Jerry Coyne, In Murray Ky.

I did manage to catch most of Prof Celing Cat’s talk last night, although it was not without its problems. First, it was difficult for me to find pertinent information concerning its location. The info, that I caught on WEIT (Why Evolution is True website run by Prof. Coyne) was just a poster detailing one of his two talks, one Thursday, the other Friday. The poster I remember seeing said the talk would be at Freed Curd Auditorium. I was unaware that the poster I saw was for the Fri. night talk, not the Thurs. night talk. So from the get go I had problems. Searches on the internet, and Google Earth gave me nothing to go on either. Google turned up no address for Freed Curd Auditorium, and Google Earth showed no building designated as such. I figured what the heck, I can find it.

Murray State is a pretty big campus, and at least eight or nine people I approached had never heard of Freed Curd Auditorium, as it was quite evident by the blank stares I recieved, then the accompanying dialogue confirming this fact. I finally accosted an individual who directed me in the right direction. With Freed Curd Auditorium found, it was a ghost town. I mean no one around, and it was ten minutes till 7:00 when it was supposed to begin. So I was a tad confused. Not the first time…quite probably not the last.

Then, there were a couple of students out in the hall. They appeared to be of Iranian, or Pakistani descent (or any number of countries in the region), given their middle eastern appearances, and their conversing in (what I assume was) Arabic. They were out in the hall, with a tape measure, marking lines for something, I didn’t pay too much attention at first, I was more concerned with the talk that wasn’t going on here. So I waited around a few minutes hoping someone would show up with some sort of explanation, and none was forthcoming, but in that time it occured to me that these guys of middle eastern descent, out in the hall, with a measuring tape, in this day and age, I had the slight notion they could be up to no good out there, gathering intell or something. So when I went back out into the hall to look about for people that weren’t showing up, I noticed the two students had been joined by a third, of oriental descent, and they had paper airplanes. Yes, paper airplanes. One guy was standing maybe two or three feet from a corner in the hall, and he was tossing planes, that when thrown, went around the damn corner, and down the other hall. Being a bit of a nerdy geek kinda guy, I recognized the paper plane design, and asked to look at one. It had been modified somewhat from the design I am aware of, and I had to ask “how in the heck did you get these to fly around the corner? One student looked at me with a big grin and said “engineering.” I was damn impressed. So I stood there for a few minutes watching these guys toss airplanes around the corner, and one of them was taking notes. I had a moment, right then and there, experiencing a moment of clarity, seeing they were just kids having fun, but also doing serious work at the same time, and I must admit I both relieved and jealous at the same time. Anyway…

A janitor came down the hall, so I saw a chance to inquire about this talk that I could not find, and he didn’t know much either, but he was nice guy. I told him about how no one seemed to know the location of this auditorium, and he let me in on the secret. This bi domed building that I saw in the Google Earth search, is nicknamed the “Dolly Parton” building. He told me not to tell anyone he told me that, but I guess the cat is out of the bag now. So a tad dejected, we left (I had one of my sons, and a friend of his with me, my wife didn’t make it having had a rough day at work, and my youngest son decided to stay home with her and keep her company, and we would all go tonight to the next talk) So we left the building. As previously mentioned  I had noticed from my Google Earth search, that this building had 2 domes. having found that Freed Curd Auditorium was in one of them, I though maybe the other dome would have the talk. So we walked around this fairly large building, in the dark, with a light rain falling, and finally got to the other dome, and it turned out to just be a bedecked entryway. At this point I was ready to call it and just go home. My son said something about not giving up yet, so when we went back towards the car, we looked in on on Freed Curd again, it was still empty. Upon leaving the building, I saw there was another building across the way that had a kiosk of sorts with posters all over it in the entryway, so I walked in and looked. There was a poster there for Fridays talk, but nothing about Thursdays talk. Figures. So we went inside, and I asked a lady who worked in a shop there if she knew anything. Finally after much asking and searching, we had found someone to direct us to the talk. It  was in a building called Mason Hall, and not too far. We arrived at the talk 20 minutes late, Prof. Coyne was well under way, so we walked in quietly and found a seat.

As it turns out, his talk pretty much covered stuff I already knew, but I knew my brat and his friend were soaking it up. I have read Coyne’s book Why Evolution is True at least 3 times already, and have searched the talk origin archives, as well as picked up a few things here or there on the subject of evolution. Prof. Coynes talk touched on a lot of material in his book, so the talk for me was a tad boring, but it was a pleasant experience, being there, and hearing it from quite literally, the man who wrote the book. The best part of the talk for me, came after the talk was over, and Prof. Coyne took some questions from the audience. Then I got to see the real guy inside come to life, and he spoke enthusiastically in his replies. I should also mention the students asked very good questions, and JC’s replies were concise, to the point, and obviously from the heart. Yep, glad we went. Even after all the hugaballoo trying to find it. After the talk and  Q-A session JC said he would sign books. Yay! I had brought my copy of WEIT but did not know if he would be available to sign books after, and dared not ask during the Q-A, because those students were asking such good questions, and I could not bring myself to ask the one question I had, because it was a purely selfish one. So I was elated to see that he would indeed sign books. Trouble was I left it in the car. So I had to hustle out, half jog half walk to the car, and hopefully get back in time. I was in luck there were still a handfull of people waiting with books that needed signing when I got back, and I got in line. JC greeted me with a “glad you came” I replied with a “it was my pleasure.” I had seen him ask the person in front of me if they had a cat, so I infomed him that I did indeed have cats, and he drew me a cat pic to go with the autograph. But I had to suffer the indignity of a meow. Yeah, a meow. He said something about there being a secret word, and I was dumbfounded, so I looked around for some help, but no one else appeared to notice the predicament I was in, and JC finally said “it’s a meow, you gotta say meow” So, I reluctantly let out a lightly spoken meow, in a questioning manner, and he seemed pleased I passed the test, and drew my cat.

I took a couple of pics during the talk, neither of them came out, they are out of focus. Stupid auto focus got the persons head in front me focused in, and not my target. I will shoot for more pics tonight, and make sure there are at least a couple that are in focus, will post them next time.

At least, I know exactly where to find his talk tonight. I wonder if my airplane tossing frinds might be there…