2010 has been a relatively uneventful skeptical year for me. When I say uneventful, I personally have not done much in the way of promoting skepticism. However, I have finished my first semester of grad school, attended my first Australian TAM, my second TAM Vegas, and finding myself getting more involved in the workings of skepticism.
I am attending the University of Buffalo via the Internet. It is amazing to me how much technology lets you find out. I have spent a semester nose to texts/screen and learning! I know a real revelation right! Learning how to read a study has been one of the best things. If I learned nothing else in my years in grad school, this will do me a huge service. Turns out you should probably ignore the television reports on the latest study that comes out. Far better for you to read the study yourself, too much room for interpretation from the vague reports depending on the type of study.
Read the study your self, read the study from beginning to end. You would be amazed how many of them do a 180 from what the results actually show. The ones that are just poorly done would also amaze you. What is an example of a good study? One where the author states his or her study’s limitations stays true to what the results show, and one that offers up suggestions for further study. One of the better studies I read was written by Mathew Johnson and Massimo Pigliucci, they were very thorough and fully explained their results in the discussion. Well worth a read if you get a chance.
TAM Australia was FANTASTIC! The trip itself was fantastic, but the organizers did a wonderful job of pulling off their first TAM. I mean they really made it look flawless. They were quick on their feet with the surprise changes that needed to be made with speakers suddenly canceling. The little details like the name tags with the logo, the itinerary folds up and fits into the name tags so people don’t have another thing to hold. The speakers were quality Dr. Karl, Eugenie Scott, SGU, Dr. Simon Singh, Dr. Robert Morrison, and many others. Many people have said some very good things; I just wanted to add two more… Travis and I! We were on panels for TAMOz! That was very exciting experience for both of us. I hope I was informative and answered the questions with relevant responses. I can tell you when there is a microphone and cameras in front of your face, you get a little nervous.
Are there some things that could be done differently? Sure. However, these are minor things and not a reflection on the overall conference. The over all conference was very impressive and the amount of time and effort put in by all was apparent!
TAM8 in Vegas, was one of the biggest meetings yet. This was the JREF’s new president DJ Grothe’s first time in charge of TAM and he did a good job. All of the usual things an experienced TAMer have come to expect. Two things that could be done differently, I would have like to have seen the keynote speaker actually speak rather then a question/answer session. The other is during the cocktail hour, I would have liked to seen the James Randi interview of Richard Dawkins happen at the end of the cocktail hour. Not so close to the beginning, people had not seen each other in a while. people wanted to talk and to be shushed was kind of off putting.
For me it was a wonderful experience, almost as awesome as my very first one. Once again the speakers were quality. People like Dr. Simon Singh, Richard Dawkins, SGU, my personal favorite Adam Savage, and again many other notable people. The effort and the planning was apparent and I think the JREF overall did a good job as well.
I am increasingly finding myself getting more and more annoyed by the obvious false claims out there. I am finding myself becoming more intolerant of people getting mislead and ripped off as a result. Lets talk about my Energy Armor Experience. Travis tells me they have a kiosk and to make matters that much better, they have the ability to count the ions in their bracelets!! Needing to see this, I head over to the kiosk. They are doing the same physical tests that Power Balance does; only they are worse at it. I can see the direction they are pulling their subjects. I go through their tests and call them on their flaws. I end up with three sales people trying to test me; the last one is apparently the manager or the guy “in charge” that day. He tests me about ions, how they add energy to my body, how the FDA has approved negative ions for years! I ask, “How do negative ions add energy to my body?” I don’t get any real answers. I ask again, I keep pushing for two answers: 1. This is exactly how ions do their job or 2. You know I wasn’t trained for this; here is someone you can contact. Instead what I get is accusation of working for someone, and sworn at. “Go f’n Google negative ions” “My name is none of your f’n business”. Real nice.
Complaint letter sent to the director of the mall. Here is the letter ** Only changes made was the recipients name.
I get what I would consider an unacceptable response back. Here is the response. ** Only changes: removal of name and header of the email.
I send back the following letter: Here is the letter ** Changes made, removal of name of recipient
The good news is, people saw and heard the man swearing and getting angry with me. The good news is Travis has a contact at the FDA from prior experiences and this has resulted in the FDA looking into Energy Armor’s claims. This can only result in what I hope is Energy Armor having to do the same thing as Power Balance; report their false claims!
I have now found out that a local schoolteacher is selling Energy Armor to the students via the school store. Talk about a lack of business ethics! I am working out a way to word this properly and effectively. It will be dealt with; I am just working out the proper language. I do not want to burn bridges with the school, which will not be helpful or effective. I will keep you all posted on the results and lets see what happens!
I am enjoying what I am doing so far. I love my training in proper information seeking! I have a lot of work to go, but I feel I have improved far beyond what I use to have for skill. I am really looking forward to seeking out a career that involves this sort of work. I will work on figuring out my future career path when I am further in.
2011 should prove to be a more interesting year for Granite State Skeptics. We are looking for ways to be more involved and active. Several things in the works: We are working on our first skepticamp, I will be blogging more (resolutions you know), A certain charlatan will be coming to NH and we hope to be there, working on future speakers for SITP, and of course there is the standard events to attend NECSS and TAM9!