Sunday, April 03, 2005

Technical difficulties on the road

I got back from my conference yesterday. It was a great trip (more on that in a minute). But I received a huge lesson in just how tied we are to technology in some respects.

You see, my laptop died. On the first day of the conference, no less.

So, this meant that all of the work that I brought to do did not get done....because it was all on my laptop. It meant that checking my email became a major pain in the butt, because I had to track down another computer and log on and then who knows when the next time would be when I'd log on to a get the idea. (Plus, in a cruel twist of fate, I somehow got locked out of my email account for the entire first day of the conference. So I really was disconnected from work, completely.) It also meant that I was pretty much the only one in the room that was not checking email/doing work/reading news online during the sessions.

I felt like a technical Luddite.

Monday our tech guy and I are going to sit down and see if we can salvage the laptop, get it to reboot, something, or figure out if we need to wipe it clean and reinstall everything. Thank god I thought to back up my data on Wednesday before I left. And work-wise, I had nothing truly pressing to do this week (most of the work I brought was long-term planning, little clean-up tasks, etc), so I should be able to catch up on work today. Assuming, that is, I can stop reading blogs long enough to do so. :)

Anyway, besides the technical difficulties, the trip went extremely well. I've forgotten how much I love to go to conferences, how much fun networking can be, how exciting it is to hear what's going on in the field. This particular conference is a small one but a good one, and lots of good networking goes on. I talked to a lot of people about my work and there is some real excitement about it. Apparently I am working in a space that is considered to be important and interesting, but in which not much work is being done. So my contributions will be valuable. In some sense I already knew that, but it's always nice to hear it from your (more established, well-respected) peers. This has really fired me up again about my research and motivated me to push myself a bit harder to get some more results out and into the review channels.

This was also the first conference I've been to since taking this job. I've been to this conference several times in the past, but I was affiliated with another organization. There are not many people in this field, nor at this conference, who are at schools like mine. So I had to answer a lot of questions (good-natured, curious ones) about what it's like to be at a place like my school. People that I meet also responded to me a bit differently than people I met when I was affiliated with Previous Organization. It's subtle, but there was a bit of a difference in their reactions to me and their assumptions about me. I have realized, though, that it is important for me to try to make it to conferences, at least one a year, both for my own career growth and as a model for success for those of us who are not at one of the top 10 schools or at one of the huge industrial research labs.

The trip was also good because I got to visit with two of my dearest friends from grad school, and meet their new baby. It was a fun visit, and I realized how much Mr. Jane and I miss having such good friends, with whom we have a shared history, in this area. These two, another couple, and Mr. Jane and I were all inseparable in grad school, and now we are all in different cities. We'd always hoped to be either in the same cities or nearby, but sadly that has not worked out. And, most likely, won't ever work out. But it's nice to have an excuse to visit the cities where they live.

I also got bumped off of a flight, voluntarily, coming home, and so now I have a free round-trip ticket to play with. Yippie!

Anyway, that's the update from here. I promise (no, really) that I will resume regular blogging. For now, I'm off to take a walk and then think about lectures for tomorrow and homework to assign this week. The fun never stops, I tell ya.....


Ianqui said...

I find that wireless isn't usually available at our conferences, although my husband is in a more technical field and it seems like they make a much bigger effort to make it available for those fields. (Which is funny, because then everyone has to figure out what the right Linux configuration is.)

In any case, don't you get annoyed when people are typing/working/reading email during talks? (You say people were doing it during sessions.) I personally kind of find it rude.

Jane said...

I think there would be a mutiny if wireless was not offered at conferences in my field. :) But yes, I was pretty appalled at the number of people who were on their laptops during the entire conference. Looking around, some were actually reading the presenters' papers online, but most were checking email and/or surfing the web. I did wonder what the speakers thought (and there were only a few really bad speakers at this conference, so that wasn't even the issue).