Adventures in Ethics and Science

A backward glance at PSA 2006

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ScienceBloggers meet in the three-dimensional world: (from left) Janet Stemwedel, John Lynch, Prof. Steve Steve, John Wilkins, David Ng, Ben Cohen.

I managed to get back home last night from the PSA meeting in Vancouver, although just barely. My co-symposiasts got a rental car and headed off to see mountains, an expedition I’d have joined were it not for my plane-missing paranoia. (“You realize that flying home from Vancouver is essentially a domestic flight, so you probably don’t need to check in until about 90 minutes before flight time,” the field trip organizer assured me. But I know what I worry about, rational or not.) Given that the hotel had pretty much cleared of philosophers and historians, I got bored enough hanging around in the lobby that I ended up catching an earlier airport shuttle, which proceeded to get stuck in traffic. No matter, I was still at the airline check-in kiosk 2.5 hours before my scheduled departure time.

And then the kiosk informed me that my flight had been cancelled. AAAAAAAIIEEEEEE!!

One of the remaining human gate agents was able to work out how to get me booked through to another Bay Area airport as my final destination. “But,” she said, “your flight out of here departs in 30 minutes, so you’re going to have to hustle!” Through customs, through security, to a gate in the hinterlands that required that I run across a large connecting tube, down a flight of stairs, across another large stretch, up a flight of stairs, and then a little further to the gate (carrying my coat and shoes the whole time, of course). But I made it.

Off the top of my travel-tired head, here are some observations from this year’s conference:

  • It really would be a kindness if hotels that host academic/professional conferences of this sort offered free internet access rather than charging ten bucks a day for it. Given the modern academic’s addiction profile, this isn’t so different from providing free coffee and coffee makers in the room.
  • Also, hosting one of these conferences and charging exorbitant rates for digital projectors (on the order of $400 per room per day) will throw a good many of the presenters off their game (because the conference organizers will, quite correctly, deem this an outrageous expense given their available resources for bringing the conference off).
  • From what I could gather, there were a fair number of papers that weren’t accepted for the conference that I probably would have enjoyed at least as much as some of the ones I actually saw presented.
  • Meeting room doors-that-open-to-enlarge-the-room are easily mistaken for the door you are supposed to use to exit the meeting room, even by quite famous and respected philosophers. Putting a coatrack in front of these doors that ought not be used will not dissuade them but only make their attempts at egress noisier. These failed attempts at egress will only occur when the session in the meeting room is still in progress.
  • Lots of hotel meeting rooms that work just fine for social receptions are really bad for academic presentations, especially due to bits of wall that protrude into the room and block views, as well as low-hanging light fixtures that obscure the screen. As well, placing the podium far away from the overhead projector (which one must used because of the outrageous expense of digital projectors) is logistically challenging.
  • ScienceBloggers are fun in real life. And, they seem like they might make engaging collaborators at future conferences of this sort.

I’ll have more to say about the conference after I catch up on my grading backlog here and figure out why my Firefox display has become screwed up.

Comments

  1. #1 beajerry
    November 6, 2006

    Did they at least provide generic sugar cookies and bland coffee?

  2. #2 Rob Knop
    November 6, 2006

    It really would be a kindness if hotels that host academic/professional conferences of this sort offered free internet access rather than charging ten bucks a day for it.

    Amen! Sheesh. Academics all need internet access nowadays. It’s just how it is. (Especially if there are bloggers present!)

    But, that’s the hotel for you. You’re a captive audience, so they overcharge for absolutely everything. (Like those $4 bottles of “courtesy” water “becuase they care.”) You can do worse; you can pay $10 to use the wireless in the airport for 1.5 hours during your flight connection.

    Also, hosting one of these conferences and charging exorbitant rates for digital projectors (on the order of $400 per room per day)

    At this rate, if you buy your own, it pays for itself in 2 or 3 talks.

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