28 April 2007

Ah, The Rarified Atmosphere of Academia*

So yeah, I attended my first academic conference yesterday and while I wasn't the oldest student there, all of the little undergrads in their suits and pencil skirts and nice hair and bright eyes did make me feel a little askew. Also I had static problems with my skirt all day.

The day was exhausting, but fun. I left the house at 6:15 am and didn't get back until after 9 pm. Everything went well, the sessions were run as panels, with three presenters per panel and multiple sessions happening simultaneously. My metafiction presentation was paired with one on Transendentalism and Transhumanism, and one on representations of incarceration and how labels affect people. The last one included a part about the Stanford Prison Experiment, something that makes me want to know more every time I hear about it.

There were two keynote speakers, one in the morning and one midday. The morning speaker talked about his involvement in the clean up of Kuwait following the destruction of their national oil fields before the first Gulf War, something that left huge chunks of their landscape looking like marshes made of oil. Sadly, the speaker was kind of boring, but the midday speaker was really engaging. His talk was about a company he founded that genetically engineers cows to produce human antibodies instead of bovine antibodies and then clones those cows for the production of more human antibodies. I'm not sure how I feel about this whole thing, I have serious issues with the ethics and unforeseeable repercussions of messing with both genetics and with cloning and he did lose me a couple of times with the science, but it was really fascinating. Also, did anyone know that Kirin (the Japanese beer) is actually a huge pharmaceutical and that making beer is only a tiny part of what they do? I didn't. They funded this entire project.

And I made a new friend. We met on campus and drove over to UMass Amherst for the conference in two vans, and when we arrived Langston basically said, "Okay, see you back here at 4." I didn't really know any of the other students, so I attached myself to a girl who I have one class with. All I was looking for was someone to navigate the UMass campus with, but it turns out she's really cool and smart and we actually talked about stuff. Who knew? Her presentation was of a 60-page paper that she wrote on redefining objectivity in journalism. I can't really explain it except to say that her take on the subject is fresh and original and makes logical sense, something that I think it is fair to say the media doesn't do a lot of these days.

Langston bought us all dinner at a Chinese restaurant on the way back and we were joined by his lovely wife who teaches at Williams College. She has agreed to let me audit (officially or unofficially) her Latin class at Williams this fall, which is really cool because the idea of learning Latin on my own seemed, well, crazy.

Steve came and picked me up from campus and we drove home to a glass of wine and some pajama pants and Battlestar Galactica. The perfect ending to any day, but especially one that started at 6.

Langston took pictures, but I haven't seen them yet. When I do maybe I will post one here, then again maybe not, it depends.

* Today's title is stolen from my father, he said it first and I liked it a lot so here it is.

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