Fragments of Dragon*Con: James Randi

One of the hilights of this weekend for me was meeting a personal hero of mine. His name is James Randi, and he’s a stage magician, founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation, and the adversary of quacks, fakers, charlatans, and frauds of all kinds.

I first got hooked when I read his book Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions, first published in 1982. It’s a scorching indictment of all sorts of phonies, fakes, and frauds, from so-called “psychic” and sometimes petty thief Uri “spoon-bender” Geller to “psychic surgeons” who pick the pockets of the desperate and gullible with a handful of chicken guts.

For many years now, Randi has offered a Million Dollar Challenge–a cool one million dollars to anyone who can demonstrate any psychic, paranormal, or otherwise outside the realm of conventional science under controlled conditions. The person making the claim, be it telepathy or dowsing or homeopathic “medicine” or precognition.

A lot of folks who claim to believe in these things don’t much cotton to the notion of actually testing them, and as a result there’s all kinds of objections to the challenge, ranging from “it’s impossibly biased” (in reality, it is the person who claims the ability or phenomenon, not the James Randi Educational Foundation, who designs the test and describes what constitutes a success) to the idea that Randi is somehow “anti-psychic” and his mere presence interferes with “psychic” abilities (Randi is never present at any of the tests, and he is not even informed when the tests are scheduled or where they take place) to the claim that the Foundation will always cheat to skew the results (the Foundation does not run or administer the tests; all tests are administered by a third party, often a university, that both the claimant and the Foundation trust).

In short, this guy has spent a tremendous amount of time and energy over the last couple decades in the thankless task of opposing fraud, gullibility, anti-intellectualism, ignorance, and credulity that poison and corrode reason and attack the foundation of post-industrial society. It is hard to overstate my admiration of this man; people of reason everywhere owe him a debt of gratitude.

Wen I first met him at Dragon, I had a sewing machine under my arm. That’s a whole different story, and one I shan’t go into in this post.

DragonCon ’07

Science is teh AWESOME!

The Geek Group, an organization founded by physicsduck, brought a pair of singing Tesla coils to Dragon. Tesla coils are cool–they’re scary high-voltage devices that make noise and shoot lightning bolts. Singing Tesla coils, which shoot lightning bolts and make music, are even cooler.

   

Tesla coils buzz when they operate. Essentially, what you do is you inject a current into the primary winding, which is a loop of wire at the base of the tall, skinny coil. This indices a current in the secondary winding, which is the tall, skinny coil. The current travels up the coil ’til it hits the top, then travels back down again. You inject another current into the primary winding, and it creates another, stronger wave of induced current in the secondary winding, which travels up the coil and then back down again, when you hit it again, and each time it gets stronger until finally it becomes strong enough to shoot lightning bolts out the top. (That’s the Reader’s Digest condensed version for non-geeks, anyway).

I’m assuming that making them sing involves changing the frequency of the voltage supplied to the primary winding, so that they buzz at a different rate. If that’s true, it suggests that there’s a limit to the range of tones you can squeeze out of the coil, because every Tesla coil has an optimum frequency (determined by the size and construction of the coil) for the primary voltage. Deviate from that frequency and the coil operates less efficiently; stray too far from it, and the coil doesn’t work at all.

In any event, these things are cool as hell to watch. Even if there does need to be more VNV Nation on the playlist.

A brief mention of some of last weekend’s goings-on

So last weekend (not the one just past; the one before that) was Necronomicon, an annual roughly-around-Halloween science fiction convention in Tampa. It’s always a good time; and this year was no exception. Easily worth the drive down from Gainesville to attend.

I’m still sorting through pictures (nearly 700 of them), most of which are definitely not work-safe, or indeed safe to share around small animals or those with delicate sensibilities. Those will remain locked on my computer, away from the women and children (sorry, folks).

A small number of interesting pictures that are (reasonably) safe to share, though:

First up, my sweetie joreth in Con gear with the addition of a karada made of chain. True story: we bought the chain (25 feet of it) at Home Depot just before arriving at the convention. I pulled it out of the bag in the parking lot so I could find the center point; as I was doing this, a random guy walked past and said “Oh, bondage party, huh?” No way to answer a question like that except truthfully, so I said “yep.”

Tying a karada with chain rather than rope is remarkably different. The chain does not slide, so you can’t adjust the tension as you go; you have to get it right the first time. It took a surprising amount of work, and helpers, to get this to work. I loved the results, though.

  

At the pre-con orgy, I had the opportunity to linger over her with the floggers. It’s been much too long since I’ve been able to give her a proper beating, so we took advantage of the opportunity to spend an hour or so of quality time together, in a room full of people fucking, which is always a good backdrop to this sort of thing.

The rope here is a basic karada with the addition of a frog tie. Kept her backside nicely…accessible.

Someone got this pic–don’t know who, but I like it.

The second night of the con, I snapped a self-portrait reflected in the hotel window. Long exposure, no flash, and I really like the gritty, almost surreal way it turned out.

In unrelated matters: I now have a firm date for the move to Atlanta; I’ll be there a week from Wednesday. I had planned to go spend some time with smoocherie today, but I need to meet up with the principals of my client’s company (the one that’s hiring me), and they were supposed to meet with me here in Gainesville this afternoon and give me a check. They were delayed, and I likely won’t see them ’til tomorrow, so I didn’t get the chance to see smoocherie after all. Work is interfering with my romantic life, and that’s not okay with me!

Also, Shelly came home from seeing her other sweetie with a hickey on her neck, and that is absolutely delightful. There is very little in the world more totally hawt than when she comes home marked. 🙂

More sights to show you

Halloween weekend: Necronomicon!

Necronomicon is the closest local equivalent of the Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. The nice thing about Necro is that the pilgrimage comes to me, rather than the other way around. It’s an annual convention of science-fiction geekdom of high order.

Sadly, I have relatively few pictures to share of this year’s Necro, as an unfortunate accident on my part deleted many pictures from my camera. All was not lost, though, and I do hae much delight to show you.

smoocherie stayed with us for the weekend, which was delightful; we’ve seen more of her these past three weeks than in the six months prior. Shelly got a new, silver corset for this year’s festivities, and it is the hottest. Thing. EVAR.

The convention was, as it always is, the usual assortment of geeks, freeks, and general hottnests. This year’s festivities featured not one but two strip parties; Strip “Are You a Werewolf?” and Strip “Apples to Apples.” Physicist Sir Arthur Eddington once observed, “Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.” It is not, however, so strange that datan0de can not make any part of it into a game in which the players disrobe.


Of bondage, drama, and nudity

Friday night: Strip “Are You a Werewolf?” This is a social game, played with a deck of cards which randomly assigns a role–werewolf, villager, or seer, to the players. A game is played in cycles; each night, the werewolves, whose identity is unknown to the other players, silently and secretly choose a player to devour. That player is then removed from the game, and the seer silently chooses a player and has a vision that identifies that player as villager or werewolf. The villagers, incensed at the heinous crime, vote among themselves as to which of their number they believe to be the werewolf, who is then lynched. The cycle continues until the werewolves devour the villagers or the villagers correctly identify and lynch the werewolves.

Traditionally, the way we play is that each member of the losing side–werewolf or villager–loses an article of clothing.

During this year’s werewolf party, someone brought out a large coil of rope and casually mentioned that it was ideal for tying people up with, and someone else–a friend of phyrra and nihilus–eagerly volunteered to be the subject. “Well, hey,” someone else–I didn’t quite catch who–said, “Franklin here does rope bondage, and the next thing you know…

“I’ll try to do this without groping you,” sez I. “Groping’s cool, grope away,” sez she. I managed not to grope her–probably a good thing, since her partner appeared about midway through, within seconds of this picture being taken, and there was some drama. I didn’t witness the drama, and I’m told it was resolved amicably the following day, which is always good.

Got a nasty rope burn on my thumb, though.


Of elevators, Apples to Apples, and taking over the world

Saturday we made our appearance at the convention quite late, a fact I blame on smoocherie. I wanted to go to bed early, see, but she insisted on being interesting at me.

We arrived eventually, and ate ice cream. Ran into an old partner of mine, M:


smoocherie, M, and Shelly

Also spent some time with my archnemesis, and saw his hero, Gir:

My partner S‘s other partner Sterling entered, and won, the masquerade contest. I’m told this is a character from the TV show Angel; never seen it.


Necro was held in a new hotel this year. Traditionally, in every hotel which plays host to the convention, at least one of the elevators will fail every year…and this year continued the tradition. Fortunately, the new hotel is equipped with hydraulic elevators, which don’t fall when they’re overloaded.

The elevators were mirrored, as all swanky elevators in all upscale hotels are.


smoocherie multiplied, and my partner S

Later that evening: strip Apples to Apples.


Sunday: Groping and Relationship Negotiations

istislah showed up on Sunday, so sadly missed much of the activities. She did, however, bring a rather copious supply of M&Ms.

Now, negotiation is an important part of any relationship, particularly a polyamorous relationship or a BDSM relationship. smoocherie and I are, for example, currently negotiating the beginning of a relationship right now. However, even the fearsome negotiation skills of all of us combined–smoocherie, Shelly, Sterling, and I–failed before the complexity of the negotiations over istislah‘s M&Ms. In fact, I was just today informed that istislah has made a unilateral and entirely non-negotiated decision regarding the disposition of the remaining M&Ms, something which might warrant a Kierista-style gestalt on the subject.

She also took advantage of the opportunity to grope smoocherie, something that may or may not have been negotiated but definitely needed no intervention:


I had more pictures, which have been sent to digital oblivion–among them being pics during Werewolf and many pics of S and the members of the Smoosh. smoocherie snapped this pic of me, which is horribly backlit but shows off my fun “Hellraiser” jacket:

I know a lot of you guys out there have additional pics, which I need to get copies of…datan0de? zensidhe? nekkidsteve? (I got the pics you sent of the impromptu bondage session.) Anybody else?

At long last: Necro photos!


Yes, it’s a science fiction convention, with everything that implies. My friend Sharra actually wore this slave girl outfit to the opening of Star Wars: Episode I. The gas mask I’m wearing in this picture was a birthday gift from datan0de to Shelly; I appropriated it for the convention because it looks so good freaky with that jacket.

And now, without further ado…
More bandwidth-crushing, not-safe-for-work pictures below!

Phew!

Back from Necronomicon and the traditional post-Necro sushi dinner. Much fun, many pictures, strip “Are You a Werewolf?” Will post more later. Need sleep now. Too tired for complete sentences.