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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Global Atheist Convention: Friday

Wow! What a huge day!

Last night was the first official event of the Global Atheist Convention, but our day started much earlier, at the 'Bloggers' breakfast', where we met up with a number of friends (including the always amazing Dave the Happy Singer) and were lucky enough to have PZ Myers make an appearance! (and had his first taste of vegimite off a consecrated cracker).

From the breakfast, we headed to a meeting where some big new ideas for the future of atheists in Australia... More on that later...

After lunch, it was go go go again, and we were off to the Pharyngula meetup, which was packed to such an extent that you couldn't move! Again' PZ mingled and chatted with his fans. It's great that such a celebrated person is so humble and approachable.

From there we headed over to the convention centre for the opening night, which was amazingly well attended. At this point, it became impossible to recognise that we were a part of the largest atheist event the world has seen. And its such an amazing feeling to be amongst it!

The night's speakers included David Nicholls, with an opening address; Sue-Ann Post, whose comic presentation had us in stitches; Mark Tier, who gave an informative, but poorly placed (between two comedians) talk; and Catherine Deveney, who brought the house down with her thought provoking and wonderfully funny style.

All in all, the opening night was a complete success after which, the attendees broke up into small groups of heathens intent on drying the kegs of Melbourne. We joined the Melbourne Atheists' after party and enjoyed good food, the company of friends new and old, and a steady flow of booze long into the night.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pre-Con drinkies

Tonight AC Grayling and Russell Blackford gave a talk around the 50 Voices of Disbelief. We got there a little late (oops!) but it was good all the same.
Topics included religion and sexuality, Australia's leaders' religious convictions and lots of status quo secular stuff.
We had a good time and met up with a few people we know online, then went to a mate's pub for dinner.

After dinner, we met up with a group of other atheistcon attendees for drinks and socialising. We met a lot of new people and heaps of online friends, which is always heaps of fun.

As always seems to happen at these kinds of things, time flew, and we had to move on to another pub for more drinks, chat and laffs and before long it was 2am and time to retire.

Well, now we're back at the hotel and need to get an ounce of sleep before tomorrow, which starts with the bloggers' B'fast, which melts into a lunch meeting, then a PZ talk and Pharyngula doo before registration and official Atheist Con B's and P's, after which there'll be drinks, drinks and more drinks... Phew! I don't have a clue when we'll get a chance to sleep, but it'll be worth it!

Btw, the pic's from the PreCon Pub meetup. Appropriate, I feel...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hit the ground running

Wow. What a night! After flying in yesterday afternoon we took a wander about town. I particularly liked the quirky little arcades full of cool coffee and clothes shops. It feels very European.

After pub hopping from gem to gem, and a rather unsuccessful trip to a closed comedy venue, followed by a quick beer in a pub so bad even Jack the Ripper would be cautious about entering, we met up with Fleur (one of the nicest people on the planet!) and went to a couple of chic cocktail bars.

The pic is from the Croft Institute, which has a sciencey theme to it. (test tubes and quirky experiment stuff adorns the place), after which we went to 1806 for some of the coolest cocktails I've ever seen.

From that point on, its a bit of a blur, but it was a great night. Today we're being tourists and a few mates are getting here for the GAC.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

And we're off!

Well, we're just about to leave for Melbourne for the Global Atheist convention. I'm so excited!

We're going to meet so many people, from speakers to our social media friends.

If you're coming, make sure you catch us and say hi. Its going to be a whirlwind with all the stuff that's going on, but I know its going to be a blast!

Oh, and sorry for not getting the 'who's who' thing done... I'm lazy, unfocused and addicted to Xbox...

I'll do my best to blog the event, and you can keep up with our activity on Facebook, twitter (@zombiealan and @sydneyatheists plus #atheistcon) tweet me to meet me!

See you all at the con!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Global Atheist Convention Social Calendar

I've just been fiddling around with this. The Idea is to have a calendar that captures all of the related social events happening in March, so that people have a 'one stop' guide to everything that's going on during and around the Atheist Convention.

It's only a work in progress at the moment, and most of teh peripheral events are Sydney based (because they're the ones I know about) but I'm hoping that others will send me the details of their events and I'll put them up too.

You can view the calendar here: GAC Social Calendar

If you want to get an event listed, email me

Please feel free to pass the calendar around. The more people know about it, the better resource it'll be!
(I'll make a non-Google Calendar version of it too, if need be)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Who's Who at the GAC: The Big Names

It's now less than a month to go before the Global Atheist Convention, and I thought it might be useful to go through the list of speakers and give a bit of a rundown on who's who before we all get there.

There's a good mix of presenters and it looks like it's going to be an amazing weekend (Randi not included), but looking through the list of guests, there are plenty of big names that everyone knows, as well as quite a few lesser known players.

I'm going to see how far through the list I can get at a comfortable pace, providing background info and links to interesting media etc for each of the speakers. My hope is that, by the time the GAC comes around, it may be a bit of a resource for those who want to know a bit more about the people they've paid to see.


For this first post, I'm going to breeze through the big names. These are the people that were probably the draw-cards for most of the attendees.

Richard Dawkins
I'm pretty sure that anyone reading this already has a pretty good idea who  Dicky-D is. With an early career with a strong foot in Biology, Dawkins started to gain public attention with his book The Selfish Gene. Since then, he has written no less than nine books, with a general progression from hard science (The Extended Phenotype, The Blind Watchmaker), through books combining detailed and complex scientific notions with an almost poetic style, by which the most complicated of theories can fairly easily be understood by the lay-audience (Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow), to his more recent books, which focus on evolutionary theory and those who are working against evolutionary theory and science in general; most notably fundamentalist religious adherents (The God Delusion, The Greatest Show on Earth). 

Dawkins' website, richarddawkins.net, is pretty much essential reading for 'the atheist in the know'. With one of the best 'scientific atheism' forums around, as well as regular updates on what Dawkins is up to, and a news feed that seems to pretty much capture all of the most essential atheistic items across the world. If you haven't been, go and check it out. You'll find yourself with hours upon hours of articles, videos, interviews, news and much much more.

Recently, Dawkins has been producing a steady stream of documentaries (well, he's actually been doing it for quite some time, but he's been doing it much more lately), most notably the Four Horesmen round table discussion with fellow 'New Atheists' Sam harris, Christopher Hitchens and Dan Dennett; The Root of all Evil in which Dawkins takes on religious fundamentalism, The Enemies of Reason where Dawkins dives into the world of alternative medicine, psychics and psuedoscience in general; and The Genius of Charles Darwin which is Dawkins' homage to Darwin and his world changing theory of evolution.

Find out more about Richard Dawkins at richarddawkins.net

PZ Myers
Again, I'd be surprised if people reading this haven't heard of PZ Myers, but just in case...

Paul Zachary Myers is another biologist, who specialised in Evolutionary Development (Evo Devo). He is the author of one of the most popular science blogs (that was carefully worded so as not to upset Phil Plait). His blog is Pharyngula (pronounced: far-eng you-lah), on which he mixes peer reviewed science blogging with his own blend of humorous, caustic, informative and irreverent musings.

PZ is known to be able to crash any online poll by directing his blog readers (pharyngulites) there. One of my favourite PZ moments, was crackergate (see link for a detailed rundown of the full crackergate events), where PZ, in reaction to a story of catholic craziness vowed to abuse eucharist crackers to demonstrate the silliness of believing that a palestinian zombie can manifest in a small piece of bread and be eaten by followers as form of cannibalistic worship.  Lots of religious people reacted with pronounced zeal, and it all ended up rather messy, literally.

To find out more about PZ, visit his blog, Pharyngula at: scienceblogs.com/pharyngula

Peter Singer
Peter Singer is an Australian ethicist and applied philisophy professor. Well known for his book Animal Liberation, as well as the often controversial nature of his work and public appearances.

Singer is a proponent of a utilitarian system of ethics and approaches difficult ethical situations with an objective, rational and careful style, making his positions sometimes uncomfortable or confronting, but very difficult to flaw.

On a personal note, Singer has had quite a profound influence on my life. I received a copy of 'The Ethics of What we Eat' for Newtonmas in 2008 and adopted a Vegan lifestyle in mid January as a result. Since then I have continued to have a strong interest in secular systems of ethics, a subject of continuing interest for me.

You can find out more about Peter Singer by following the various links from his wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Singer, or checking out his homepage on the Princeton University site. (due to the diverse nature of his work, I find that the wikipedia links lead you to a greater range of his works, from early essays to a video of him cooking Dhal!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hungry Beast Devours Conroy!

I'm really starting to enjoy the ABC TV show 'Hungry Beast'. It's kind of a 'Chaser's war' without the chaser boys.

On tonight's episode, they had a really good segment about the proposed clean feed internet filter, which plans to filter a range of 'prohibited' content at the ISP level. The main politician behind this ridiculous scheme is Senator Conroy, who was interviewed on the show.

Here's the full interview:



Here's tonight's full episode:




I recommend checking out this show. It's on at 9pm on ABC1 on Wednesdays.

I'm back!

It's been a fracking LONG time since I've done any blogging, but I've decided that I should get back into it, because it seems like there's a lot going on and I've been feeling the need to voice my opinion...

But I should explain...

Since September, things have really started to pick up with a local group I've started up, the Western Sydney Freethinkers, which has been taking a lot of my time to organise. The good news is that now things seem to be running along with a bit of inertia, which gives me a bit of time to get back to doing the more important stuff.

There's been a whole pile of other stuff too, but things are calming down a bit now, so it looks like I'll be back in ur toobs, tellin you what I think about stuff...

Since my last post there's been heaps of stuff happening. I don't think I even mentioned the whole AVN campaign, the mountain of crazy that comes with the holiday season, developments with the Global Atheist Convention, the return of Jesus, big changes to Sydney Atheists' organisational structure, Mercy Ministry's downfall and heaps of other stuff... but then again, plenty of people have done it better that I ever could have, so I guess there's no real loss there...


Anyhoo, thanks for those of you who've hung on over the past few months. I plan to try to put up posts on about a weekly basis.

Till then,here's Ben Goldacre of Bad Science talking about the Placebo effect.

Enjoy

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