31 October 2006

Conference tidbits (delayed)

Been meaning to mention a few things about the NSF regional conference in Maryland last week.

I think the tone may have been set a little on Sunday, which was a day before the conference officially started. I went to attend a workshop there. There's supposed to be a morning and afternoon workshop on the grant application system NSF uses, called Fastlane. I got told at the registration desk that the person who was supposed to give the workshop just... vanished. Went AWOL. No show, no call, no notice... nothing.

I walk around a bit, thinking maybe this will be resolved by the time the second workshop shows. I show up at the building, which -- because it's Sunday -- seems to be locked up pretty tight. I eventually find one open door, and a couple of other prospective attendees and I go into the building. The workshop room is on the fourth floor.

The elevator only lets you go up to the third floor. The fourth floor you need a special key to be allowed to access. Okay, we try the stairwells. Locked.

Eventually, the few faculty (four of us), run into a woman who was instructed to allow us to the mysterious fourth floor. She tells us she was told to let people in at 12:30 -- our notes all said workshop was at 1:30.

The speaker is still, apparently, walkabout. Nobody for us to talk to.

One of the attendees tries to get a conference organizer on her mobile phone, only to get a message that the organizers are attending the NSF region conference for the next few days. Uh-huh. Eventually, I think someone gets an organizer on a cell. They suggest we slide into a similar workshop in another building, which is mean for administrators rather than faculty, but we are assured much of the information is still the same.

One of my favourite moments was when...

Actually, to understand the next bit, you should probably view a few pictures of the buildings at the University of Maryland, where we were. Check them out here.

Go on. I'll wait.

Really, I'll be here when you get back.

Dum dee dum de dum dee dumm...

Ah, there you are. Okay. After deciding to try to hit the other workshop, we walked out and we were trying to locate the building the alternate workshop was in. The woman next to me pointed and said, "Is it that brick building?"

I just had to turn to her and say, "They're all brick!"

"Oh, wait, let's narrow it down, the brick building with the white trim!"

(They all have white trim, too.)

Another moment that made me laugh was at the very end of the conference. They gave us little conference bags to carry around notes and programs and such. The conference officially ended at 4:00 pm Tuesday.

The shoulder strap on my conference bag broke at 4:01 pm.

Things always break just after the warranty expires...

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