Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I'm back!

I have no right to feel as tired and out of it as I do. Sure, I ran around all weekend at a Very Important Conference, but it wasn't like I was working an eight hour day. I was in New York City, for goodness sake! Plenty of play time was integrated into the trip.

I want to go home and sit quietly and watch tv. I tried to do that last night but I kept checking blogs instead of paying attention to the very last episode of Deadwood. I don't understand me.

I did go to many sessions this year, unlike last year. But this year, work paid, so I was a moderately more conscientious conference-goer. Amusingly, I felt some mild jealousy while attending the blogging panel. Oh, not to be anonymous! But, to be included in this particular panel I'd have to write about my academic field and I don't want to do that.

My main job at the conference, as usual, was to promote my department—spread information about what we do, what data we have available and let people know we have jobs for them here, potentially, if they don't go the academic route. No one has ever told me this is my job, it just seems obvious. My promotin' went reasonably well and I could have passed out at least five or six cards if I'd had any with me. (I did bring cards and I gave out two. Then I forgot to bring the case with the rest of the cards on the other days. Whoops.)

I was on the program this year as a "discussant." The discussant is supposed to read the papers in the session ahead of time and then give a summarizing talk after the presentations. My session had four papers and I read them all before the session. Go me! I didn't finish the last one until the day of the session. I had notes but wasn't exactly sure what I would say. It worked out ok because, as it turns out, just having read the papers and having anything mildly thoughtful, helpful or constructive to say is more than sufficient. Having a smooth, organized presentation is gravy. Next time I'll do better, I promise.

The session participants seemed very pleased with my comments, even the less than favorable ones. And the audience, tiny as it was, actually had questions for me afterwards. Weird and flattering. I was an "expert" in this context, though, which is also weird. The title of the session was "X Policy." I happen to work at the place that sets "X Policy." Imagine, if you will, that the session was called, "Energy Policy." Then imagine that I work in the research office of the Department of Energy. That would make me an expert in Energy Policy! Well, of course it wouldn't, but it would make me relatively more knowledgeable on Energy Policy than anyone else at the conference (except for the handful of people who study energy) . Anyway, it is nice to be appreciated, and I was.

I have this idea that I want to do a photo essay about the trip and maybe I will get that together today or tomorrow. Except I didn't take many pictures. Whatever.

Here are some random conference inspired thoughts I'm having today:
  • I want to write a paper about the historical importance of blogging as a record of every day life. I don't know if this is a real paper. I don't know the theory that I would need to write such a paper. I am not a theory person, nor am I a historian. Besides, who is the audience?

  • There's another paper I want(ed) to write about cohabitation. Really simple idea and I've never done it. Long time ago, I saw a presentation at this same conference (or one very like it), where the author made the argument that marriages where the couple had cohabited first didn't last as long as marriages with no prior cohabitation. And she had data to prove it! I thought, "What if you count the total length of the union?" ("Union" is demography-speak for all relationships, whether or not they are officially sanctioned marriages.) If you add the cohabitation spell to the marriage spell and then compare the total length of the union, do the cohabiting couples still have shorter "marriages"? I've never done the work but I don’t think anyone else has either. I wonder about this every time I see an article about cohabitation and its deleterious effects on marriage.

  • Publish that paper I wrote that people still very occasionally ask for about the history of the program I wrote about in my dissertation.
It's nearly 3pm and I haven't had lunch yet. I have to go.

It's good to be home…and for more than a week this time. No wonder I'm tired.

Grateful for: my profession.

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