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.

8 Responses to “Back From The Conference”

  1. Scot Says:

    Ever try to intimidate a tenured professor? Not gonna happen.

    Yes I have and yes, it can be done. You apparently weren’t trying hard enough. And it’s even more satisfying when when you are still a student.

  2. Val Says:

    “…or lead sealed casks at the bottom of the ocean.”

    But how is it that vampires can fart, if they have no bodily functions?

    Sorry, couldn’t resist, and only a fan of the show would get the joke.

  3. Uncle Andrew Says:

    Ever try to intimidate a tenured professor? Not gonna happen.

    Yes I have and yes, it can be done. You apparently weren’t trying hard enough. And it’s even more satisfying when when you are still a student.

    Yeah, but knowing you a Glock 7 was involved. 😀

  4. Scot Says:

    No. No firearms involved. Politics, politics, politics. And I prefer the HK USP to the Glock.

  5. Dalek Says:

    Glad you survived the conference, Roo, and that you’re back to blogging! 😉 It’s too bad the facilities at Fort Worden are so bad, because it’s sure a pretty spot.

  6. Cyberdad Says:

    As a former tenured prof who has attended many academic conferences, I can share a few observations: (1) going to a conference – especially if the University is paying for it – is one of academia’s Prize Perks. I know, I know, sounds silly, but (a) academics don’t generally get Real Perks, like bonuses, fancy company cars, new computers or other such toys; and (b) academic life is, let’s face it, pretty humdrum, same old, some old (just like YOUR jobs!). SO: the opportunity to get a mini-vacation at someone else’s expense is hot stuff…and, therefore, the cushier the conference venue, the more appealing the conference…which might help explain why so few academics showed up at Port Townsend. (2) schmoozing is one of the most important – and for some, the only – reason to attend such conferences! What?! You mean these folks don’t go to absorb the latest, most fascinating information about their academic fields? No, lots of them go to absorb the latest, most fascinating information about their academic pals from other institutions. (3) Why is it so hard to get them out of the room when the session is over? This goes back to my schmoozing comment, but there are specialized, post-session types of schmoozing you need to be aware of: (a) the young academic who rushes up to the speaker to compliment, to brown nose, and to show that he/she too has a passionate interest in the subject…all in the interest of being remembered when the next job opens up at the speaker’s institution; and (b) the colleague, usually at the same academic rank, who comes up to compliment the speaker while simultaneously imparting some critical fact or data set that the speaker was unaware of, all in the interest of being “helpful” and, of course, “collegial.”

    I share these insights in hopes that they will be useful, in the event that you, Andrew, or any of your readers, ever have to plan another Conference. More insights are, of course, available for a fee.

  7. Uncle Andrew Says:

    All good points, Dad, thank you. Can you also, by any chance, explain the farting?

  8. Cyberdad Says:

    Actually,Andrew, no, I can’t explain the farting, since it has not been a feature of academic conferences I’ve attended. Just, speculating, of course, but (a) is there something about “mushrooms” (or even speaking about mushrooms) that might incline one to fart? or, (b) has anyone checked out the menus at your conferences?, or, (c) was this, possibly, an unconscious statement about the Conference itself? As I say, pure speculation…

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