Strange Travels, Part 10: Political Panels Galore

My adventures in NY Chicago, continued: Second day of the month


A Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) at the McCormick Convention Center in Chicago
(Note: This butterfly has nothing to do with the convention or the following post, but it was too lovely a shot to leave out.)

The YearlyKos convention is in full swing, Before the science rumpus begins, it’s time for coffee with Justin Cole of Media Matters. About a dozen or so bloggers from Colorado and a few other places gather to discuss the way breaking news is handled by the media. Concerns about newspaper stories with a conservative bias taking precedent over other articles are expressed. We all agree to keep a vigilant eye on our local media coverage. The coffee is delicious, and the conversation is inspiring. But time and caffeine soon run out, so I wander down to the exhibit hall to meet ScienceBlogs editor, Katherine Sharpe.

She’s there, staffing the Seed table. Before I can actually talk to Katherine, however, I’m presented with a microphone, and a giant walking camera asks me some questions about global warming. They seem to be somewhat leading, and not exactly in the direction I’m comfortable with. I make the statement that we can argue about how we got here till the cows come home, but we’re still going to have to adapt to the changes. The interviewer, seems satisfied, and turns off his camera. Then he relaxes and tells Katherine and I that he takes footage for Pajamas Media, and often provides it to Instapundit. I get that deer-in-the-headlights freezing sensation, as I try to remember what I said, in a panic. I convince myself that it wasn’t so bad.

After we recover from the impromptu interview, Katherine and I get to know each other a bit. We talk about blogging and science, in general, as she answers questions for folks dropping by the Seed table. Soon, other science bloggers start to trickle in, in preparation for their upcoming panels. I meet the enigmatic revere, although I won’t be able to attend the panel he hosts. Even though I’ll miss his talk, and our Science Blogger caucus the night before, this looks to be a day for science.

Next, I attend the big science blogger panel, with Chris Mooney, Sean Carroll, and Ed Brayton, hosted by Tara Smith. They all do a fantastic job presenting science to the public. Chris Mooney goes first, discussing climate change and hurricanes. It’s the same talk I heard when he came to Denver promoting his book, a few weeks ago, but this time it has pretty, colorful slides.

(Here are the links for parts two and three of his speech.)

He wins over the crowd, and we all wonder how Sean Carroll and Ed Brayton can possibly follow such a lively act. They do, however. Sean explains the recent discoveries concerning dark energy and dark matter in layman’s terms, along with nifty pictures and clever witticisms. Ed gives us the inside scoop on fighting intelligent design in the classroom. He suggests we use the same tactics as the creationists, and encourages us to join our local school boards. (Check out Sean’s speech, here and here, or Ed’s speech, here and here.) Tara joins in for the question and answer period, proving that she, too, knows her stuff.

Next, I’m forced to choose between a panel on global warming or a panel on the female presence in the blogosphere. I figure I have more to gain from the latter. I won’t be disappointed. The panel is both fun and engaging. I listen carefully to panelists Garance Franke-Ruta, Jessica Valenti, Amanda Marcotte, and YearlyKos organizer, Gina Cooper. The talk is encouraging, in many ways. I get the impression that we women have a bigger impact on the blogging world than we are given credit for. My favorite moment comes early on, when someone points out that the term "pundit" originated as a word for a 19th century men’s club. The reference to antiquated, uncompassionate group makes me smile as I think about the leading questions Mr. Pajamas asked me on global warming.

Later that evening, we SciBlings have an excellent seafood dinner, bought by a mysterious fan, who says he posts comments on ScienceBlogs as "Rich" ...but in reference to a joke Chris Mooney made during the science panel, we all call him "Dr. Moreau". In addition to the Seed-sponsored bloggers, their spouses, and our mysterious benefactor, we dine with Raymond Hoff, who writes the Smog Blog. We have an excellent time, lingering over dessert, before retiring back to the hotel.

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Thanks for the comment Steve. I actually wrote in a comment here a few weeks ago asking what was happening with this blog after the announcement that O'Reilly was dropping the Digital Media division. It's really refreshing to get an honest comment on what's happening. I really hope the blog picks up again.