Monday, June 06, 2016

Awesome Con

It was Awesome Con this past weekend and I was there.  Overall I had a great time, and I think the closer partnership with NASA and the Discovery/Science channel groups really helped highlight some of the things that the DC area has to offer.  I have been a little frustrated that their website only lists some of the panel members on some of the panels, so, if you are trying to find a guest who is not getting a Q&A, it's really tough to figure out what panel they are on. It also meant I semi-accidentally attended panels with similar guests, or with people who were mostly planning to talk about their new book because the vague description had been unclear.  Most of the panels I attended were good, but in cons one always feels one is making tough choices, I prefer when they are done with the best info available.
Friday I went to Using Comics to Teach STEM*, which was I think geared more towards how educators (there was a power point about growing STEM jobs) could convince their schools to do this and less focused on the actual doing of it. They did suggest using things like a certain infamous comics death via whiplash to discuss things falling at different rates and the various calculations involved in that.  It was also clear the panel members loved their comics.
The next panel was Alternative Careers at NASA and involved a number of folks who mostly loved science but had determined they research aspect was not for them.  So, they had become science educators, science writers, and video producers at NASA.  There was also a panelist who had a degree in Fine Arts, and now worked making thermal blankets for space items.  The panelists really loved their jobs, and were, apparently coincidentally, all female. 
After that I went to the, ahem, adult version of Super Art Fight. They use a Cards Against Humanity based wheel, to have two artists going at once creating an evolving mural.  In their family friendly version, there are topics they shy away from, in the adult version, they do not. 
Saturday, I went to the Outrageous Acts of Science panel, with various Science Channel folks, and they talked about shows where they get to demonstrate science.  And there was a small in person demonstration involving Alka Seltzer that some of the audience got to test out. 
We did some snack hunting and some wandering through the exhibition hall, and then back for the How Women in Nerd Media are Creating a Revolution.  The two main panelist are now collaborating on a series, but there was also some discussion about how for a while the assumption was that men were the ones who controlled the money and so a lot of entertainment was geared towards them, and then it became clear that that wasn't quite correct so there has been some shifting. 
The Nerd Nite DC panel had two speakers, one discussing the reactions of music, with the note that studies have shown that non-human primates aren't really interested in music, but birds and elephants do seem to show interest.  (We watched a clip of a dancing parrot.) The current thinking is that music is meaningful to animals who make use of vocal learning.
After a break for a Batman sound off bee, we had another speaker who talked about fairytales and the possible lessons encoded within.
Sunday, I came back and went to the Cartoonists Against the Holocaust,  which is the title of a book by a Holocaust historian and a cartoon historian that looks at the contemporary cartoons in the World War II era, in the US that referenced the Holocaust. 
Then there was Full Spectrum: Why Comics in Color Matters**, talking about increasing representation in comics, particularly those from independent producers.  They also talked about how - similar to other media - digital comics sales aren't counted in a lot of the numbers used (the money shows up) but it may mean that some stories are doing great with digital readers, but since the ways of counting that differ, it's not being captured in traditional sales.
And finally I attended the second Nerd Nite DC panel.  The first speaker talked about the theft of Albert Einstein's brain.  Which is a weird story that is especially so, because this guy apparently carried the brain around in a mason jar.  The second speaker talked about artificial intelligence, the kinds we have right now, and the rules people are using to train them
And since the rain moved south, I at least made it home before the rain, which made up for the drenching I got on my way there Friday.
I did also pick up some copies of "Princeless", so I can try to convert more folks to the wonder and the awesome. 

*Normally, I would reference the program to list panel members since my memory for this many people is not that great.  But...
**This one does list some panelists in the description, but there are three names in the description and there were five people on the dais, so I give up.