decided to get a little smarter and was paid off handsomely. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy the episode on the Planet Mercury, I then listened to the prior episode on tidal forces. Which was totally cool. Especially, since I found out that the stretching that occurs when the gravitational pull on one end of an object is greater than at the other is called, get this, Spaghettification. Now, as you’re sliding into the Black Hole and your feet are stretching away into infiinity, you can look down and think, “Gee, I’m Spaghettifying!” How cool is that?