Thursday, November 19, 2009

Conference Summary

Whew! I made it. Conference complete. I don't have the mental energy to put together paragraphs, so I beg your indulgence for bullet points.

- On my own personal scorecard, the winner of the best title of paper at the conference: Pendulum Animal Impact Testing. That threw me for a loop so much that I looked up the paper just to see what it was about. From the abstract: "The authors have developed a pendulum test incorporating an animal dummy to generate similar roof deformation to that experienced in real world animal impact accidents." Well, I guess somebody has to do it...

- My presentation this morning (at 8am - yeek!) went quite well, I thought. There were more hands up with questions than I had time to answer at the end of the talk. That either means people were interested, or people couldn't understand what in the world I was talking about. I'm hoping the former.

- I met two professors from World's Best School here, and met up with four other World's Best School students. My school was well-represented!

- I spent my days in sessions listening to talks, but in the evenings I was left to my own devices. Two nights I had to work (although I'm not actually AT school this week, homework is still due....) but two other nights I spent socializing. I was worried about the meet-and-greet type stuff, but it turned out to be quite enjoyable and I met some really great students.

- Wednesday night all of us World's Best School students went out for a nice dinner. I was acquaintances with these students (knew their faces from the department) before this conference but I'd never gotten to know them. Turns out they are fascinating people, and we had great dinner conversation. Also, the food was divine. We went to a Greek restaurant run by Cat Cora (of Iron Chef fame on the Food Network). Every dish we ordered was sublime. Perfectly seasoned, unique but balanced recipes. Delicious! I got the "Traditional Whole Fish"

and fortunately, the restaurant staff was available to show me how to filet the fish - I didn't know how to eat what was on my plate.... Now I'm an expert! We all sampled each other's dishes (fisherman's stew, rack of lamb) and although they were all excellent, we agreed mine was the best.

- I got to soak up the sun one afternoon out by the pool, and then slip into the hot tub after the sun went down. I could practically feel the stress melt away... I tried to store up as much sun as possible before I head back to the New England winter!

- I walked out and about one afternoon, and there was an outdoor magician putting on a show. I stopped to watch, and enjoyed feeling like a little kid again.

- The food situation at the conference was terrible. Bad planning all around - the logistics were all screwed up. On Monday, they ran out of food after half an hour (in an hour and a half lunch slot). I was in line, and had to wait 15 minutes before they showed up with more sandwiches. Then just as I was about to get to the front of the line, they ran out again. Another 15 minute wait, and they came out with pasta. I got one meager spoonfull (on a dessert-sized plate) and a pack of chips, and that was all for lunch. Boo.

Then Tuesday, you got a choice of sandwiches. I chose the roasted pepper wrap, and it turned out to be this tiny little burrito sized thing. Whereas the people who wanted Philly Cheese Steak got huge subs. Unfair!

On Wednesday, there was no choice of food - and just as I got to the front of the line at my station, that station ran out. Everybody in line had to move over to a different station and wait in line all over again.

Then finally today, they didn't run out of food (it was hamburgers). But the problem was they lined everybody up in two lines to get the hamburger. Then they put one table with condiments (lettuce, tomato, ketchup, that sort of thing) to one side of the serving lines, requiring you to pass THROUGH the line to get to the condiments. Then because there was only one table, there was a bottleneck and the queue backed up into the hamburger line and caused a huge mess. Then to get your drink, you had to go back to the other side of the room (again, THROUGH the hamburger line). And then there were no tables to sit at.

Bah. For an engineering conference, nobody thought to count number of registrants and compare to the number of sandwiches? Or was there no systems engineer able to work out logisitcal queueing flow? AND there was no coffee available after 9am. Really? Coffee should be available at a near-constant rate, I think. There's STUDENTS attending, for crying out loud...

- I looked good at this conference. I had to buy a couple pairs of dress pants and shirts last week for this purpose (I haven't worn dress clothes in a while, and I've lost weight so my old things don't fit). I wanted to get a suit, but I couldn't find one on short notice that fit me well. Despite that, I felt very confident and svelte in my sharp clothes. Nothing like a black pencil skirt, crisp white button down and kitten heels to put a spring in your step. They were partly bought with birthday money, so thank you to family for that!


So other than the food, a successful experience all the way around. I have a pocket full of business cards of people doing things relevant to my work (although I have none to give them), and I've been inspired to try a few new things in my own research. Tomorrow it's home again, home again, jiggety jig!

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