Thursday, June 28, 2007

Science Trip: Sunday

After only four and a half hours of sleep, I was expecting the start of my conference to be really harsh, but I stumbled through the hotel room, showered and shaved, and got ready in plenty of time for the breakfast. Now, when I heard we were going to get breakfast, I expected a few baskets of muffins and a few hotpots of coffee. Hooo nellie, was I off base. Coffee, tea, muffins, scones, biscuits, croissants, fresh fruit, five types of juices. three cereals with milk, even Yop, all available for the teeming masses. I grabbed a little plate and browsed the various posters, which gave me insight on projects ranging from brain imaging studies of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders to an examination of poorly performing french immersion students to relative word frequency in children's books. It was all very interesting, and I even caught up with an old professor of mine from my undergraduate days and we chatted about our different projects. I was worried I was going to seem like a know-nothing, but I held my own.

Sunday's keynote speech was about improving literacy in children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and how it is important to remember that the research we're doing is good but putting it into practice involves a lot of additional work. The speaker, Dr. Susan B. Newman, gave a lot of information about what is necessary to improve language and literacy skills in at-risk children, all of which was interesting, some of which was depressing; comparing the number of books available to children in a middle-class suburb in Philadelphia to those available to children in a poorer suburb was heartbreaking. It's important for researchers to keep in mind that their data cannot exist in a vacuum: even though we try and control as many variables as possible, the real world has other plans. It's also important that most academics remember that they are from upper-middle class backgrounds, and they have different priorities than lower-class families they're trying to help. Sometimes, despite all our best intentions, we forget all about that.

After the speech came the first round of poster presentations; I talked about the project to the people who walked by, and they asked me about my own research as well, which was nice. By 10:30, though, I was feeling kind of sleepy, so I begged off the rest of the small workshops and decided I'd better have a nap instead.

(The view outside my room.)

I went back to my room and slept for an hour, then came back in time for the second round of poster presentations, and then for lunch. We had acceptable quality bento boxes; the people around me, from Montreal, Halifax, and Vancouver, were all expecting steak ("It's Alberta, isn't it?"). I got some advice on how to best approach a Ph.D. program from the woman beside me at lunch, which was rather helpful. In the afternoon, since almost everyone at my table was going out shopping for purses or shoes or something (not many guys at a Language & Literacy conference), I decided to go for a walk. I listened to Paul McCartney's new album, Memory Almost Full, which was actually decent; nothing great or mind-blowing, and some of the songs are a little simplistic, but that's not a condemnation. My favourite song on the album is the most simplistic: "Dance Tonight" is a hell of a pop song. I've heard people come down hard on the album, but I like it enough to keep it on my Motherboxxx for now. It's no Flaming Pie, but then again, it's no Ram either, which is a good thing. I walked on the bridge through the Calgary's river valley; I am very proud of Edmonton's beautiful river valley, but Calgary's is rather nice too. And they have a really cool Chinatown, where I stopped to get a bubble tea. Mmm, bananas.

(Calgary's River Valley)

I was hoping to make dinner plans with Princess Gwyn, so I'd e-mailed her earlier in the day, and when I came back to the hotel room, I decided to have yet another nap and wait for her reply. By 8:30, though, I still hadn't heard anything from her - I would later find out that she was still on the road at that time - and since I'd missed the banquet and was starving, it was time to avail myself to the room service. I ordered a chop salad and a steak, and figured a glass of red wine would be an excellent addition to the meal, but I held off on ordering any of the $10 desserts. The meal was delicious, and it looked nice, too!

(Delicious Dinner!)

I decided to watch Ghost Rider for my during-meal entertainment, which was a collossal waste of time. Ghost Rider is a comic book movie, and yeah, I know it's not supposed to be celluloid gold. But it was ridiculous. The fight scenes were boring. That's right. Ghost Rider is about a guy with a flaming skull on a motorcycle who attacks things with chains and a flaming shotgun, and the fight scenes were BORING. I honestly didn't think that was possible. Lame adversaries, lame secondary villain (Blackheart? Really? Not Nightmare or something?), and a lame plot. Ugh. Nicholas Cage, Peter Fonda, and Sam Eliot were good, but overall, the movie was just not worth it. Good thing my meal was good.

Afterwards I went out for a walk and a relaxing cigar in the park. I don't remember the name of the park, but it was very well-kept and beautiful, and simultaneously busy and peaceful. There were interesting moments when a group of hippies tried to take pictures of a flock of ducks with their ducklings, and one of the girls tried to get close enough for a tight shot and kept being chased away by the protective adult ducks. After the fifth or sixth time, you might have thought she'd have learned her lesson, but no. *sigh* People are weird.

(My bench.)

(My view.)

(More of my view.)

I left when the setting sun made it too dark out to read, and went back to the room and curled up in my huge king-sized bed and fell asleep. It was unneccessarily big for one person, but it was luxurious!

(Giant Bed!)


Gina Damberger said...

If the bridge you took a picture of is also affiliated with your unnamed park, I'm pretty sure that was Prince's Island Park.

Jago said...

Hey, you got to see the gaudiest mall I've ever seen right from your hotel window? AWESOME!

Yes, I'm aware I work at THE mall, but Chinook Centre, from the outside, looks like an abandoned carnival.

Natalie said...

Sounds like a great day. My Dad and I were just talking about Ghost Rider and how sad it is that Nicholas Cage wo loves comic books so much that he named himself after Luke Cage and named his son Ka'El had to settle for such a horrible comic book role. Poor guy.

Shannon said...

I keep forgetting how late the sun sets in the north...and how tolerable the temperature is...anyway, that conference sounds interesting to a geek like me. I'll definitely stay away from ghostrider!

sideshow bob said...

Love the bubble tea!

The Doc said...

Gina, that is good to know! I liked that park a lot; it was quiet and beautiful.

Jago, you know, if you looked above the crappy mall, the trees and the sky are nice. But yeah, kind of a terrible mall.

Natalie, Cage even has a Ghost Rider tattoo, so you can tell he loved the source material. I just wish, like you, it had been better. For all of our sakes.

Shannon, yeah, it's nice having the sun out until 11:00 p.m. Except in the winter, where it sets at 5:30. Ah well, there's always a tradeoff.

SSB, I'd never had real bubble tea before, just some crappy version from a local noodle house. The real stuff was much better!