This would have been where I talked about the ASU Origins 10th anniversary celebrations, all the amazing panels that I saw, the conversations with scientists and science enthusiasts…and all the amazing things that I learned. But alas, there is no such entry to be had at this time due to recent events and none of us are better off for the lack of this amazing occasion.

But to quote the man himself, “Don’t let the bastards get you down”, and so I went to Arizona anyway! And even the lack of scientists in my life, still had an amazing time. And some of that was due to Lawrence Krauss being the kind and thoughtful person that he is and introducing me to some truly amazing people that welcomed me to Phoenix and made this a really memorable trip. Lawrence and Nancy are the best type of people and gave me a birthday for the history books. More on that in a moment.

I cannot tell you how much I *loved* the Desert Botanical Gardens.  So inspiring to be in the midst of the Sonoran desert, surrounded by this diversity of life.  I can hardly wait until I can get to my own garden this year because I am overcome with ideas on how I want to bring a little home.  I’ve got lots of thoughts with some hardy succulents and hostas along with some plants native to the region.  I’m going to spend the week sketching some plans on how I’m going to change things.  The scenery was breathtaking and I finished up my morning there by treating myself to a wonderful lunch at Gertrude’s.  The bison tenderloin on a slightly spicy bbq sauce and can we talk about the yuca (cassava) croquettes?  I need these in my life all the time.  Had a wonderful basil berry lemonade and topped it off with a Cactus Cosmo (featuring prickly pear water).

The  only thing more wonderful than that was the dinner party that I was invited to because Lawrence had sent out an email to so many people that he knows, introducing me and asking them to make me feel welcome. I am still so touched by the gesture and it was beyond lovely meeting all of these people. They showed off pictures from the Amazon cruise and told the most endearing stories about Lawrence (and some rather interesting tales about Richard Dawkins as well, but we aren’t going to discuss any of *that* here!).  We talked about recent events with Origins, local and federal politics, Canadian politics, life, work, science…it was fabulous.  In my normal life, all I ever hear about is video games, sports, how drunk someone got last night or how drunk they plan on getting come the weekend. Such a rare treat to have dinner and wine with people so in tune with things happening in the world and interested in hearing other people’s perspectives.  There were levels of commiseration and lots of laughter…and a good amount of wine.  🙂

One topic that was brought up was my trip the day before to visit the Origins office.  The events that they hold have become such an important part of my life and I’m riveted to my computer screen during every single event.  Since all their plans for this week have come to naught right now, I wanted to just say hi and thank them for the work that they do. They seemed really happy to have someone just come by to express their appreciation.  Amelia gave me a lovely tour and introduced me around while showing off all the pictures and posters of all the past events and I got a few little goodies to take home.  It was a bit of a sad moment though when realizing that the outside of Lawrence’s office door was as close as I was going to get during the week that he should have been putting on this huge event.  Lawrence, his family and everyone involved in Origins, does not deserve what is happening right now and I hope this is settled for the professor soon and then he can get back to work and they can reschedule the event.  And I already have plans to attend when that happens.

There were a lot of other little moments during the trip, meeting some exchange students at the hostel and we all talked about traveling and about staying in hostels. Going to the Psyche art exhibit at the ASU School of Earth and Space.  Hiking some of the Bright Angel trail in the Grand Canyon (holy cow…that is a steep trail) and oh! I went to the Lowell Observatory! I saw the original Pluto Observatory, walked around seeing the busts of those who were important to astronomy/cosmology and took in a couple of talks.  The only issue with that is that during one of the volunteer talks, I kept wanting to interrupt her.  It wasn’t a great explanation of Hawking radiation, she talked about universal expansion but never even mentioned dark energy and didn’t give an accurate rendition on who and how the CMB was found.  On the cool stuff side…I got a great look at Orion which was so clear.  I’m not sure that I knew that it was a stellar nursery and it’s nice to be surprised by stuff.  At another telescope, I got to see Castor’s binary stars which are about 50 light years away. But the highlight at the BIG telescope was viewing the Eskimo Nebula. It was discovered by William Herschel in 1787 and it’s over 2800 light years away and is a planetary nebula and it contains a white dwarf. So I my inner science nerd got a little happy time.  🙂

With luck, this time next year I will actually be able to talk about mind blowing science, but for now…pictures!!


A Call For Reason

Yes, I’m going to talk about Lawrence Krauss again. But in a way that I think references a larger problem and to respond to some push-back I’ve been seeing against myself and others that not only defend him online but retain our respect for him – not only as a person, but as the scientist, educator and promoter of rational public policy that he has always been.  Twitter is not the best of tools for detailed discussion or for personal revelations.  I’ve thought long and hard about whether I even wanted to write this blog, so I’m just going to write it and aside from checking the spelling…I’m not even going to edit it. If I think about it too much, I’m likely to change my mind about what comes next.

Let me get something out of the way.  I think the #MeToo movement to end sexual violence and harassment is important. I think that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and equality and is allowed to follow their dreams.  But when I say everyone, I mean EVERYONE.  #MeToo is not about always believing one side over another.  #MeToo is not a blanket hashtag that allows all of us to just abandon reason and critical thinking.  We cannot allow ourselves to fall back into a period where simply pointing at someone and declaring them a witch was acceptable. It’s not, it absolutely shameful and does real harm to legitimate victims of serious sexual violence.

Here’s my full disclosure and I guess this is my #MeToo which so few people have ever known, I can count them on one hand. I was sexually assaulted when I was 8 by the grandfather of my best friend, I’ll just call her J.  I was over for the afternoon and everyone was outside and he cornered me in her bedroom when I was getting something. At the time, I was really confused by the incident. It was 1978 and frankly, I was pretty naive about it. We didn’t have any kind of sex ed when I was in school and I come from a family that just doesn’t talk about things. Certainly nothing like this. There was never much communication in my family growing up and even less physical displays of affection. I never got any sage advice from my parents, we never had family trips and I don’t recall ever being encouraged in any interests or academically through my life.  So, coming to them with what had happened would never have been an option. I could never have talked about it to J and there have never had loads of people in my life that I’ve felt I could confide in, so outside of one other friend and a penpal that I used to have (yes, you once used to actually have to write letters to moderately anonymous people), I pretty much just kept this to myself over the years.

It’s been years since I really allowed myself to think back on it and I wish I’d been confident enough as a child to act. Granted, had I acted, I would not only have lost my friendship with J but it would have torn her family apart. However, I also don’t know if it was an isolated incident or if he actually was a pedophile and that part of  it haunts me now.  I live in a small city where everyone knows everyone’s business and people absolutely love to gossip and it’s also fairly religious…at least, people love to pay lip service to being religious and more sanctimonious than their neighbours.  I’m not entirely sure what would have happened had I acted upon this at the time but I’m not sure it would have been great for anyone involved.  I wish I had known where to turn or had those around that perhaps cared just a little more and communicated more effectively to have helped me make a decision. It makes me sad because I think it led to me trust men less during my life. I’ve never dated much, I tend not to socialize a whole lot and I generally don’t let people get too close.  People can’t disappoint you that way.

Having said all that, let’s go back to talking about the potential issues of this ‘all or nothing’ #MeToo attitude. Listen, not every form of a man touching a woman is sexual violence and its not even always sexual harassment.   You cannot treat every single accusation as cause to run a man out of town on a rail.  How does that help real victims of serious assault?  Flooding the news cycles and social media day after day with every little claim only makes people tune out.  People get exhausted when they are constantly slammed with constant reports when some of them are nothing more than gossip and innuendo.

Let me now address my defense of Professor Krauss and why I will continue to stand by him and any others that I feel are being falsely accused.  Even if I were to take most of the accusations against him at total face value…I honestly don’t think they are a big deal.  Most of them are ‘this consensual thing went on in his hotel room but it didn’t go anywhere and I left’ or ‘he or he and his wife propositioned me and it was creepy’.  There are those who say ‘he touched my leg/back/other innocuous part’ or ‘he made a comment/joke that I thought was offensive’ and I’m waiting for the part where I’m supposed to be outraged by his behaviour, even if all of that was true.

I don’t really do intimacy very well…or at all really.  But I do enjoy flirting, especially with those who also enjoy flirting.  It’s something that I learned to appreciate as I got older and it can be a whole lot of fun, especially with people you feel comfortable around. But it entails something that I also had to learn as I got older, personal responsibility.  Over my years of reading and being involved in politics, it’s a topic that I feel very strongly about.  There are a lot of things that we as humans, and citizens of wherever we are have obligations to take personal responsibility for – and one of those is setting our own boundaries.

I have no issues with a man who is flirting with me, getting forward enough to lay a hand on me within what I have determined to be my personal boundaries. So when someone talked about Professor Krauss touching her dress and then her outer thigh I was sitting there just thinking….and?  And she stated she had no issues with it at the time and didn’t say anything about it to him at the time. But NOW she’s all “dude, don’t touch me” during the video.  Six years after the fact is interesting timing to exclaim your personal boundaries.  You know what I do when I’m getting unwanted attention from someone? I tell them. On the spot.  It’s something that you do when you are an adult with adult responsibilities.  You owe that not only to yourself, but the person who crossed your boundary and the next woman that he encounters.  If that person is not aware that he’s done something that he feels is flirtatious and you feel that it’s an issue…just who are you helping by not saying something?

I was too young to know this lesson when my personal boundary was crossed the first time. And when I was old enough to know better, there was nothing to be done about it. J and her family had moved on and so had the grandfather had passed away before I was in high school.  But as adults in social settings we should all know this. And I am tired of every woman who feels she’s been wronged or offended by a man, claiming that she’s a victim.  You know who the real victims are? The ones that #MeToo should be focusing on? Tarana Burke who founded this said this in a statement after the Time magazine cover announcement:

For too long, survivors of sexual assault and harassment have been in the shadows. We have been afraid to speak up, to say ‘Me Too’ and seek accountability, for many, the consequences of doing so have been devastating.


Men who have been lionized in Hollywood are having to answer for their actions, but what of our most vulnerable communities? In our case, this isn’t a reality show. These are our lives and the Weinsteins have little to do with our wellness. Today’s announcement should be an opportunity to ask ourselves: are we really committed to the hard work of ending sexual violence?

What about young people having to break bread with their abuser at a family gathering year after year, in silence and solitude? What about women of color and transgender people, who struggle to be believed by friends, families and those in power? What about those regularly assaulted by officers of the law, on our streets and in our jails — to they get to say #MeToo as well? Will we listen when they do?

Sexual harassment is nothing to make light of.  But a man who touched your thigh once while you were at the bar at a conference? You really think that this is the the sort of thing we should be focused on?

People are MORE than willing to just roll all the men up who have been accused of anything at all and just put them at the margins of society, regardless of what they have contributed to that society or how small the infraction might be.  And I find the motives of those driving this narrative to be highly suspect.  I’m sure it has nothing at all to do with the massive popularity that someone like Lawrence Krauss holds within the many communities that he is part of.  Certainly the fact that having him removed from events and his (probably) lucrative speaking engagements would not at all factor into the fact that some are so willing to believe it and to get others to believe it as well.  Certainly, blackballing him as a leading expert that gets called upon to comment on many newsworthy items by news organizations around the world would not perhaps open up spots for others to promote their own work.

Oh no, it’s much easier to just think of him as a predator that likes to act inappropriately around women or that he has some sort of deviant behaviour issue and he’s just not safe to be around. That he’s a “creep”. You know what makes a guy a “creep”? When he does something that is not ok by you, you tell him to stop and he doesn’t.  I see none of that in Lawrence’s behaviour. And I see no one claiming that either.

I was recently asked if I still trusted him, since I have been among the women calling for those who have read the article to actually critically assess the claims. And yes, I do. I have heard absolutely nothing that would change my opinion of him. I still respect his work, would travel to see him speak and would socialize with him afterwards.  And it wouldn’t matter if that socializing was in a conference hall, a bar or a hotel room.  Because nothing that he has even been accused of would lead me to believe that if either of us in whatever setting we were in, were to cross anyone’s boundaries…that would be it.  There is nothing outside of the unsubstantiated claims made by that article that would lead me to believe otherwise. He and his wife are even both free to proposition me if they want. I might be into that, and I might not. But if I said no, pretty sure life would just move on.

Flirting is not illegal or immoral.  Whisper networks and gossip are like a game of telephone…things get distorted as you pass them around.  None of that is evidence that anyone has done something wrong and neither is an article filled with nothing but rumour. You can keep tweeting stupid accusations and push back at me all you want.

None of us should stand alone. We, as humans, are stronger together. We all deserve respect and while we should support those who speak out, we need to bear in mind that with the escalating accusations there will be those who are accused falsely. We need to be able to really look at what is being said all allow ourselves to exercise reason and compassion on all sides. We cannot destroy lives and careers in the rush to judgement.

When Good Skeptics Go Bad



I’m going to start this by saying that I resent having to write this blog. But the fact is, I have to. I have to because our online community who claim to be skeptics and critical thinkers is apparently filled with a lot of assholes. Sorry, but that is how I am currently feeling about it. That they would buy into a garbage article like the one that has come out recently at face value has disappointed me. That they would turn on someone who has dedicated his life to furthering science literacy, promoting rational public policy and critical thinking as well as helping to normalize atheism absolutely disgusts me.

I can only speak for myself here when I say, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, if you are among those who just accept claims without critically examining them…fuck you.


Have you ever been so inspired you couldn’t get to sleeping

Have you ever been unafraid to take it all the way

Have you ever been so in love you lived it to the limit

Have you ever read someone’s words like water in the desert

If you never have, it will happen someday


Those words taken from a song by Susan Werner are hitting home for me tonight because there is someone that makes me feel all of that and there are those out there trying to destroy his reputation right now. Over the past few days, I have experienced every emotion possible.  I have spent time crying uncontrollably followed by waves of depression and then moments later, I’ve been angrier than I can ever remember being in my entire life.

This isn’t happening directly to me. But it is happening to a person that I feel very close to because of the important role he’s played in my life. I sat in front of my computer the other night, listening to him lecture with my heart hurting for him and his family.   There were people out there making accusations against someone that I care about and who I respect a great deal. There was nothing I could do about the situation, except to defend him publicly. I know that I have occasionally spoken about my leaving religion but I want to mention it briefly here, as it relates to how I’m feeling about recent events.

Some of you might know about the near-death experience I had when I was nineteen that made me reexamine what I believed in. When I left the Baptist faith, I no longer knew what I believed. Living in a mostly Presbyterian city with next to no diversity (and pre-internet for the most part…bulletin boards don’t count) I had no idea where to turn for answers.  I had no one in my life to talk to about what I was feeling, I just knew what I didn’t believe. I’m not even that sure I’d ever even heard the word atheist before, though I do remember hearing the song “Dear God” by XTC and something about that resonated with me but I had no idea why or what that meant.

So, I read. Mostly about Buddhism and the various aspects of Paganism because outside of Christianity at the time, that was really all I was aware of. Growing up in a very Presbyterian place like this, you were pretty much told your lane and had to drive in it.

Being a pagan felt as close to right as I had ever come in my life. Reverence for the earth, you put out good vibes and good vibes come back to you. Find the god or goddess that “speaks” to you, the one that feels right. No right way to worship, just respect each other and the spiritual journey of others. The one that felt good to me during that time was Brigid.  The Celtic goddess of fire, poetry and inspiration and her day is February 2nd. So when others were off watching the groundhog, I would honour her by reading poetry by candlelight and feeling at peace with the world.

Then one day, Christopher Hitchens entered my life. He sort of snuck up behind me, kicked over my altar and made me pay attention. It was the first time I’d heard of atheism.  I listened to this incredibly intelligent man and things I had been thinking about for years suddenly started making sense. I had thought that just leaving organized religion had been sufficient. I mean, everyone had to believe in a higher power, right?  That is how most of us are raised but suddenly I had this entirely different viewpoint and it rocked my world.  Soon after I first became aware of this notion of atheism, was when The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins came out.

It took me months to work up the courage to buy that book.  I’d look at it all the time in the bookstore. I wanted so very much to know what was in that book but the thought of people seeing me pick it up? When I finally did, I carried that thing home in a brown paper bag like it was porn. I looked at it and thought about what if someone saw it sitting there in all its silver shininess?  As the wheels started to turn for me, more things began to clarify and make sense.  And that is the moment that Lawrence Krauss became a part of my life.

Growing up, I had NEVER had a single bit of interest in science.  I honestly don’t remember learning any science in school, couldn’t tell you anything about any of the classes.  I do recall skipping school the day they were going to make us dissect something. None of it was interesting and I didn’t feel challenged by any of it.  The day I first heard Professor Krauss, it was like water on dry land.  I’d never heard the concepts and ideas that he talked about before. And he spoke about atheism in a way that I’d never heard before. I felt an immediate connection to him. He was fascinating and I hung on every word he said like it was this whole language I was understanding for the first time. Listening to him was like hearing incredible music that you never want to end.  When I saw the ASU Origins panel with him. Brian Greene, Tracy Day, NdT, Bill Nye, Dawkins and others, I was rapt.  I had to know more.  I began buying books, listening to lectures and getting more involved.

Lawrence Krauss didn’t just teach me about science, he opened up the universe to me and showed me that the reality outside of our world was a much different place than I ever thought it was. He taught me not only how to question things but that it was actually a good thing to do so. He made me think about things that had never occurred to me, and he taught me that I was not alone. I followed him on Twitter and the day that I decided to message him to ask him a question…and he answered it was one that I will never forget. We’ve talked a fair bit since that first day and he’s one of the kindest and more generous people that I have ever had the privilege to know.

Now, to recent events. Before you ask, yes, the #metoo movement is important. Women who have been victimized deserve to be taken seriously. Everyone should feel safe and be treated with respect and dignity. Everyone should be treated equally. And I mean everyone.  People like Harvey Weinstein have committed serious crimes for which they deserve to see the inside of a prison cell. But with an escalation of accusations, we cannot allow ourselves to lose our ability to examine claims critically.  We are not still living in the dark ages where standing in the town square, pointing at someone and declaring them a witch is not acceptable either.  Muddying the waters with false claims doesn’t help anyone. That being said, even if I were to accept the accusations leveled at Professor Krauss, nothing put forth in that article rises to that level. It’s incredibly weak, goes on to target the entire atheist community and backs nothing up with any sort of evidence.

Has he offended people? Yes, of course he has. Probably in a lot of ways. Has he made mistakes around women that could be construed as inappropriate? Probably. So have I. So have you.  You know what? We are all flawed humans trying our best to interact with other flawed humans.  And he has many, many more opportunities for that to happen based on the size of his public profile. He interacts with a lot of women. He’s funny and brilliant and that’s attractive. But I do not, for one moment, believe the allegations that are being directed at him right now.  It gives me some reassurance that ASU is currently standing by him. I am doing the same and so are others. There are those who can believe in equality and yet not buy into false allegations wholesale.  I encourage others to try to discern the truth for yourself and not just accept empty claims.

I spent a good part of my life not really knowing who I was. I would not be the person that I am now had it not been for this man who I consider to by my greatest teacher and my constant inspiration.  So thank you Professor Krauss.  I know that I say it fairly often, but words are all there is to express how grateful I remain that you came into my life.


Krauss 1

#ThanksLKrauss  #Imwithhim

2 Minutes to Midnight

I felt compelled to make a short blog post after the announcement today from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that we have moved closer to midnight.

Let’s start with what the Bulletin is, for those who don’t know.  The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was established in 1945 by scientists (such as Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein), engineers, and other experts who had created the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project. They knew about the horrible effects of these new weapons and devoted themselves to warning the public about the consequences of using them. Over the 70+ years since its inception, it has also started to gauge other treats such as climate change and other technological threats like AI as a part of it’s analysis. Once a year, they take all these existential threats into consideration and set the time on the Doomsday Clock. The clock is a symbol representing the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe. It is meant not only to educate and inform on serious issues that threaten human life on Earth, but to spur people to action by setting the tone for how serious those situations really are.

What does midnight represent on the clock? It represents the end of civilization.  When the clock was first set in 1947, it was 7 minutes to midnight. It has been as far away from midnight as 17 minutes in 1991. But this is the closest the clock has been to midnight since 1953, the height of the Cold War.

The statement about the 2018 clock is here: It is now two minutes to midnight

Followup article by Lawrence Krauss and Robert Rosner: We’re as close to Doomsday today as we were during the Cold War

I’ve been getting a lot of pushback about this. “There are bigger issues.”, “This is bs meant to scare people.”, “This is just made up by leftist scientists.”, “Get over it, nukes aren’t a threat. No one is going to use them.”

Really? There are bigger issues than the ones being discussed by a board of experts in areas of public policy, security, nuclear issues and all areas of science (including climate science) plus the 15 Nobel laureates that advise the board? And you think that everyone that is concerned about these issues is strictly on the left wing?  As for it being “made up” to scare people…you should be scared.  Since 1962, there have been 13 times that nuclear weapons have come close to being launched. It only takes once.  And even though the number of these weapons have gone down, more countries than ever now possess them.

Risk of nuclear accidents is rising, says report on near-misses

World War Three, by Mistake

Nuclear Arsenals of the World

But the setting of the clock is about more than just nuclear weapons, though that is a definite concern.  There definitely are more concerns that take part in the setting of the clock. Climate change, biological threats, cyber threats, AI and other forms of emerging technological threats.  We should all be aware that there are significant dangers in the world. Part of being a scientifically literate citizen is the need to be fully educated.  When the Bulletin sets the clock, it’s a call to arms for all of us to be engaged and to step up and do our part in making sure that the world we one day leave behind, is a better and safer one for those that will inhabit it.

Be Aware – The Doomsday Dashboard

Science Notes

Here’s what I’ve found most interesting in the world of science lately…

How much do I love this crazy dinosaur?

Strange new dinosaur is a Velociraptor cousin with flippers


Another first from SpaceX
SpaceX Launches First Recycled Rocket to Space Station


We now have almost a sister solar system with number of planets orbiting a home star.
Scientists Use AI To Discover 8th Planet Orbiting a Distant Star


Scientists have found this amazing penguin fossil.

Ancient giant penguin was as big as Sidney Crosby


There is a bit of a fight happening in the world of science over gene editing, but it’s not likely the one you thought.

Scientists mobilize for a fight over powerful gene-editing technology


And we’ll end on new real estate in the universe

72 New Galaxies Found By European Telescope

Waves and Light

This morning I woke up to an alert that there was big science news being announced this morning, and boy they weren’t kidding.  Over 100 years ago, Einstein presented his General Theory of Relativity. One of the predictions that was part of his theory was that two orbiting masses that collide would send a sort of shockwave through spacetime. But Einstein never thought we would ever be able to detect them.

It’s truly amazing what a global effort in the pursuit of science can achieve. In this era of political dumbing down and divisiveness  – the announcement of the greatest detection coming from the LIGO/VIRGO network is incredible. While there have been detections of gravitational waves over the last couple of years, those came from the collision of binary black holes. What was detected today was not *just* gravitational waves but the light as well from binary neutron stars that collided 130 million light years away from Earth.

It has long been theorized that the heavy elements in the universe came from the collision of these stars. We now know that this is indeed the case as it showed creation of elements like silver, platinum, gold and uranium. There are also a few hypothesis about what would be created when neutron stars collide, would it be a heavier neutron star or a very light black hole? That is also now unfolding.  This event crossed from waves to every form of electromagnetic radiation — including X-ray, ultraviolet, optical, infrared, and radio waves were all involved in collecting data.

I am in awe of discoveries such as this. Against all odds, faced with those who said they could never accomplish this…scientists from all over the world collaborated on a project that required insane amounts of precision and verified something that Albert Einstein knew was real but never thought it could be proven out.  Now, LIGO is shutting down for a year to increase its sensitivity. With this discovery at its current level, what will the next few years mean to our understanding of the universe?

Humans evolved from our great ape ancestors only a few hundred thousand years ago and stood to walk upright. It was only a little over 400 hundred years ago since the telescope was first invented and in 1610, Galileo used that creation to view the moons of Jupiter the first time.  And just think of how long light takes to reach us and how far back into time we are now able to peer.  Imagine the possibilities of the future in our journey to understand the past.

Read more about the discovery here –  LIGO and Virgo make first detection of gravitational waves produced by colliding neutron stars

And here – LIGO Detects Fierce Collision of Neutron Stars for the First Time

This one is really good too – Astronomers strike cosmic gold, confirm origin of precious metals in neutron star mergers

And the published scientific paper for the more adventurous is here – Multi-messenger Observations of a Binary Neutron Star Merger



The Annual Week o’Science

Vacation time again! And naturally once again this year I volunteered for the World Science Festival in New York City. I wish that I could just be the kind of person that could do nothing for a whole week and just go lay on a beach somewhere but I’d go insane without something to do.

It’s really a wonderful event to be a part of. Let’s face it, Orillia is not exactly a town full of readers and especially not readers of science. There are way too many people who believe the woo that is on Oprah and the like. There are the few that have watched things like Cosmos and who watched Bill Nye in school…that’s really as far as it goes.  So it is really a cool experience to be able to go to an event like this, where you can have an *actual* conversation with people who know the same authors and communicators, all speak the same lingo and to meet all these new people. And to also see all those in charge of not only the festival, but also the venues every year!

That being said….I am not taking Greyhound to NYC anymore. Never have I experienced two more uncomfortable bus rides in my life as the trip down and back this year. Amtrak next year I think. Twelve hours crammed into full capacity buses was not my idea of a good time. And the border going down was awful. I — am not exactly high on what could be considered the “list of suspicious people to profile list”. Hi, over forty Canadian and pretty much as Caucasian as you can get. Here’s how my border experience went down this year:

Border Guard: Why are you traveling to the States?

Me: I’m seeing some sights and volunteering for The World Science Festival

BG: Are you getting any remuneration for that?

Me: No, they throw a volunteer party at the end of the week. I have all my information for my stay and my itinerary right here…

BG: *stares at me* You’re traveling from Canada to do this? What did you say it was called?

Me: Yes…The World Science Festival.

BG: *typing on a computer* And who runs it.

Me: The World Science Festival…..

BG: I don’t know…this sounds a little borderline. I think you need a visa for this.

Me: I haven’t had an issue before with coming down for it.

BG: Before you come down to do this again, you had better look into this more.

It felt really tense, but they let me across the border. I was uncertain for a minute if that was going to be the case.  Can’t be sure if it was the volunteering he took issue with or the science part. lol. And missing the festival would have sucked. Finally made it to the city at around 7:30am on Wednesday morning and I was fairly exhausted. Got checked in at the hostel at 103rd and Amsterdam, a short nap and hot shower later I felt like heading up to Community Food & Juice for a really good breakfast. Afterwards, a bit of wandering about and then the subway down to volunteer headquarters to get my credentials. Then a light supper and early to bed and watching a bit of the WSF live stream before I couldn’t stay awake anymore.

Thursday was museum day for me so I spent the vast majority of the afternoon in the American Museum of Natural History and the Rose Center for Earth and Space (NdT’s hood). Saw Dark Universe again and the short thing in the Hayden Big Bang theatre that Liam Neeson narrated. Spent as much time there as I could before my first volunteer shift which was a conversation between Alan Alda and Tina Fey. Alan runs a centre teaching scientists to be better communicators using things like improv. They brought Brian Greene up on stage for a “spontaneous” to explain scientific concepts to Tina and she’d buzz him when he said something he did not understand.

I have to digress for a moment for those people who might not know who Brian Greene is (and what is wrong with you?). One of my favourite authors and speakers, wonderful communicator of difficult concepts in science, professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University and co-founder of The World Science Festival with his wife, Tracy Day.  He’s brilliant. I took his online class at World Science U and he’s one of those people who even through the screen, you feel like you are having a conversation. I don’t get fannish very often but Professor Greene is one person I’ve wanted to meet for ages. Side story — I made one of my funny little Twitter jokes to him indicating he should really hire me as his PA, random dude thought that I worked for him already. I advised him that while I run the profile for him, I have never met Professor Greene. At that moment, the man in question tweeted me that if I were volunteering this year, he and I would definitely meet. 🙂

We’ll come back to that.

Friday morning was an early day working the Pioneers of Science event with a room full of incredibly smart teenagers. Gives one a great deal of hope about the future. The event featured Jane Lubchenko (head of NOAA during the Deepwater Horizon disaster) and Aprielle Ericsson (the first African-American female to receive a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Howard University and the first African-American female to receive a Ph.D. in Engineering at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center). Both were incredibly inspiring. I had gotten caffeined up and worked some lighting cues for the experiment portions of the event (had one or two totally unexpected ones thrown my way as well so that was bumpy) and wrangled people in the lobby.  Mike, Jack and Kim that worked the NYU Global Center were *amazing*. Hopefully, I get to work with them again next year. And you know that no matter what I say, I’m going to at least *some* of the festival every year that’s possible.

Had the rest of the day free so I thought I’d go back to the museum, was there for a bit and in the Cuba special collection when I got an email that there was availability to see Sylvia Earle’s keynote. Really short notice so I hopped a cab to get there. Made it just in time to get seated. Turns out that Brian Greene was introducing her and then he came and sat in the row behind me. Not distracting at all, lol. And for the 2nd day in a row I did not have the opportunity to introduce myself to Brian.  Since I wasn’t far away, I spent some time at The Strand book store (nerd Disneyland) and went to Joe’s for some NY pizza. Yum!  🙂

Saturday….I came down with a bit of a sinus cold which happens when I get really sleep deprived sometimes. Had some momentary guilt over lazing about in bed until I reminded myself that I am on vacation. I had a ticket to Brian’s event that night “Science in a Polarized World”. Paid a visit to the drug store for tissue and drugs so that I wouldn’t sneeze my way through the night. The panel really made me think and it might result in a new site going up on some of the topics. It gave me a great deal to think about. After the event I stopped near the stage because I had to finish the questionnaire in my program. And…Brian stopped at the stage edge to answer a couple of questions. But right at the exact moment there was a break in the conversation and I was going to say hi, he had to dash off.

Sunday was a BIG day. Got up at around 5:30 am so that I could get checked out, stow my bags in a locker downstairs and head downtown as my shift started at 8am.  Went to volunteer command and got handed a clipboard then went in search of the freight elevator and loading dock to advise vendors what floor to go to for Ultimate Science Sunday. Then floated the floors for an hour making sure everything was ok. At 11am that shift was over but volunteer command needed help with lunches so I put in time there after getting coffee. Scarfed down some lunch with some volunteers from the city and then went to my next scheduled shift back at the Grand Hall with Jack and Kim.  This one was a Salon and I went out to stand on the street, directing people around to the entrance. It was *cold* and rainy so I added a slight cough to my mild cold….yay.

Headed upstairs when the event had started and went in to watch. About 10 minutes after I got there…guess what. Yeah, Brian Greene came in and sat down pretty much in front of where I was standing. Being the last day…I was not going to allow this opportunity to elude me.  I knew he would leave when Q&A started so I left just before he did to have the opportunity to say hello and introduce myself. He thanked me for volunteering and we talked briefly about his profile and a few other things. I have to say this…he is incredibly sweet to take a moment out of what is probably a crazy schedule. And he takes a legitimate interest while  talking. It’s that quality that translates right through the screen when he’s teaching on World Science U. (He’s also very charming and incredibly handsome. And yes…perhaps he is the subject of a little nerdcrush on my part.)

Finished up at the Salon at around 3pm so I had time to walk outside to a coffee shop for a tea and doughnut break before heading to Skirball to work with Julianne and Suchan again as Front of House/Hospitality.  Was ushering this year, watched most of the neuroscience panel but ducked out early to go to help out in the Green Room. We tidied up a bit and waited for the event to end and I escorted some of the speakers to their cars. Once that got taken care of, it was time for the volunteer party!

While I did not win anything in the raffle, got to eat pizza and chat with some of the volunteers I worked with like Cassie and Winnie. And we all got little swag bags.  Brian and Tracy dropped in to thank the volunteers so I could finally go a little fan girl and get my picture taken with Brian. He then asked me jokingly if he’d kept his promise.  🙂

After the party, I went to collect my bags and head to the Port Authority to hang out for a couple of hours, waiting for my 12:30 am bus (someone remind me to NEVER do that again).  The bus was packed the whole way and I have never been so happy to see Toronto in my life. Checked in at the hostel and was able to have a shower and a little nap before heading out to dinner and then to see Lawrence Krauss give a talk and then a conversation with Matt Dillahunty.  Those who know me, know my long standing love for Professor Krauss.  Brilliant, funny, patient and incredibly nice. I don’t think I would have ever developed an interest and passion for science had it not been for him. Waited around and got my copy of my book signed and exchange a few words with him. By then I was completely devoid of energy and could not wait to go to bed. Shame…I keep wanting to take him out and get him drunk.  🙂  Was not to be this time however.

Whew…almost as tiring to blog about than it was to actually do. And yet, I can’t wait to do it again!