Greetings, all! First, welcome to The Amaz!ng Meeting 7. The JREF staff and I have been repeatedly astonished – if not “amazed” – at the steady growth of this annual event, and we are appropriately grateful and humble for your presence here. But, I must explain my somewhat subdued appearance…
This is what I call a major bummer. During a routine medical examination more than a month ago, it was discovered that I had a nasty visitor inside me – yet another stunning example of Intelligent Design at work, friends. My doctors went in and removed it, and things are looking up again. I’ll be pretty weak for a couple of months, but I assure you all that I’m fighting this thing with the very best technical help – I’m not at all shy about embracing technology! – and I’ll be able to keep up with my regular duties as the treatment proceeds.
This is the reason you’ve not seen any recent videos from me. Of course, I’m very fortunate to have good folks like Phil Plait, that Bad Astronomer, along with the ever-present, ever-diligent, and very fierce Linda Shallenberger, to back me up. They stepped in to manage and resuscitate TAM 7, and I think the results speak for themselves…!
The public response to my illness has been very generous and flattering. I’m now all the more aware of just how important our work is, and I intend to stay around for a long time because I’ve got a lot to do. My prognosis is good, even though I’ve decided to go along with this old-fashioned “orthodox” medicine, cutting back on the prayers and faith-healing, and opting for minimal voodoo ceremonies.
I want to thank Sean McCabe, my personal assistant who has been with me for the past year as an intern and now returns to his home on the other side of the world before resuming his interrupted academic studies. He took of a whole year to serve as a JREF resident intern. I’m very grateful to Sean for his most excellent attendance on my needs, and I’m reluctant to see him go. He will be replaced by Brandon K. Thorpe, who now takes on the job of saving me from at least some of my more grievous errors.
In no special order: I want to thank Jamy Ian Swiss, with whom I’ll participate after lunch today in what should be a very entertaining – and maybe embarrassing – discussion, Managing Director A Kovacs, Bart Farkas – who is again handling press relationships for us, Jeff Wagg, the JREF Outreach and Communications Manager, Rich Montalvo & Staci Woodrum – manning the video recording, Alison Smith, who manages the woo-woo applicants for us, our tried-and-true friend Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, Paul Anagnastopolis – in charge of the JREF scholarship program, and a couple of Scots: Scot Morris, a former editor of OMNI Magazine, who I first met many moons ago in that position, and Scott Romanowski – who commands our very efficient and hard-working volunteer platoon.
Also, volunteer Ed Behr, who has our JREF merchandising under supervision, Karl Shallenberger – again hand-in-hand with Linda – and what TAM could be complete without Michael Shermer and Pat Linse? The constant clicking you’ll be hearing will come from Scott Hurst, who has huge picture files of TAM events and – I’m told – can be talked into sharing them. Jose Alvarez, the artist who created the fabulous “Carlos” character for us in 1988 in Australia – and whose effects are still being felt Down Under! – is among us, too. Our faithful Aussie buddy Richard Saunders, the origami master, will fold almost any damn thing into a fantastic character at the slightest hint. And good old , has once more herded the scientific paper presenters into the corral. Penn & Teller, our most excellent friends, magician Mac King, and the brilliant Banachek are also on board, as usual, to our great delight…
Ladies & gentlemen, our present registration for TAM 7 as of this moment – and it will improve somewhat in the next day or so stands at 1007. But please consider: that figure is a tribute to the JREF staff who work so long and hard for 12 months to get it all together. And 3 days from now, they’ll be settling in to figure out how to make TAM 8 take wing, while being diverted to TAM London – our very first TAM off this continent – which is already oversubscribed, folks, with European skeptics trying to squeeze in wherever they can. We MUST be doing something right, don’tcha think?
And please, folks, during your attendance here, take the opportunity of meeting me in person. That’s why I made a special effort to be here at the event, to share your thoughts. We’ve decided that handshakes are perhaps not advisable, in view of the current ‘flu situation, so forgive me on that count, okay? I’m available in the next few days, there’s always an opportunity. Of course, there may be exceptions. If you’re a rich widow you could get a hug – upon the presentation of valid documentation, of course.
In closing, briefly, I love you all and I – and my staff – are grateful for your support. And I’ll beat this problem I presently have, I assure you.