Happy New Year And Reflections On 2013

A lot of things achieved last year! Which led me to write this about five days ago and then schedule it so I could sleep in this morning. Although I’ll probably have stayed up late anyway watching Serenity regardless.

Firstly, a few highlights:

ScienceRewired’s BigSci13 – Big Science Communication Summit. Huge thanks to Ande Gregson and Kendall Benton and everyone involved in the 2013 event, which has inspired me to reach beyond the usual skeptic-circles and look into outreach and accountability. I honestly wouldn’t have started on this journey of working at events as a social media coordinator if it weren’t for them. This photo was taken at the Sydney BigSci13 event, held from 6th & 7th June at the UNSW, Scientia Conference & Events Centre. I think it’s been greatly influential on the science communication community in Australia and has encouraged other events to lift their game significantly.

That’s me with my hard-working laptop, part of a team documenting the event online. I’m really so grateful to all the social media team for all their work too, it wouldn’t have been half as much fun without you all!

The I Fucking Love Science Event, aka IFLSLive / IFLSOz on the 12th August in Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum. An interview with Elise Andrew features on the Skeptical Inquirer website was a highlight, but I will always remember it for the chance to visit the Opal Reactor (huge thanks to ANSTO for the opportunity to get THIS CLOSE!!):


and for the opportunity to make fun of Dr Karl, the most famous science communicator Australia has produced. Thanks to everyone involved in the show who made it a night to remember!

Naturally, the biggest thanks go to the organisers of such events, especially the ScienceAlert gang and Chris Cassella. It was an honour to work with you all!

Winning the 2013 Ockham Award for podcasting!! Thanks to everyone involved with the awards, such as QEDCon, the Skeptic Magazine (UK) and Hayley Stevens for making my acceptance speech on my behalf.

The New Zealand Skeptics and the 2013 convention. This isn’t the BEST photo I took of the event, but it’s one that demonstrates all the buzz that was at the start of the New Zealand Skeptics convention. I still have a whole bunch of photos and even video from that time that I have to organise, and I’m sure I still owe emails… but it’s thanks to folk like Gold. And Gold. Did I mention Gold? – and all the committee and the fellow presenters like Dr Pamela Gay and Aimee Whitcroft, Dr Siouxsie Wiles, Elf Eldridge (thanks for the internet access!!), Vicki Hyde (who has inspired me even more to go beyond “preaching to the choir” in 2014) and a whole bunch of folk that are just fantastic. I was particularly proud to be on a panel with Dr Gay and talk about the future of skepticism, of the shocking treatment of great skeptics like Dr Karen Stollznow and how we can all lift our game when it comes to helping each other and being mindful of minority voices.

Oh, and the seal that was on the foreshore that morning that Gold and Pamela and I ran off to see the sun rise over Lambton Harbour, in Wellington. Having a cold nose has never been so much fun. And seeing Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra was just a wonderful gift that rounded off a brilliant time in New Zealand with unforgettable friends.

Also thanks to the crew behind the Young Australian Skeptics podcast who let me join them on their always-awesome show when I stopped off in Melbourne on the way home, and Embiggen Books for just being there and being wonderful. Next time I’ll organise myself better when I get stuck in that city and do a proper catch-up!

In comparison, I honestly don’t feel I achieved much for local skepticism apart from promoting touring events on the podcast, like the Sean Faircloth tour – but I continue to keep up the Perth Skeptics Meetup group and many thanks to everyone who goes to events and organises events via that site, especially Sarah, Nathan, Paul, Ash and Madge. But I did get one opportunity…

TEDXPerth. This probably constitutes my one local big-promotion of skeptical ideas to a general audience in my town. If it wasn’t for my awesome coach, Luke Copley, I wouldn’t have had the courage to stand up on the stage, let alone present on superstitions.

I even got to visit the ABC studios to talk about my speech on the afternoon show, which was a great treat in terms of seeing behind the scenes of a station. When the video of my TEDxPerth presentation is available, I’ll post it online – but this memory in the photo is one that will stick with me from that time – getting to meet local listeners to the podcast (although the baby probably doesn’t have a ipod let alone knows what “skeptic” means) who came along to TEDxPerth!

Thanks to everyone who came along, and to the organisers of TEDxPerth – and to my dear friend M who listened along with the live broadcast and has always been an ear (and an encouragement) throughout all the events I took part in.

Barry Karr of the Skeptical Inquirer website deserves a big shout-out in 2013, for allowing me to publish all the articles and interviews throughout the past year and preceding years, including this most popular one yet: Retreating to the Church of Anti-Vaccination: Australian Media and Politicians Taking Steps to Stamp Out Pseudoscience.

As someone who has been keeping an eye on what used to be the Australian Vaccination Network for quite some time (even went to three of her events when she came to WA… hopefully not something to be repeated!) this was a most gratifying year in terms of politicians and media paying attention to health matters rather than, say, fringe skeptic groups working to raise awareness of the AVN and their ilk’s claims. Well done everyone!

In “personal bests“, I got more qualifications this year, including my gold medal in Latin Ballroom (thanks to many years with Adam of Top Hat Productions!) – and graduating from Cert III and IV in Screen and Media (Radio Broadcasting), which has led to doing news reading at RTRFM in my town and working on my new project Urban Legendary, which I’ll be writing more about on the first day of 2014! Thanks to all the teachers at Central for getting me this far!

I completed the 365 Days of Philosophy site, and although technical and time issues got in the way of doing the podcast, I plan on finishing that element very soon and working on consolidating the information collected over the year in some fashion. In other Philosophy and Ethics work, I contributed to a number of resources this year with some fantastic writers and I’m very glad that the exam for final year students went well.

Speaking of podcasting – tremendous thanks to everyone who allowed themselves to be interviewed this year; in total there were 26 episodes completed! It’s less than the 50 or so episodes completed in 2012, but back then I wasn’t a full-time college student. Thanks goes out to all the sponsors of the show, especially Gerry U, Robert W, Richard C and anyone who has donated money or sent a kind message to the show or posted a link online to the content I produce. Without the interviewees or the listeners, there just wouldn’t be a show – I’d probably just be teaching Romeo and Juliet for the five-hundredth time. At least I don’t podcast in blank verse.

ONLY 26 podcast episodes? Wasn’t I studying radio and producing shows too? I do have some examples of audio work done during my time as a radio student and I’ll add some of the interviews I did on a range of topics to that collection. Really big thanks to Jonny Scaramanga, Milton Mermikides, Lawrence LeungProfessor Brian Cox, Gia MilinovichAssociate Professor Peter RichmondProfessor Elizabeth Elliott, and Catherine Alcorn – who all helped me pass the course by providing me with interviews for mainstream commercial radio broadcasts for my course!

The Manic Monday radio show team of Ash and Alina were particularly awesome as show co-hosts and our version of “Australia’s Next Top Model” will always remain with me as a particularly weird and enjoyable highlight of our time working together! I should also mention that Catherine of Faster Pussycat Productions is responsible for the show getting top marks for social media and snappy presentation of our show online! Thanks Catherine, you are an absolute gem.

Charity and Volunteer Work

I only did a little volunteer work this year, not as much as I usually do due to full time student-ing, but it was great to be a part of the numerous volunteers helping with tours for Open House Perth for the second year (I would have volunteered for TEDxPerth if I wasn’t already a part of it!). My KIVA site has continued to grow in completed projects over the past two years and I’ve kept up the eight or so donations every year.

In more student-related efforts, I helped promote the student radio station Boom Radio at the Royal Show, created a Public Service Announcement to promote SciTech, the local science museum, and did my usual food-and-present donations that is a seasonal tradition. If I was to continue doing the Boom Radio shows next year, I’d suggest that people check out: “Perth Charities That Don’t Need Your Money” – for ideas when you’re a student and can’t afford to donate cash but have things like old glasses frames, old bikes, blankets, toys, etc.

Reading in 2013

I started making a booklist of what I’ve read this year and have decided to go on something like GoodReads in order to keep track of them in the future – some are book form and some were electronic – many are mentioned in this video:

The Completely Selfish Guide To Pro-Rationalist Books From 2013 from Kylie Sturgess on Vimeo.

Some of the rest included (I’m sure I’ve forgotten some, but these are the new reads of the year):

The Casual Vacancy – JK Rowling
The Cuckoo’s Calling – JK Rowling
Orange Is The New Black – Piper Kerman
The Kandy-kolored Tangerine-flake Streamline Baby – Tom Wolfe
Divergent – Veronica Roth
The Master And Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov
Dark Places – Gillian Flynn
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn
The Stalking of Julia Gillard – Kerry-Anne Walsh
Am I Black Enough For You? – Anita Heiss
Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan
All These Things I’ve Done – Gabrielle Zevin
The World Until Yesterday – Jarred Diamond
Austenland – Shannon Hale
The City and The City – China Mieville
Hyperbole and a Half – Allie Brosh
Wonders of the Solar System – Prof Brian Cox
The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton
Four Plays for Radio – Tom Stoppard
I Think I Love You – Allison Pearson
The Case of Mary Bell – Gitta Sereny
Dark Blood – Stuart MacBride
Flesh House – Stuart MacBride
Blind Eye – Stuart MacBride
Night Film – Marissha Pessl
MaddAddam – Margaret Attwood
The Last Girl – Michael Adams
Lexicon – Max Barry
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Passage – Justin Cronin
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up – Lee Gutkind
The Bling Ring: How a Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World – Nancy Jo Sales
Destroying The Joint: Why Women Have To Change The World – Edited by Jane Caro
A handful of Stuart Macbride books that I took with me on holidays involving serial killers.

Books reread/rediscovered/returned to this year

Candy Girl – Diablo Cody (lost, brought again on iPad, then found it in the garden shed for some reason)
Room – Emma Donoghue (lost, repurchased)
Lolita – Nabokov (lost, repurchased)
The Secret History – Donna Tartt (brought again on iPad for travelling purposes)
Girl With A One Track Mind – Abby Lee (lost, brought again on iPad)
Special Topics in Calamity Physics – Marissha Pessel (brought again on iPad for travelling purposes)
Possession – A.S Byatt (brought new one for a friend; then got it on iPad for travelling purposes)
Dedication – Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin (lost, brought again on iPad)
Divine Secrets of The Ya Ya Sisterhood (lost, brought again on iPad)

I probably forgot something along the way, but if you were a part of my getting through what turned out to be a busier year than expected – thank you. And I hope to catch up with more people and do more podcasting in 2014.

Phew! Back to work!

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