We got back from Montreal Sunday night, dirty and exhausted but reasonably pleased. It was a good trip.
As far as the ostensible reason for our trip, the Society of Behavioral Medicine conference, the thing that will pay for my plane ticket and the hotel room and a fair bit of the food: it went surprisingly well. My talk was well-attended and well-received; there were more questions during the question period than I had time to answer, and some people stayed to ask me questions afterward or even approached me later in the exhibit hall. I think I did a good job writing the talk and delivering it, especially considering the circumstances.
Last year I didn't enjoy the SBM program very much. This year, I managed to make it to several great program items. It seemed like there were more interesting options and better HIV representation. I particularly enjoyed a symposium on novel strategies for accessing populations of ethnic-minority men ("So it turns out, in our part of North Carolina, you reach African-American men through the churches, but Latino men, no. And then we found out about the soccer league!"), and a keynote address on using marketing and mass communications to disseminate valid scientific information.
The only thing that's bugging me about SBM right now is that it seems like every year there is more and more of an "obesity epidemic" focus. I was never interested in that topic era to begin with, but now that I've read so much that debunks dieting and obesity panic, I find it irritating. I'm fine with the program items about increasing activity level and consumption of healthy foods, because I think those things have independent health benefits, but I kind of want to go to the weight loss intervention panels and ask politely what the follow-up data looks like five years out.
I managed to see three-quarters of most of the sessions I attended. They were mostly scheduled to be 90 minutes long, and somewhere around the 70-minute mark Colin would start to wake up or make sounds. I was hypersensitive to every noise he made, because at a professional conference Colin is not part of the community and has no independent right to be there. So at the second coo or gurgle we were out the door. We got nothing but friendly looks, though.
The non-conference portions of the trip were just excellent. papersky
always provides visitors with quality entertainment. One major highlight was a free-flying butterflies exhibit at the botanical gardens. Picture a big plant-filled atrium with thousands and thousands of butterflies swarming about - not just common ones, either, but massive South American specimens. I mean, just walking along you'd find yourself flinching away from the most spectacular butterfly you'd ever seen, trying to keep it from flying right into your face. (Also at the Jardin Botanique, a really neat greenhouse filled with "economic" tropical plants - foods, dyes, etc. I never knew what a black pepper plant looked like. Or the source of the ubiquitous xanthan gum. Alex loved that room.)
The other big highlight was a picnic on an island, on the unexpectedly warm and lovely Saturday. We spread blankets under some pines for the shade and found ourselves in the center of an active flock of red-winged blackbirds. A woodchuck ambled back and forth, sometimes as little as twenty feet away. After a delicious lunch, we went into the Biosphere (not to be confused with the Biodome) - a small museum housed in the frame of a giant geodesic dome. The only great exhibit was a water activity room, but that one was really
great, so that was just fine. Plus admission was free for Earth Day. Alex had a wonderful time making rivers and pools and channels and sailing boats and walking across water on pontoons and otherwise getting very damp indeed.
Of course, as is the case any time one visits papersky
, we had excellent food. Highlights for me were a Chinese feast the first night, an incredible dim sum spread on Sunday morning, and - oddly enough - the shish kebob dinners we ordered delivered to our hotel room the night that papersky
had a dinner party to attend. But really, there was only one meal I thought was just so-so, and that time it was clear that I had ordered the wrong thing.
So that was our trip. I think I'll probably write another post about traveling with both kids later.