Back From The Conference

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:51 am
The Puget Sound from Fort Worden
The Puget Sound as seen from Fort Worden

Well, for anyone who was not aware of my absence, I have returned from the Third International Medicinal Mushroom Conference. It was exciting, memorable, frustrating and literally a pain in the ass, thanks to my bulging discs.

But it was quite an accomplishment. A group of people already working one-and-a-half jobs each managed to put together a successful cutting-edge academic conference with 250 participants. Fucking-A, Yay Us!

Here, in no particular order, is a selection of knowledge nuggets I have acquired during my part in this auspicious event:

The Fort Worden State Park and Conference Center is not one of the worst places in the United States to hold a modern scientific conference; it is the worst place in the United States to hold a modern scientific conference. This place was an embarrassment to live and work in from Day One. The former barracks that served as low-cost Park housing were like a bad YMCA nightmare; one conference attendee compared it to a Salvadoran whorehouse. Many rooms weren’t cleaned or provided with fresh linens before we arrived; other rooms turned out not to exist at all; they were merely a second door into the adjoining room (lots of pandemonium and shouting in German over that little fiasco, lemmetellyou). Thank God I stayed off site at a charming little B&B called The English Inn; I recommend them wholeheartedly. As I’ve said before, no Internet access provided….though I did track down an unsecured wireless access point from a community college annex bookstore operating out of the former Fort Worden School House. Other than a special shout out to Steve Ballou and his hard-working facilities support staff, and the friendly rangers that patrol and maintain the park, the people running that place are liars, space cadets, intellectual gastropods, glacial responders, and simply do not care whether things at their Conference Center suck or not. The one thing they have going for them is that they’re friendly. I bet they’ve suckered in a lot of conferences that way.

– Presenters at conferences tend to exist within a singular temporal stream: their own. It is not at all unusual to have a presenter stroll up to you twenty-six minutes before they are scheduled to do their shtick, hand you a USB flash drive and say, “Hi! Here’s my PowerPoint presentation. I didn’t embed the fonts, so I hope you have the complete Eastern Crotosalbavonian charater set on your PC. Oh, and I received these important new charts by fax at my hotel this morning. Do you think you could scan them and use them to replace slides 3, 6, 7, 9, 21, 44 and 49 through 67?”

– A corollary to the point above: when planning a conference around scientists, doctors and academics, make sure to allow for “professor time”, a buffer of at least twenty minutes on either side of any adjacent presentations, seminars or symposia, to accommodate the inevitable discussion and schmoozing that takes place immediately following the conclusion of an event. Wrangling thhis type of crowd is even worse than the proverbial herding of cats; cats, at least, respond to badgering and intimidation. Ever try to intimidate a tenured professor? Not gonna happen.

– Patriates of many of the 25 countries represented at the Third International Medicinal Mushroom Conference have no problem with farting in the presence of total strangers, be they in lecture halls, crowded vans, or lead-sealed casks at the bottom of the ocean. They seem to do it as naturally and un-self-consciously as you or I might breathe, though when they’re doing what they do as naturally as you might breathe, you aren’t doing a lot of breathing, naturally.

– A group of people focused on and dedicated to a purpose can accomplish almost anything. To my co-workers at Fungi Perfecti: U p33pl R teh r0x0rz! I am proud to know and work with you, one and all.

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