Sunday, April 17, 2011

NECSS 2011

NECSSCon has come and gone, leaving me exhausted and my mind overflowing with ideas and thoughts. Loopy and I took the bus from Toronto, a decidedly arduous 12 hour journey, dealing with crazy ladies, uncomfortable seats, constant interruptions to any attempt to sleep. Crossing the border also took an inordinate amount of time, there being several notable characters on the bus. I should clarify that I did sleep, but it was not restful and it was with a frizzy mind did we arrive in Manhattan. Walk to the hotel (NYMA, in the heart of Koreatown), drop off our stuff as the room wasn't yet ready, walk in search of Saks 5th Avenue (perfume lady showing curious interest in NECSS), a meal at TGIF (lamentable), attempt to get into the Jimmy Fallon audience (no such luck -- tickets are generally gone by noon), back to the hotel for unpacking and an afternoon nap. Wake up, shower and then to the first drinking event at Dewey's Flatiron, where I burnt my mouth horribly on an otherwise delicious pizza. I talked with several people but I didn't really make any contacts, mostly just sharing stories and celebrity-watching.

Saturday, a quick breakfast and a short jaunt to the venue (Baruch College) and then the talks: Phil Plait, Carl Zimmer, SGU live (wherein I disappointed Loopy greatly by not standing up to reveal my "Fiction" T-shirt at the appointed time), and a break for lunch. We tried the nearby Pax Wholesome Foods, which was alright -- I had a custom Caesar salad (romaine, bacon, avocado, sunflower seeds), very similar to Lettuce/freshii. Sat beside two skeptics from Long Island, forgot their story, avoided the world's smallest bathroom. Back to the conference: Eugenie Scott (Creationism status report), a panel discussion on Skepticism and the US founders, another panel discussion on who to trust for information, Dan Gardner (well-composed presentation on rational thinking in politics). We moved then to Paddy Reilly's for dinner (a meatball hero), drinks and a live performance featuring George Hrab. Loopy and I wore our "Science" and "Fiction" shirts throughout the night, giving us a bit of local popularity, while Loopy was able to pimp his Skeptic's Dictionary app. Apart from temporarily meeting a skeptic couple from NH, I spent much of the night hanging with one of the locals, discussing his affinity for the waitress. The group toured a couple other bars, losing people with each hop, and Loopy and I finished off the evening with a visit to the Apple store across from the Pulitzer Fountain.

Our last day there was fairly low key -- walked down a closed section of Broadway for a Sunday market, had a gross meal at Cosi, checked out a neat Apple store (Tekserve), did quite a bit more walking in search of something to waste time on, returned to the hotel for some WiFi, finding a lounge and just crashing there until we had to go. I did manage to leave on a good food note with a tasty Schnipper's burger before we got on the bus back.

I'd go again, sure. Probably would NOT take the bus, the chance of sitting uncomfortably simply too high. I guess that and the hotel were the biggest costs, the conference itself being only $95 or so. I don't mind much that I didn't see a lot of Manhattan while there, or that I missed my cousin (she was out of town) -- getting away from Toronto was diversion enough.

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