Balticon 2015 post-mortem & Sasquan goings-on

Well, Balticon ended up being a bust, as I (possibly, with irony) came down with an awful respiratory plague in the 24 hours prior to the con starting. Which amounts to Pre-Con Crud, perhaps? I was medicated aplenty and manage to soldier through my Skeptical Journal Club talk Friday night, but afterwards slunk back to the hotel, febrile, and ended up not meaningfully making it back to the con all weekend. No good. To top it off, Laura came down with the same thing as well shortly after her Women In Science panel, and then entered quarantine with me for the remainder of the con.

That said, my Skeptical Journal Club seemed well-received (with some lessons on my end to tweak things for future iterations), and Laura’s talk had rave reviews, so that was a win.

Not being Patient Zero at Balticon due to self-isolation? An even bigger win.

Fast forwarding to the present, we have just arrived at Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, which is in smokey downtown Spokane in Washington state. Neither of us are on any panels this time around, which means we can relax and enjoy the festivities unfettered, especially the Hugo Awards ceremony, which should be… interesting. If you are unfamiliar with the situation surrounding the Hugos this year, I’ll point you to this post from John Scalzi, which will tell you of and link you to plenty of details. In very brief summary, given that the Hugos are based on popular voting, this year a group of folks gamed the system to ensure a specific slate of finalists made the final nominee cut; the people who engineering this slate have a certain specific vision of what themes should be more represented in science fiction and fantasy literature; that vision appears to be rather negative towards the emphasis of diverse gender and racial topics, in many cases; the general SF&F community is rather upset the finalist list; this has led to people of “both sides” of the issue behaving very badly online; the result could be the first Hugo Awards where the general voting public may vote No Award in multiple categories instead of voting for the candidates associated with the slate. So, it will be… interesting… to see how all this plays out.

Meanwhile, I will be tossing out the occasional #Spokane thoughts here, and please feel free to say Hallo! if you are around… especally if you see a Squatch.

homework for YOU, for my first Balticon panel tomorrow

SIMVASTATIN calendar, CC BY-NC-ND image by atomicshed via Flickr
SIMVASTATIN calendar, CC BY-NC-ND image by atomicshed via Flickr

For those of you attending my first panel at Balticon tomorrow, here are the links to the two journal articles I will be discussing during The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Medical Studies: A Skeptical Journal Club at 4pm. Paper copies (ancient technology, I am aware) will be available at the panel itself. Both are from open-access journals, so are free to access without paying or signing in.

The first, from BMJ Open, is “The effect of simvastatin on inflammatory cytokines in community-acquired pneumonia: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial” (translated: seeing if a common cholesterol medicine can help pneumonia get better by reducing inflammation).

The second, from Arthritis, is “The Safety and Efficacy of an Enzyme Combination in Managing Knee Osteoarthritis Pain in Adults: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial” (translated: seeing if an odd mix of “alternative medicine” enzymes makes arthritis knee pain better).

Happy reading, and see you there!

Balticon goings-on

Physician v. Admiral
Physician v. Admiral from Balticon 2005, CC BY-NC-SA image by docoperon via Flickr

Memorial Day is nigh, which means another Balticon approaches, which means SCIENCE and other tomfoolery on my part as a guest of that august event. My schedule for the con is as follows:

  • Friday, May 22, 4:00 PM ~ The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Medical Studies: A Skeptical Journal Club ~ Salon A (50 minutes) ~ One of the most important aspects of being a healthy skeptic is knowing: just because a certain topic is studied and an article published, does not mean the study was conducted scientifically, nor that the authors reached a conclusion supported by the data. So, when someone states that a study ‘has major flaws’ or ‘was well-done,’ precisely what does that mean? Join us as we analyze two different journal articles in detail, focusing on the good, the bad, and the ugly of how studies are done and interpreted.
  • Saturday, May 23, 12:00 PM ~ Blood, Sweat, and Fears: Infectious Outbreaks Among Us ~ Salon A (50 minutes) ~ Infectious outbreaks have swept through the human population throughout the existence of our species. Despite technological improvements and medical advances, pandemics continue to create illness and fear. We’ll look at how three different infectious outbreaks are trying to kill us, and how we are fighting back — Ebola, Chikungunya, and Enterovirus D68.
  • Monday, May 25, 10:00 AM ~ Allergies on Alien Planets? What would REALLY kill you? ~ Salon A ~ Sam Scheiner PhD (M), John Cmar MD, Perrianne Lurie MD, Thomas Talbot MD (50 minutes) ~ So your space ship has landed on that Gem of a New Planet, you’ve established a colony. YEAH! Then folks start getting ill …
  • Otherwise I will be lurking about the Science, Skeptical Thinking, and New Media tracks, as well as doing my fair share of gaming, specifically committing vast amounts of dragon-murder in D&D Attack Wing. Or so I hope. It’s the little things, you see.

As always, I will be accompanied by the beautiful and crafty Moon Ranger Laura, who’s schedule is as below:

  • Saturday, May 23, 9:00 AM ~ Women of Science: A History ~ Salon A (50 minutes) ~ A look at the influential women of SCIENCE past.
  • Saturday, May 23, 6:00 PM ~ Parsec Awards 10 Year Anniversary ~ Tack ~ Laura A Burns (M), Christiana Ellis, Tee Morris (50 minutes) ~ A Parsec Award Winning Podcaster, Parsec Judge, and Steering Committee Member discuss what it takes to craft an Award winning entry. The panel will cover a review of this year’s rules, submission criteria and tips from the experts.
  • Sunday, May 24, 10:00 AM ~ In Search of New Podcasts ~ Tack ~ Laura A Burns (M), Christiana Ellis, Tim Dodge, Patrick Scaffido (50 minutes) ~ This is the age of Serial and Welcome to Night Vale. Podcasts are bigger than ever. But what are the podcasts in the margins, the ones that haven’t hit it big? Panelists will share their top recommendations. Bring your notebooks and your podcatchers, and prepare for new audio pleasures.
  • Sunday, May 24, 6:00 PM ~ International Space University: The Update! ~ Salon A (50 minutes) ~ A discussion about the International Space University, it’s programs and how you can participate, even if you aren’t a student.

Balticon 2015 is May 22-25, 2015, at the Hunt Valley Inn, 245 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley, Maryland 21031. Follow me by my trail of Twitter-droppings, and if you happen to be there, please say hallo!

Existence Is A Choice

Existence is a choice.
There is no chaos in the world, only complexity.
Knowledge of the complex is wisdom.
From wisdom of the world comes wisdom of the self.
Mastery of the self is mastery of the world.
Loss of the self is the source of suffering.
Suffering is a choice, and we can refuse it.
It is in our power to create the world, or destroy it.


-The Qun

At Least I Have Chicken

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the fateful charge that created the man, the myth, the meme: Leeroy Jenkins.

Witness his clueless charge into glory!

Witness the height of his memedom on this segment from The Daily Show!

 

Witness his capitalization on Internet-fame to become an analyst at Blizzcon!

Witness the short film inspired by his relentless courage!

Staged original video or no, Leeroy, you are a glorious hero to the masses. Thank you for your inspiration.

science-based medical links of the moment

CC BY-NC image by clotho98 via Flickr
CC BY-NC image by clotho98 via Flickr

Midday On Heath: More Ebola

"Ebola Response Training", CC-BY image by Army Medicine via Flicker
“Ebola Response Training”, CC-BY image by Army Medicine via Flicker

Last week I was on Midday with Dan Rodricks on 88.1 WYPR Baltimore for our usual Midday on Health segment. This time around, we revisited Ebola to discuss the latest issues both in the US and abroad, and were fortunate enough to have Elizabeth Serlemitsos on from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs who is in Liberia working to control the spread of the virus through public education efforts. It was a great conversation.

For your listening and/or podcasting pleasure, the show can be found here.

Online Memorial Hospital