Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Observations from the ASA

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I have returned from my recent conference travel and am grateful to be home. It was an interesting conference, a fun conference, and an expensive conference. I expect my Sainted Fiancee and I will be eating ramen for months to help pay for it. Nevertheless, for your reading pleasure, please enjoy this selection of observations from my recent conference travels:

-I’m afraid of airplane toilets. I can never stand up straight in them and have this bizarre fear I’m going to drop my ring or my watch when I flush. I imagine it falling free from 30,000 feet and embedding itself in some farmer’s head. I imagine I’ll learn of this when police detectives appear on my doorstep with my former possessions, matted with hair and bits of scalp, sealed in a plastic bag.

-It’s always interesting to see which fails first: the charge in your laptop battery or the caffeine you chugged to make it to your early morning flight.

-My flights are always delayed. Always. Without fail. God I hate sitting in airports. That said, at least I avoided the fiasco that was Montreal.

-One of the great things about being a grad student are the fascinating places you find to stay. I think at one point my hotel was a fancy place. Now they’re fighting a losing battle against vagrancy and decay. Much like my apartment, come to think of it.

-New York street vendors are awesome. You can get halal food at any time day or night, which is damned convenient. I’m also rather impressed that New Yorkers, who suffered directly from 9/11, are so accepting of Arabs and Arab culture. Too bad the Midwest can’t follow New York’s lead…

-Why is liquid nitrogen being pumped into the sewer system? Does anyone know? Tina suspects it’s intended to reduce steam and smell by cooling the sewers. I prefer to imagine that it’s fending off a secret race of molemen bent on subjugating the day-walkers.

-I’m poor and I know it every day of my life. This is only made worse in New York where an omlette will run you $10.95, plus $1.50 for cheese and a $3.00 “sharing” fee. I don’t know how NYU grad students survive, but I suspect prostitution.

-There are many approaches to giving a presentation but those that don’t involve visual aids really assume too much about both the presenter’s oratorical ability and my attention span.

-The book fair is always interesting but, increasingly, reminds me of a carnival. I think that to raise money the ASA might consider having faculty sit in a dunking booth and allow people to pay to throw balls at the appropriate target. It would have to be more exciting than the current “Fill out a survey, get a USB mouse.”

-Power point is an amazing tool. It allows you to integrate pictures, notes, animations, video, and audio files right into your presentation. Someone should really mention that to folks who insist on just reading us their papers.

-Yes, I’m aware I bitched about powerpoint twice. It’s just that important to me.

-I hate to be the one to say it, but New Yorkers really aren’t unfriendly. They’re not up to southern standards of friendliness, but they’re far from being total assholes. On the other hand, they drive as though the weak nuclear force was a myth.

-A friend told me that central park is a wonderful place to go see topless sunbathers. I think he must have been referring to the guys. "Hey Guido. Lookin… good?"

-I really enjoy watching baseball and, so, couldn’t miss a chance to visit Yankee Stadium. On the positive side, it’s a place steeped in history. On the other hand, it smells like cat piss.

-Along similar lines, it is evident to me that the only thing Yankees fans like more than watching their team win, is enumerating the failings of the other team to its fans. In excruciating, and often anatomically improbable, detail.

-The blogger get-together is always an enjoyable experience and this year was no exception. Usually when I introduce myself to people I expect a response like, “Oh. Right. Well. Good to meet you.” So, when one fellow blogger exclaimed, “Oh, I LOVE your blog!!” I was quite flattered. I truly have the greatest readers in the world, because only a great bunch of people would put up with this shit.

-Meeting the anonymous bloggers is always an interesting experience. Jeremy, for example, on meeting me marveled at my ability to overcome numerous obstacles. I, in turn, on meeting Wicked Anomie and subsequently learning that she both has a publication and has a daughter, am forced to conclude that she is some sort of super being.

More on the ASAs tomorrow. For now, I have work to do.

Man, it's good to be back.

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Blogger Aftersox said...

I imagine I’ll learn of this when police detectives appear on my doorstep with my former possessions, matted with hair and bits of scalp, sealed in a plastic bag.

Meh. I bet they'd reach terminal velocity before they become harmful.

And I think you'd have have more to worry about than police and unfortunate agrarians if you lost your ring.

Monday, August 20, 2007 5:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haha, I'm totally getting a cape now. Although I have decided to refrain from putting a giant "A" on the front of my suit...

Monday, August 20, 2007 8:47:00 PM  
Blogger Plain(s)feminist said...

You know how you can tell who the sociologists are at a given conference? They're the only ones awake for the PowerPoint presentations. Seriously - if you can't deliver an interesting paper without PowerPoint - because who wants to have the person in the front of the room read aloud exactly what is on the screen, screen after screen?? - then you shouldn't be delivering a paper.

Really - powerpoint sucks. It is a crutch for avoiding connection to one's audience, and it is boring as all hell to sit through, especially when everyone and her dog, Eric, is using it in presentation after presentation. Gah! I forbid my students to use it. It's deadly. So there.

Monday, August 20, 2007 9:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great social observation - I couldn't have put it better, even after a decade of living in NYC. I especially loved the bit about the topless sunbathers in Central Park!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007 7:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

plain(s)feminist--two comments in defense of power point (if such a thing is possible). First, it's really useful for displaying charts and graphs. As a quantitative sociologist I really like to see these, and they tend to display a bit better in power point than they would on an overhead. Second, it provides some sense of organization and a take-away message. ASA presentations frequently lack both of these, and power point seems to help to mitigate this to some degree.

True, bad power point presentations are really bad, but at least at the ASAs they're not as bad as those that don't use it.

Also, I might be bitter because I saw even more terrible non-power point presentations than Drek did. There was a perfect correlation between presentations without visual aids and presentations that were just terrible.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007 8:51:00 AM  
Blogger SARA said...

Glad you're back and everyone thought you were great! I didn't have any doubt you'd be the centre of attention ;)!

Now on to more important business..RE: the PRIZE ?

Are you thinking to take the challenge?
If so, are you going to be using crayon, water or oils?
If you do agree to my request do you think you'll need a time frame to complete the work?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007 9:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

plain(s)feminist--Should also say thanks for the Tufte link!

I love his work on graphing, but hadn't realized that he wrote for Wired. Nice to see his stuff in magazine rather than book form.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007 9:15:00 AM  
Blogger Practicing Idealist said...

I have to agree with D'sFO here. Power Point is a very useful tool when used correctly. I use it to list bullet points that I am going to discuss in more depth verbally, definitions that are integral to my argument, and cool charts/numbers that are also integral to my argument. Nobody at a sociology conference is going to take you seriously if you start spouting your regression findings.
That being said, I've seen a lot of bad Power Point in my day, and the bad usually stems from too much verbiage on screen, and not enough of an original script that deviates from the screen. When I have my students use Power Point, I give them a sheet that tells them tips for creating/delivering a good Power Point, and it truly can be done.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Plain(s)feminist said...

OK - fair enough. I suppose I can see how PowerPoint could be used for good instead of evil. However, I can't think of a time I've ever seen this occur, so it's all theoretical at this point...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007 9:09:00 PM  
Blogger Monsoon said...

On fascinating places to stay. Montreal... last year I decided to stay in the student dooms to save a bit of money. To my surprise, the building was previously a hotel so I did not view my stay as down-graded... until the fire alarm went off. After evacuating the building, not fully ready for the day's activities, I found out false alarms and the local fire department were typical. Ah, the memories!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007 8:42:00 AM  

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