Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dawkins, Schweinshaxe, and Ann Patrick Green

So my lovely fiancee and I attended the Atheist Alliance International convention in Los Angeles this past weekend. We showed up around 5:30. We started the night with PZ Myers, whose talk was in a small room, which was a mistake on the part of the organizers. People were crammed in, standing in the aisles, and sitting on the floor. Then we watched a live stream of Bill Maher taping his show, then Dawkins and Maher showed up at the convention, and the former presented the latter with an award.

Laurence Krauss' talk, Saturday morning, was my favorite. It was mostly cosmology. I talked to Michael Shermer a bit. It was cool to see him there; as he identifies himself as agnostic, I didn't really think he would show up. I briefly met Laurence Krauss and Richard Dawkins. I'm sure they get buttonholed a hundred times a day each at these things, so, lacking anything earthshattering to say, I just greeted them and shook their hands. Dawkins asked a question after another scientist's talk, and I was impressed at his concise delivery and how he immediately returned to his seat when he finished speaking, so when I asked a question I did my best to emulate him. Dawkins' book signing had several hundred in line, so I passed, although I picked up a copy of his new book, which I am now working on.

Dennett talked about the silliness of theology and how seminary works. It was a fascinating and memorable talk. I briefly interrupted him while he was having lunch to tell him that I enjoyed Breaking the Spell. After his talk in the evening, I wanted to get a chance to talk to him, but I wasn't that interested in his current book, so I passed on the book signing.

Sunday morning, we missed Eugenie Scott to rush back to Orange County to see an incredibly disappointing piano recital by local teacher Ann Patrick Green at the Richard Nixon Library, then for some reason we had dinner at Jägerhaus in Anaheim. To summarize the weekend:

Dawkins and co. versus God: The atheists won, but it was hardly a fair fight, with the loser not actually existing, thereby unable to speak for himself.
Ann Patrick Green versus Chopin: APG lost.
Carol versus pork knuckles: this was a heroic battle; I think we can call it a draw.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

carcinogenic fumes, litter, and fire hazards

As I was leaving the campus yesterday, I saw a girl finish smoking her cigarette and drop the smoldering butt in front of the music building (smoking is expressly verboten on campus). In a flash of inspiration, I grabbed it and ran up behind her at the stoplight as she was talking on her cell phone. As I handed it back to her, I said with a smile, in a low-key friendly sort of way, "Hi, can you do me a favor? Take this with you, don't leave it on campus? Thanks." I didn't know what to expect, but she took it from me, I guess to avoid having to interact with me; she dropped it again as soon as my back was turned. Another guy was standing at the stoplight with us and thought it was pretty funny. I'm not sure what I got out of it, but I guess that when someone behaves in a way that is an appalling combination of stupid and inconsiderate, it's nice to be able to point it out to them without having to use those precise words. I guess it has a nonzero chance of altering their future behavior.