bunny_hugger and I had one more important task: we would have to organize a coup to hold dinner. We did not want to miss the chance to have dinner with bluerain, orv, augustforth, and kevinjdog where all of us actually ate; but equally, we could not possibly under any circumstances spend multiple hours merely searching for a restaurant. Even if we left the minute Closing Ceremonies were over we'd be getting in to bunny_hugger's home after midnight; delaying further would soon push us into hours that were recklessly dangerous to drive, particularly after being awake and busy for eighteen or more hours.
So our plan was to pick someplace ourselves, and then approach everyone in the smallest groups we could find them in, proposing that and hopefully getting agreement without there ever being the chance for a group to squabble. (If I'm not mistaken this is also how Lenin came to power.) So first we had to pick where we'd go, and we settled on the Noodles And Company restaurant which had been the rest of the group's missed target the previous night. I'd never heard of the chain, but it seems to be strong in the midwest where nearly everyone else had connections and was warmly regarded and has abundant vegetarian recipes. bunny_hugger was fairly sure she knew where it was, and confirmed it with the concierge, so we went about picking on individuals and getting them to agree to that. We were taking on faith that we would be able to find the place, and that it would be open in the Sunday evening, but I don't remember if we had a designated backup. The Red Robin probably would have been the logical alternative if we did develop backup plans.
But the plan went off perfectly: we were able to get bluerain's agreement to Noodles and Company easily, and skylerbunny, and augustforth, and I think that bluerain talked orv and kevinjdog into it. A minor possible complication would be that bluerain had to be at the Closing Ceremonies, eating up an hour, and then she, orv, and kevinjdog would need some time after that to clean up their dealer's table, but that might equally fit with my and bunny_hugger's need to pack up our hotel room and check out.
So it was with reasonable confidence that we went to the next thing we wanted to see, the Atheist and Secular Tea. This, I'd understood, was a counterpart to the religious and spiritual gatherings which also dot the schedule, though for people with less of an interest in religious matters and more of one in tea and snacks. I'd expected light socialization and chewing, although things got off to an awkward start when there wasn't any hot water. After some people ran back and forth to ... somewhere (I assume the Con Lounge or else the kitchen) they came back with one of those little two-cup coffee makers, which would do fine in producing hot water, eventually, for everyone. Add some cookies and candies and that would be a fine if slightly slow tea.
Still, and despite the slightly ominous rearranging of the chairs in the room into a circle --- the rearrangement that, in class, always marked for me a horrible class session where everyone was expected to participate and which people who want classes to be More Engaging To The Students are always pushing even though I sitll hate them --- I was feeling pretty good. Particularly this was because bunny_hugger still had her puppets, including the bunny, and was practing singing ``Have A Cuppa Tea''. It may perhaps be immature to be so amused by someone singing a song whose chorus is, ``Halleluiah! Halleluiah! Halleluiah Rosie Lea!'', at something billed a secular-and-atheist tea, but I'm not always mature. And we did get some odd glances. (The further lyric, ``for Christ's sake, have a cuppa tea'' helped matters.)
I got less comfortable as things proceeded because the panelists wanted to have an open discussion about where ethics and morality come from if you aren't into taking them from God. It's not a subject I think much about; I have this rather raw, Ciceronian view that generally, when you're doing something wrong, you know it and probably have to start rationalizing doing it, which is a great warning sign to stop. Using this I've managed to get through life without anyone becoming so infuriated and disgusted with my behavior that they've stopped talking to me for more than a decade. Perhaps I need to think about it more. The event organizer also pointed out bunny_hugger, as a university professor whose specialty is in ethical questions, guaranteeing that her natural shyness would be augmented by a fear that people would try to show off their smartness by out-thinking anything she might have to say.
Well, so, the panel wasn't so much the sort of cocktail party-like free-form chatting that I expected and got more into talking about what we think about the vast religious masses out there. It's a topic I don't care to discuss much since it usually, at least on the Internet, seems to turn on things like should We be somehow annoyed at how much press Christmas gets? (I find more irritating the ``Was Jesus Real? Here's What Archeologists Say Every Single Time We Ask Them This For Every Single Holy Week'' articles that turn up in the news weeklies to celebrate the crucifixion, but if I skip the news weeklies that week --- not any kind burden on my reading habits --- and miss the History Channel's Here's A Physically Barely Plausible Way Some Biblical Miracle Might Have Happened If It Was Misunderstood And Garbled Some And Therefore Every Word In The Gospels Must Be Exactly Literally True, As Long As It's The Synoptic Gospels specials, the problem goes away.)
In the event the panel went on for its allotted hour and a set of topics that felt mighty familiar from the introductory rounds of any Internet discussion which gets around to wondering why all those folks are religious out there, and bunny_hugger admirably restrained herself from leaping out of her chair and throttling anyone. I think it might have been better if there had been just the encouragement to let people wander around talking while drinking tea and eating candy; that part was working best.
The group coming after us wanted the chairs arranged in a circle too, so we were able to get out of restoring the seats to where they had been.
Trivia: At the start of 1911, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale listed 353 pilots in France, 57 in England, 46 in Germany, 32 in Italy, 27 in Belgium, and 26 in the United States. Source: Taking Flight: Inventing The Aerial Age From Antiquity Through The First World War, Richard P Hallion.
Currently Reading: An ABC Of Science Fiction: Twenty-Six Excursions Into The Fantastic, Editor Tom Boardman Jr.