SEPA ’09

23 06 2009


This year’s SEPA started off pretty good, and then got awesome! It was held in Nashville at the Adventure Science Center (Kris McCall’s place), so it was close enough to me to drive.  I arrived Monday evening after fighting some pretty rough storms past Memphis.  The first event was early Tuesday morning and I didn’t want to miss it.

The first event was a guest speaker from Colgate University, Anthony Aveni.  He talked about a fascinating subject, “Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico“.  Unfortunately, interesting material does not always make for an interesting talk.  There was quite a crowd, though.  A ton of folks who were there from surrounding colleges just to see him.  The talk started 45 minutes late while we were waiting on some college class to arrive from somewhere.  He spent the time signing copies of his books.  His talk was all about the history of the natives themselves and the destruction of their culture.  Turns out the original European explorers to sail to Central America went back with stories that made the inhabitants there appear as a mixture of humans and, like, monkeys or something.  They were thought of as less than human by all the explorers who came after for a long time.  The greatest tragedy here is that the missionaries took it upon themselves to rid the natives of all that the priests deemed evil, such as their books on astronomy.  (Ahhh, you see the connection now!)  One priest’s story accounts of a pile of books his men stacked 20 feet high and lit on fire, much to the dismay of the natives who owned them.  Today, there are only 4 scrolls remaining.  Blast it.

Because we started so late, he didn’t get to finish his talk with constellation lore — the whole reason for having the talk in the planetarium! — because the center had to start their regular daily show schedule.  I had a look at the week’s schedule and I have to tell you, it was insane!  I headed back to the hotel to rest up for the evening.  Events started at 5pm and wouldn’t end until 2am.  The rest of the week’s schedule looked just as challenging.

That evening we had a social gathering in the science center to kick things off.  (You’re going to love this!)  I got to see a lot of old friends I only get to visit with once a year, so there was a lot of catching up to do.  My friend, George Fleenor, was standing at a table talking with a couple of guys I’d never met.  I went over and said ‘hi’, interrupting their conversation.  When Fleenor didn’t introduce me I waited patiently for a chance to jump in.  Finally, one took a breath and I introduced myself.  “Hi.  I’m Terry,”  I said.  “Hi.  I’m Richard Wright.”  (I resisted the urge to hum High Hopes.)  “Well, I see by your name tag that you work for Software Bisque.  What do you do there?”  “I’m a programmer.  I helped create some new software that we’re marketing here.”

… May I take this moment to tell you about Software Bisque?  They’re the guys who wrote The Sky software that I’ve been using since version 3 many, many years ago.  I personally like their software package more than any other I’ve tried, and I’ve tried virtually all of them!  I’m a bit of a fan.  :o)   Okay, let’s go back…

“That’s cool!”  [turn to look at other guy at the table]  “They didn’t have a name tag for me when I showed up, so I had to make my own,” he says as I look at the name he scrawled onto his tag.  “Steve,” I read out loud, “and I see you work for Bisque as well.  So what is your function at Software Bisque?”  With that I notice a bit of a chuckle coming from Fleenor, and I (and you, I’m sure) realize that I’ve asked something that probably should have been embarrassing, except it’s *not* embarrassing because I was never properly introduced in the first place, Fleenor!  “Ohhhh, I sweep the floors and take care of the little stuff around the office.”  “Yeah, there’s a job certainly worthy of a trip to SEPA.  You do anything else?”  “Well, I guess I’m also the de facto president.”  “Oh.  Your name tag doesn’t read ‘Steve.  Bisque.’  It says ‘Steve Bisque’.  As in, the Steve Bisque!  Awesome.  You know, I’ve been using your software for years!”

And there you have it.  I asked Steve Bisque what his function was at his own company.  It’s a story for the generations.  Truth be known, he was a really cool guy and we even went downtown together on Friday night to hang out.  Again, awesome.

Steve Bisque

Not really sure what I’m doing with my hands here, but that’s Steve next to me and Richard on the end. Steve isn’t wearing his infamous name tag here, but I’m SURE it fooled others…

That’s it for now.  I also want to talk about the really cool show shown on that first night.  That’ll be the next post.  Stay tuned!




8 responses

23 06 2009

Wow! Too bad you couldn’t get more on that ancient civilization astronomy stuff. Those cultures were truly amazing! Especially when you consider the circumstances under which they did their work. Stupid conquistadores! Btw…nice tie…

23 06 2009

Yeah, some one some where once said “To destroy an entire culture, simply destroy its library.” Or maybe I said that just now.
As for that Steve fella, you know he did that on purpose just to mess with people.

24 06 2009

Yea, I really can’t wait to see “We Are Astronomers”, it sounds glorious! Oh, how were the cookies you stole?

26 06 2009

I’ve met that Steve fella once or twice. For a company President he’s a pretty laid back, down to Earth guy.

26 06 2009
Nick Jones

This has very little to do with this post other than the whole astronomy thing. I was driving around tonight and was going down a road that went straight over two hills and going up the first hill the the moon was directly over the the road on the second hill. It looked HUGE, like a giant lunar field goal. I then went down the first hill and the moon went out of sight. When I topped the second hill and looked out at the moon over the “valley” and it appeared dramatically smaller, even though I knew full well that its size hadn’t changed at all. I just thought I’d share that great perspective example.

27 06 2009

That IS an interesting observation. I’m glad you noticed. I’ve never noticed something like that before. I wonder how that could be turned into a concrete example to help dispel the myth? Think the illusion could be captured on film? Somehow, I don’t think it would work, but there must be some way…

30 06 2009
Máire of the Lilies

Well, now I don’t feel so bad about missing out on “Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico” because Martin talked me into attending the Digital Sky Academy instead. Would have loved to see and hear the skylore and it is really too bad that Dr. Aveni didn’t get to do that part. *sigh*

And now, after many inquiries, I have the ability to purchase those awesome peppermint sticks they had with every coffee break! Woo hoo!! Guess the ginormous amount of programming during the past couple of days has finally gotten to me. What’s the cure? MASSIVE amounts of sugar and multiple episodes of MacGyver. ;)

3 07 2009

Where are you?!

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