A few short letters I thought of writing during and after my trip to Montreal for ASAs:
Dear Fortunate Timing: Thanks for taking me to Montreal on Wednesday, instead of Thursday.
Dear Canada: Your twenty dollar bill is lovely.
Dear Montreal: I really like your city but I think you ought to work on the whole running-red-lights-at-high-speed issue. Admittedly, it was impressive to see that Porsche rocket down the hill, but the narrow margin between it and my knees still makes me a little queasy.
Dear Air Canada: My overall experience with you was quite nice. Forgetting to transfer my baggage to terminal 2 in Toronto so that I could clear customs in time to catch my flight to Phoenix, however, was a pretty big oops. Thanks for holding the plane a little longer.
Dear Customs/Immigration Guy: I was sweating because I had been running. Didn’t mean to freak you out or anything. Still, you could have been a little nicer when it took me a second to get my brain in gear and tell you what I’ve been doing in Canada. For a few seconds, “Waiting with low blood sugar for my bag” was all I could think of.
Dear Apple: I had earlier believed that I had escaped the sudden and random shutdowns I hear tell of on the MacBook. Turns out, not so much. It’s hard to write and give a presentation on a computer that doesn’t turn on. It’s like the prettiest, most expensive lucite paperweight I’ve ever seen, currently. *
Dear ASA: Again with the cross-country trip? 2007 is New York. Maybe 2008 could be in Miami, or Boston, or Chicago—yeah, we haven’t all gone there for at least a couple of years. How about some attention to the West? Seriously, Salt Lake City hosted the olympics; I think it could handle us, but you’d all have to get over the High Culture bias first. I can tell you where to go for a beer, if you want. Denver, Seattle, San Diego, and Portland are also just fine.
Dear ASA: If you’re going to have conference hotels, how about having the conference, you know, at the hotels? The palais was a pretty neat building, but if the meetings aren’t even going to involve the hotels in the slightest, maybe we could promote any of the multiple very nice, much cheaper, free-breakfast-including spots instead? Again, you’d have to get over the High Culture bias first.
Dear cabbie: You say you’ve been driving that elderly couple, the one I shared a ride back to the airport at 5am with, all week? Do they know how much you’ve been ripping them off? The hotel-airport fare isn’t normally $50, dude.
Dear Portugese restaraunt on Crescent: You’re kidding, right? The only thing Portugese about our meal was … well, I don’t know anything about Portugese food, but I’m pretty sure you don’t either.
Dear French-Canadian TV: Wow, we can’t show anything like that on broadcast television in the States. How very European. Also, I caught a little bit of Star Trek 2 dubbed into French late one night. Know what’s the same in any language? “KAAAAAHHHNNN!”
Dear sociology bloggers: Sorry I couldn’t stay. See you next year.
* I was going to do the joke where I write, “My computer has been shutting itself down unexpect NO CARRIER”, but Drek beat me to it. Damn you and your compatible sense of humor, Drek.
Update 8/26/2006: Because I know folks are on the edge of their seats, I returned the MacBook for repair, received it three days later, and it has performed great ever since. Fingers crossed that Apple has zeroed in on the shutdowns problem and I’ll have smooth computing from here on out.
I made it to Montréal last night; it turned out to have been a comparatively fortunate day to be traveling. Today was full of some really interesting conversations at the CITASA mini-conference.
At the risk of becoming a The Show repeater tower, I have to say that, on the subject of terrorism, Ze is good today.
This year’s episode of Sociologists in Public takes place in Montreal. First, I want to thank the ASA for planning four of the last six meetings on the other side of the continent. Good stuff. Also, I’m particularly excited by the prospect of paying massive surcharges to use the phone this year. From the latest pre-conference email:
Plan ahead if you expect to be able to use your cell phone, Blackberry, etc., while in Montreal. Your service plan must include international access in order for your calls and communications to be successful, so check with your carrier now to ensure accessibility and get answers about any applicable extra charges.
(Tina has also suggested that there will be wifi at the conference center this year for the bargain price of 17 dollars a day. Good plan; I see no potential for abuse there, whatsoever. There was a time when 17 bucks CDN meant that they paid you to use it, but it’s my understanding that those days are gone. Yay, U.S. Dollar.)
Drek, meanwhile, continues to wonder how to get his advisor’s attention. I think his strategy of setting fires just might backfire. Me, I do have a paper to present this year, in a session on online protest/movements, but it’s not a paper that I’m very happy with. The paper attempts to play with a couple of ideas about how models of engaging online may produce activity that doesn’t look much like protest as we usually understand it but that can nonetheless produce important social change, or, short of that, enable other things that do look like challenges to power. In some ways, I’m not even sure it’s a social movements-y paper; it’s probably more cultural and institutional. Further, it’s so sketchy that I’m not even sure it’s a real paper. I’m hoping for a generous discussant (and the opportunity to present the idea better than I was able to write it up).
Finally, given the tendency of the Flagstaff airport to close unexpectedly and/or just cancel my flights outright (odds lately are running about fifty-fifty of having your flight from Flag to Phoenix get bagged), I’m driving down to Phoenix this year. And I am psyched. Nothing like getting up at 2:30 AM and flying all day.
It was a good trip to Philadelphia. For once, the conference hotel was located just blocks from my more affordable lodging (the Hampton, which itself was a really nice place to stay: Free cookies at the registration desk, wifi, breakfast, really nice staff, high ceilings in our room on the 11th floor), and in easy walking distance to a plethora of bars and restaurants. The first two days I was there were pretty miserable due to the weather—Hot and humid, really nasty—but after a great storm on Sunday night, the temp cooled off nicely.
The Tina-organzed pub get-together was a good time, a nice chance to catch up with a few friends and put faces to names. I went along to the baseball game, which only got exciting for about thirty seconds with two outs in the ninth, but which was still pretty enjoyable.
The meetings themselves were also mostly good (notwithstanding book-mad students). My days were pretty packed with meetings and chance get-togethers, and my roundtable session, in which I discussed an early dissertation chapter, went well—Lots of good questions and feedback made me excited to return to work.
So much for an invigorated return, however: I staved it off through my whole day of travel yesterday, but by evening a nasty cold had caught up with me. It turns out to be rather tough to think hard about my work while running a fever.
One doesn’t normally think of sociology graduate students as a particularly physical bunch, but the student book giveaway at the tail end of the ASA meetings this week would put the lie to that notion. The graduate school process having stripped us of our shame, we lined up for an hour with our ticket to the giveaway, hoping to make a good find. Although it didn’t rise to the level of violence as last week’s $50 iBook sale, when they opened the doors to that ballroom all hell broke loose.
There was pushing and shoving, flying elbows, people forcing their way into the mob and scooping up armloads of books the titles of which they didn’t even see. If knowledge is fetishised, free knowledge must be even better, no matter what the subject. Someone who called me sir and apologized quite sincerely used my shoulder as leverage to get himself close enough to scoop up a copy of Normal Accidents.
After the chaos, when all that’s left on the long banquet tables are duplicate copies of journals nobody has heard of, the secondary market starts up. Students sit cross-legged on the floor sifting through the piles that they and their friends acculumated. Like vultures, the rest of us hover nearby: Is she going to keep that one? Damn. That one? Score!
I came away with just one title (which is all the better, really; less to lug home), Paul Seabright’s The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life. It’s all about how cooperation naturally evolves as a product of market forces. I wonder if the book giveaway melee would give Seabright pause.
The outbound portion of my itinerary not yet scuttled, I leave tomorrow for the ASA annual meeting in Philadelphia. Sociologists as far as the eye can see. A couple of years ago I took some notes on surviving these sorts of things; we’ll see how things go this time around. I do see from the forecast that it’s shaping up to be exactly the kind of weekend that makes me dread being a pedestrian lugging a briefcase from my affordable hotel to the convention palace:
Can’t these things be held somewhere arid once in a while?
update: PS, confidential to the dry cleaners: Really nice job with the crease on those khaki pants. Too bad they’re supposed to be flat. How to find me in Philly? I’ll be the one with the sharply-creased flat-fronted khaki pants.