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ScienceOnline09 – Day 1

by Eva Amsen

The weeks leading up to my trip to ScienceOnline09 were a little crazy. I just started a new job, and also just found the source(s) of a long lingering clothes moth infestation in my apartment. As a result, I had been cleaning and washing every single night and did a final load of LOTS of clothes on Thursday night, including the clothes I was bringing along on my trip. Had I lived just three blocks further to the west, this would have been a terrifying disaste, because just around the time all of my clothes were in the washer, the electricity went out in a BIG part of the city, starting mere blocks away.

I found out about the blackout over Twitter, in between vacuuming and washing and packing, and could see darkness from my balcony. I didn’t look too closely, though, because it was also -30 outside (Celsius, but that’s -22 Fahrenheit, so it’s not like it sounds any warmer…)

Luckily, my electricity was on all night, which was good, as I was up all night. I finally finished cleaning at 1 AM, and four hours later found myself running on the frozen snow of the Spadina sidewalk, with my suitcase slipping-rolling over the bumpy ice behind me, to just catch the night bus. The bus takes about 40 minutes from my house to the end of the subway line, and at least 25 minutes of this we drove through complete darkness in the blackout zone.

I made my flight with time to spare, and waited in the comfortable not-cold-at-all weather of North Carolina for the shuttle bus to the Radisson. Soon I was joined at the bus stop by Miriam. While we were waiting, we were painfully aware that mere miles away other science bloggers were at the Coffee Cupping session. Mmm, coffee…. But the Radisson bus driver was awesome, and after he told us that he would take us anywhere we wanted to go, we asked him to forget about the hotel and just drive us straight to the coffee place. Priorities!

Frank, the driver, did take our suitcases to the hotel, but not after I had rescued Squishy Cow from mine. Priorities! Sadly, the coffee tasting was over by the time we got there, but we did find lots of people! Priorities? No, it sucked that there was no more coffee to be had.

While waiting for the shuttle bus back, I did learn something interesting: Henry used to live near where the Winnie-the-Pooh books were set, and he has gone on an Expotition to the North Pole!

Back at the hotel, there was just enough time for lunch before we left on the lab tours. I went to BRITE, where I realized that I understood absolutely everything on the tour, gathered from all three programs I’ve received graduate degrees from. Yay, over-education! I was that annoying person who asked lots of questions. Poor tour guides. Granted, one of my questions was Can my cow take a picture with your penguin? but overall I was asking Intelligent Things about replicate samples and what kind of machine they use for their high content analysis and the quality of the protein structures used as templates.

Then I went home and designed my own drugs and cured cancer. No, wait, I am mistaken. Then we went to a restaurant and cured cancer. I mean: ate food. And then was the Friday Fermentable wine tasting, which I liveblogged. Here are Janet’s notes, by the way, which I mentioned in that post. See how much more organized they are?

Directly after the wine tasting was the women’s networking event where you had to socialize, but I didn’t really. Or at least not by their rules. I did enjoy the lecture that evening by Rebecca Skloot, about Henrietta Lacks. It was very meta, actually, about how she learned and wrote about Henrietta Lacks. I had never considered what HeLa’s relatives thought about her immortal cell line, but it was all very interesting. The book should be out in a year or so, and it sounds like a good read.

After that, I got a ride back to the hotel, and met up with lots of Nature Network bloggers in the bar! We probably had lots of interesting conversations, if only we could have heard each other over the sound of the ocean bloggers singing sea shanties at the next table. Later, Michael told me that he overheard the hotel barman say “Those science bloggers sure know how to drink!” at a later, quieter moment.

Day 2 and 3 to follow!

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Christie Wilcox January 21, 2009 - 1:43 PM

I heard I missed sea shanties. I am severely disappointed that I couldn’t make it!

Eva Amsen January 21, 2009 - 4:31 PM

To be honest, they were not the best singers. (I think they knew that, but I still feel bad about pointing it out on the public internet!) They had cool hats, though.

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