Where I First Met These Crazy People

Several years ago, my attention was diverted to a book called Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer. I read it in a weekend, and realized at that point there was an actual name for people who viewed the world the way that I did: skeptics. I did some research, found magazines, and online sites, and within a couple weeks found myself opening the home page of the James Randi Educational Foundation. There, on the front page, was an ad for The Amaz!ng Adventure! A Cruise Through the Bermuda Triangle.

Listening to Randi speak at the Isaac Asimov Library, former JREF headquarters

Now, I’d never been on a cruise nor had any desire to go on a cruise. But Shermer was listed as one of the speakers, as well as James Randi, and something kept drawing back to the idea of going some place and hanging around people who (I hoped) would be smart and interesting and full of love for science and logic. I took a deep breath, and I took the plunge. I nearly backed out of it several times (“I won’t know anybody!!”) but my good friend Eric kept encouraging me, telling me how many neat people I would meet.

So, not having any idea what to expect, I showed up for the pre-cruise reception at the JREF headquarters, and started meeting people, most of whom seemed to know each other.

The next morning, we set off. There were talks given during the day, and the first afternoon, as I sat by the pool, two of the other group members Susan and Scott sat down next to me. They had been involved with the JREF several years, and as it turned out, they lived about 30 miles away from me in Texas. They are still great friends and have meant so much to me, including giving me a place to stay for a few days after Hurricane Ike (“and bring your dogs!”)

Susan, myself, and Barbara, on formal night. Great friends!

As I didn’t sign up for any side trips, I spent one port day sitting next to Randi and some friends of his, including an Air Force colonel who has been at the Pentagon on 9/11, scientists, writers. I also met Peter, a young man from Sweden who fell and broke his hip during the cruise (and was spirited off by midnight rendezvous with the Coast Guard). He died earlier this year, and Kitty wrote a great piece about him here.

I was a little shy about being around people who were obviously already friends, but most people welcomed me right in, and after I returned from my short adventure, I joined the JREF forum and met many other friends.

I made close friends on that trip, who I have talked or chatted via IRC with almost every single day for the past six years. I’ve been on six cruises with them (every trip, the mix changes, but we mostly all keep in touch); I’ve been to seven domestics TAMs and the two UK TAMs, and I’ve visited these in Nevada, New Hampshire, Saskatchewan, New Hampshire, and a few other places. We go to each other’s home, we share each other’s triumphs, miseries, losses, children, hopes, dreams, failures. They have gone through college, are about to graduate from medical school, gotten married, and divorced.  It’s like having an extended family.

Oke brought Taliban Disguise Kits from Kabul, for a donation to a charity there. My youngest thought he was the baddest kid at school that year 🙂 Peter is the one wearing in the kilt in the left background.

I didn’t take many pictures on this trip, so I shamelessly ripped some off from the other people, probably mostly Susan and Scott.

Oh, and the Bermuda Triangle? There’s nothing there.

Picture by Scott that I really love. After six years, Randi finally remembers my name! “Kitty’s friend”

The motto is – don’t be afraid to try new things, to do things alone, and to take a chance with people.

Beautiful sunset shot by Scott

Categories: Friends, James Randi Educational Foundatioin - JREF, Skeptic, Travel

Tags: , , , , ,

4 replies

  1. Thanks. I’ve been keeping a manilla file called “Gullibility” for 30+ years. I think the first clipping was on the Millerites and the Great Disappointment. And I’ve been a fan of Martin Gardner since his debut in Scientific American (don’t remember him in Humpty Dumpty though). Then I found the Skeptical Inquirer in a bookstore magazine rack and subscribed. When I got an iPod, I quickly found the SGU and Skepticaly (love “Swoopy” and her interviews). Then I joined FB so I could see photos posted by a friend, and found you all one by one.

  2. I’m happy to be one of those crazy people, and I look forward to seeing you again in March, if not sooner. Come up and visit Boston sometime!


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