Monday, August 20, 2007

So, Montreal may be my second favorite city I could never live in. I knew it would be a nice city, but it has a feel that most US cities, that I’ve been to, are lacking. The locals are friendly. It’s young and vibrant, but old world at the same time. It’s a bilingual city, which just by being that, makes it smarter than most of the cities in the US. A significant number of people commute by bike. Downtown has as many people on bike as the campus area near UC Berkely, maybe more. Certainly more than right around campus in Austin, and more than any city I’ve recently been to in the US. The conference was in the heart of downtown, and is really at the heart of the city. I walked through Chinatown from my hotel to the conference center. Old Montreal is just a few blocks on the other side, and easily traveled by foot. While touristy it still has a good feel to it. The area towards McGill University is just back on the other side of the conference, and the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art is there. Right now they have a show of Bruce Nauman’s work (He went to UC Davis back in the 1970s, I believe). The Latin Quarter (which isn’t particularly “latin” in my definintion) is just a short walk from there. It’s a particularly vibrant area of town, with many restaurants and bars. One of the bartenders at the conference (yes, they serve beer for the evening poster session) pointed me to the Cheval Blanc as a good Montreal microbrewery. It was. Friendly barkeeps, too. I know that once you get out of downtown it becomes a much more spread out city, but cities like Dallas, Houston, and LA would be much better places if the downtowns were as compact and vibrant as Montreal. If they didn’t have such brutal winter here… I mean, they essentially have an underground city for the winter, which means their winters are as brutal as Houston’s summers.

Scientific conferences, for those that don’t know, are the land of the brilliant and poorly dressed. Especially international ones. The no socks with the sandals memo didn’t make it to the Germans. I don’t claim to be the best dresser in the world, but I can usually get reasonably close to matching. I don’t mix green madras with orange stripes. The Swedes did keep up the black metal scientist rep for this conference. There were a bunch of Japanese at the conference. I didn’t expect so many limnologists out of Japan as that. Overall the conference was good. I saw a number of talks that really have me thinking about my work. I also saw some really bad ones. This one woman gave a talk where she said “uh” or “um” over 250 times. I’m not exaggerating. I think I’m underestimating it by a fair amount. I was close to walking out, but something made me start counting. At least once per sentence in a 20 minute talk. I’m not making fun of her. I know she was nervous. This conference is probably the most important one in my field. I’d be nervous too. In some ways I wish I’d given a presentation, but in other ways, I’m glad I didn’t. My poster was fairly well received. Alex Horn (who along with Charles Goldman is one of the patrons of the field) talked to me extensively about it. I’ve interacted with him before on Clear Lake stuff since that was his study site back in the 60s. He certainly fits the mould of the classical limnologist.

So now I’m back and have to prep for a busy semester trying to finish up my work and teach. The next 9 months are going to be brutal, but I’ve got to graduate in May...

1 comment:

megan said...

aaahhh... so many of the same reasons I fell in love with Vancouver...Yay Canada!