07 February 2013

Science Online 2013: days 3 and 4

The thing I remember most about day 3 of Science Online was getting green around the gills. I got a headache – possibly a caffeine withdrawal headache – and felt ill and queasy much of the day. Those of you who were there may ask, “Zen, how could you have a caffeine withdrawal headache when attendees were averaging 15 gallons of coffee an hour?” I don’t drink coffee. I drink soft drinks, and there wasn’t a vending machine in sight, in stark contrast to my own campus. I recovered by mid-afternoon, but it definitely took much of the fun out of the day.

Headache or no, I saw the Beyond Text session. This could have been two sessions: one for video, one for podcasts. The level of thinking about multimedia seemed very basic to me.

Because of the headache, though, I thank Morgan at BioInFocus for doing an interview with me. (Will let you know when it’s available.) We talked a bit about things I do online, particularly #SciFund. Focusing on the interview took me out of my head long enough to give me some relief from the pain.

Speaking of #SciFund, we managed to get this picture of most of the #SciFund participants at Science Online 2013:

(L to R: Jai Ranganathan, Diane Kelly, me, Jarrett Byrnes, Alex Warneke. Absent: Anthony Salvagno.)

In contrast to the previous group dinner and open mic night, day 3 was dinner on our own. I ended up at The Busy Bee with a big whack of people. They were out of table space, but they let a few of us sit down on their stage floor. It was a little bit of a picnic atmosphere, and their food was good.

On day 3, I switched it up and went back to wearing jeans, but a lot of people were asking me where my kilt was. I couldn’t disappoint the fans, so I went back to wearing the kilt on day 4.

Day 4, Saturday, was the most fun for me. The night before, I got an email from the Office of Graduate Studies using they were looking for the next speaker for the STEM lecture series this spring. I thought, “If I cannot get a speaker for a STEM lecture at this conference, I. Am. A. Failure.” This gave me the chance to have lots of great conversations, because I was able to tell people, “I have a speaking opportunity, an all expenses paid trip, and a budget. Pitch me!” I will be going back to UTPA with a list of about a dozen prospective speakers.

The ebook session started with Carl Zimmer providing some perspective on how the market has changed from even over a few years that it’s been discussed at Science Online. Ebooks have gone from being resisted and marginalized to being sold routinely. I think we are now just at the cusp of a technological leap in ebook reader capabilities. Much discussion was influenced by Snow Fall, a New York Times branded ebook that was much praised, but had a budget of a million dollars.

Perhaps the session that was the most unexpectedly fun was the identity session. When I read the warm-up post from Scicurious, I had a suspicion that she had plans... And my hunch was right. She was wearing a full Batwoman costume.* I told my kilt story again. This prompted a rather astonishing compliment from Danielle Lee, who compared me to Tony Stark (Iron Man). Blush. (I have more to say on Ghost Rider, fear, and Iron Man later.)

I went to the science writing for kids, and want to plug Elizabeth Preston’s (a.k.a. Inkfish) magazine, Muse. Matt Shipman recently wrote about a feature in the magazine called Bo’s Page. Bo’s page has six stories, and the kids have to figure out which one is fake. Preston said it can be tricky to think of fake stories, and she said she would welcome suggestions and contributions for Bo’s Page! Bloggers hear enough crazy science ideas; how hard can it be?

I went to Beasley’s, a restaurant that served fried chicken with Eve. Not only was the food excellent, we had a very fun conversion about her cat ears. She wear cat ears because her friend wears bunny ears because that friend has a friend who wears cat ears... At this point I interrupted, “Is this like turtles under the Earth? It’s animal ears all the way down?”

The restaurant gave us a postcard with our bill, and Eve and I signed it and took it to Karyn Traphagen as the “lucky last” postcard for the Science Online postcard project. I had no idea Karyn would be so excited by postcards, especially ones from a couple of blocks from the hotel. She reacted like I’d brought a limited first edition book from overseas.

I had a lot of very good conversations in the bar that night, and stayed up very late, taking advantage of the afternoon plane flight home to sleep in in the morning! I spent a few minutes looking around the downtown core in the daylight.

But after the wretched trip to the meeting, I almost got screwed by United again on my trip back. Like my flight to Raleigh, United changed my flight without notifying me. his caused me a few minutes of panic as I wondered, “Did I book my planet tickets for the wrong day?” I eventually found it, but was pissed when I saw that unlike the previous trip, however, this flight time moved forward by about an hour. Someone in the lobby said, “You have to opt in for notifications.” I said, “No, when your flight moves earlier, they should notify you no matter what.” Arriving too early and getting a delayed flight is annoying, but arriving to late and missing a flight is a disaster.

I was lucky to save on cab fare by hitching a ride to the airport from Cyrus Radfar, where we talked about why Instagram was free, and with Melanie Tannenbaum about why we need more social scientists at this conference.

Unlike my flight to Science Online, my flight back home was uneventful. Maybe Raleigh was glad to see the back of me.

In any case, I’m not going back to Science Online next year. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about why.

* Tangent: Let me tell you what it’s like interacting with Scicurious face to face. To paraphrase something Billy Crystal said on Inside the Actor’s Studio about Robin Williams:

No matter how fast you are, she’ll be faster.

No matter how funny you are, she’ll be funnier.

No matter how geeky you are, she’ll be geekier.

Being in the room with her always pushed me to raise my game. It was great sharing mod duty with her.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention how we failed as a team to get us to the airport without getting lost. :)