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Deep in the Heart of AMWA, Part I: Introduction to Cancer Pharmacology - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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November 1st, 2009


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11:00 pm - Deep in the Heart of AMWA, Part I: Introduction to Cancer Pharmacology
From Atlanta to Louisville to Dallas, the American Medical Writers Association sure doesn't like to gather in the typical conference towns. And even though I was from the area, I was unfamiliar with downtown Dallas.

This year's conference was going to be very important, as I was giving a three-hour cancer pharmacology workshop and speaking on a creative nonfiction panel. The former I had been preparing for almost non-stop for the last couple months. The latter I was mostly going to wing. But I was also going to, as always, meet some great new people, which is what I enjoy most about these conferences.

Wednesday

After checking in, I settled into my hotel room and wrote this post. After purging those thoughts from my head, I attempted to get into Conference Mode.

I picked up my registration packet and....small zippered pouch? I thought we got a bag. We always get a bag. When I unzipped the pouch, however, I discovered that it was a bag! It unfolded into a bag! Cool! Compact! It wasn't as large as previous bags, though.

I looked through the conference materials and broke out my highlighters to highlight the schedule. Except, ugh, my blue highlighter was leaking or something and was getting all over me. Hal commented on my plight. I had met Hal in Atlanta, and last year, she had done a profile of me, a new medical writer, in the AMWA Journal. Because of this, several people actually recognized me or thought I looked familiar, even this year. Hal was the first familiar face I saw; the annual conference is generally a series of meeting people you haven't seen in a year or two. It's nice like that.

I still wasn't out of my family-induced emotional state, so I called miniglik, who was herself not in the best of spirits but, a good friend, recognized that I needed someone to talk to. As I sat on a couch and talked, an Indian man passed by and gave me a knowing look, like, "Hey there, fellow Indian guy." We talked for twenty minutes, which helped pass the time until the welcome reception began.

I headed into the welcome reception, where a live band was playing. They were pretty good, and they played a variety of songs. I checked out the food, but it was mostly beef-based, sliders and ribs and whatnot. I searched the floor for familiar faces. SR-71 and Mal, my friends from last year, were unable to come this year, and JStew had decided medical writing wasn't for her.

AMWA conferences are predominantly attended by women. Middle-aged women. So I gravitated toward the younger crowd. And, being a heterosexual male, I was drawn to pretty girls. Conferences are good practice for talking to pretty girls since people are there to network, so you worry less about the "Why are you talking to me, go away" factor. Still, it's not easy to talk to strangers, pretty girls or no. And it seemed that many people in the room so far were strangers, and I was at a loss.

Finally, I saw a guy standing all alone with no one within a radius of a few yards. "You look like you need someone to talk to," I said. I saw that he had a red dot on his badge, signifying that he was a first-time attendee. We chatted for a bit, and I admired the novelty of actually talking to a guy at one of these things. As we were talking, I flagged down Jenni, whom I'd gotten to know at Asilomar this year. I introduced her to the newbie. She talked about the many things she was doing at the conference, and I told her that I was taking her workshop on understanding eye diseases. "I don't really care about eye diseases, but I thought since it's you, it'll be fun." She said I was too sweet.

If my life were a better narrative, that dude and I would have hung out for the rest of the conference, but, alas, we waved to each other in passing later, but we never really ran into each other again.

A woman who was sitting on the floor waved at me. I couldn't tell who she was from a distance, but I walked toward her. As I got closer, I saw that she was Nice, the woman I'd met at the Chapter Greet and Go last year and had talked with at the kickoff. She asked if I remembered her, and I did. We talked, and I sneaked a peek at what she was signed up for on the back of her badge. "You're taking my workshop!!" I exclaimed. I was really glad and incredibly relieved that there would be at least one friendly face in the audience.

I ran into Jimbo, the actor, who was...Jimbo. He's very lighthearted and silly. He was moderating the creative readings tonight, and he had brought some interesting ways to keep us all under time. He was sorry he couldn't take my workshop, as he was teaching one at the same time.

I also talked with Tom from Jellyvision, who was very excited and proud that I had stuck with and developed a workshop like I said I would. He told me to relax, it would be fine, and gave me some tips on how to fill time if I thought my presentation was too short. Which was a more serious concern when he told me that I had one fifteen-minute break, not two as I had thought all this time. I don't know why I thought there were two; I mean, I've taken these workshops. But I somehow got the impression that there were two. Now there was more time to fill. Uh.

Aioli, who coordinated the workshops for this conference and supported me a lot as I developed my workshop, was so very excited for me! She was confident I'd be a big success.

I wandered around some more, and suddenly Jenni grabbed me and dragged me over to the dance floor, which was currently pretty much only occupied by an adorable dancing toddler.

"You like dancing, right?" Jenni said.

"Not...really," I said. But she wanted to encourage people to get out on the dance floor, and it was up to us to break the ice. We danced for a couple minutes, dropping our bags on the floor, and some people were inspired to join us, but not the person at Jenni's table who had claimed she would go if Jenni would go. At the end of the song, Jenni said we could stop and thanked me for humoring her.

There was a group of people around my age who had been standing around and talking for a while. One, a dark-haired girl with purple streaks in her hair. Two, a redhead with glasses. Three, a dude. I stood adjacent to the trio until I could insert myself into the conversation. Once in, we talked for a while about horror movies and MMA (Purple, a Canadian boxer, got to give her rant on why MMA is not a sport). As the reception drew to a close, they began to make plans to go out to a jazz club afterward. Purple invited me to come along, but I was going to the creative readings afterward.

If my life were a better narrative, I would have ended up hanging out with this trio more, but, alas, not so much. I saw the three of them going out to dinner the next night. The dude turned up in my workshop. I ran into Purple a couple times; the first time she didn't recognize me for a moment or two. I saw the redhead during a break and when she was leaving. No, these were not my Conference Friends.

I made my way to the room for the creative readings. There was a sign-up sheet in the back. I was going to be reading an abridged, modified version of "Surgery of the Damned," my account of my shoulder surgery and the following recovery. Since I was going to be speaking on a panel about creative nonfiction on Friday, I figured I should read some creative nonfiction.

Jimbo had all sorts of noisemakers, from an egg timer to a honky horn to a whirly light thing, all signals that we should wrap up and finish so we could get through everyone in the allotted time. Before I was up, a woman read a story in haiku, a guy read some terrible angsty poetry, and a guy sang a country song about typos. A cute woman read some flash fiction, a story form she had only just discovered where you tell a story in under a thousand words. It was a first-person story from the perspective of a person dying of cancer. I wasn't terribly enthralled, but then I caught an interesting line about how the character hadn't understood the words the doctor had said when he gave his diagnosis, but she understood his tone. And then, halfway through, with no big AHA! moment, it just becomes apparent that the character is a cat. She was writing about a dying cat. And, wait, holy shit, no, it was even worse. The cat was being put to sleep. It was all so elegantly done, and I would have never thought to write from that perspective. I noticed on her badge that she was a veterinarian, so she would.

When it came time to read my piece, I promoted the creative non-fiction panel on Sunday and read my personal essay/LJ post. I read fast, since I had limited time. The sign-up sheet had asked whether my reading was funny or serious, and I had initially put "both," but I went back and changed it to "funny," since that was the more important part, not that Jimbo mentioned those designations in introducing us. Various lines got good laughs, including one I liked that I wrote specifically for the reading:
The general game plan involves alternating between watching Six Feet Under, reading The Book Thief, and sleeping. Six Feet Under is a show about death, The Book Thief is narrated by Death, and sleep is kind of like death. This is quite possibly the worst game plan ever.
Unfortunately, I flubbed my final line ("Chicks dig scars, right?" did not get the verb enunciated properly).

After me, a woman read a very amusing story about USPS agents almost arresting her husband. She gave a very enthusiastic, animated performance.

There were some more readings and then some door prizes, like a bottle of wine, a book of historical insults, and various maps of Milwaukee, the site of next year's conference. Afterward, I told Kitty that I'd liked her story and Kloud that I'd liked her performance. They liked my piece as well. A man asked me if my story were true, and I said it was. Several people would ask me that. Guys, I said it was nonfiction! Creative or not, it clearly happened to me! Unless I was writing first-person for someone else, I don't know. Come on, guys.

Kitty was a red dot as well, and I encouraged her to come to the creative nonfiction panel and, if she could, my cancer pharm workshop. It was a non-credit workshop, so she could still sign up.

I needed to grab some dinner, but first I had to call home. I sat in the lobby. My current potential future wife was in town for a wedding this weekend, and we were trying to set up a face-to-face meeting on Friday, but I didn't have many holes in my schedule. I gave my mom my options.

As I was on the phone, I saw a familiar woman. It was Holli! I had met Holli at Asilomar this year and talked with her a lot. I called to her, and she came over, and we caught up. I covered the mouthpiece, and we talked for a few minutes. She was taking some of tomorrow off to spend time with her mom and daughter, so she couldn't come to my workshop. I noticed on Holli's badge that she was from Tustin, just like equustel! Huh, now I know two people in Tustin.

After Holli left, I continued talking to my mom, who, to my surprise, did not ask me who I was talking to and whether she was my girlfriend. The phone moved to my dad, who asked me when the conference ended. I told him it ended Saturday, and I had plans with my brother, and, yes, the hotel was already booked for Saturday night and I was not coming home. He told me to come home on Sunday. Just told me. I could only respond with my usual defeated "Yeah."

He asked me why my voice had gotten so low. "You!" I cried. "Taking over my Sunday! I know other people here besides you." He said that he didn't say it had to be the whole day, I could do whatever I wanted and then come home at, say, one or two. I couldn't spare one hour for my family? He asked me when my flight was, and I said it was at nine. So clearly I had plenty of time. I could do what I wanted, and then come home before I had to go to the airport. I could only respond with my usual defeated "Yeah."

I felt like I was conditioned to acquiesce, that I was psychologically incapable of refusing.

I ate alone at the hotel restaurant. Several things on the menu looked good, but I ordered the salmon, since I had gotten salmon last year as well. It seemed to have an interesting BBQ sauce. As a side, I had fingerling potatoes with bleu cheese; to my surprise, the bleu cheese was melted. Still quite strong. The salmon was very good, and I liked the sauce. I hadn't intended on dessert, but I thought maybe it would make me feel better, so I got a little bit of peach cobbler with ice cream. It was sweet and yummy.

According to my check, my waiter's name was Carlos D. Ha!

Back in my hotel room, I complained to b.org and thought up ways to fill time during my cancer pharm workshop. I looked over my slides and fixed little things. I looked up extra facts I could throw in. I stayed up a little later than intended.

Thursday

For the first time at an AMWA conference, I overslept. My breakfast roundtable was at 7:30, and I woke up at...7:40. I got ready very quickly and got down by 8 or so to learn about effectively communicating expectations. I was frazzled and didn't get a lot out of it since I felt stupid for being late and my head wasn't in the game.

After breakfast was the keynote address. I looked for someone I knew to sit with but failed. I waited outside the room and watched people come in. Jenni arrived and asked what I was doing. I said I was waiting for someone I knew. Problem solved! We walked in, and I meant to follow her, but she meant to follow me.

"Oh, so I'm leading?" I said.

"Since I led last night," she said.

The keynote speaker gave an interesting presentation that included clips from Casablanca. A hot topic in the medical writing community is ghostwriting, which is when a medical writer writes and/or makes significant contribution to a manuscript but is not credited at all. Another one is ethics, especially the fact that AMWA has a great code of ethics that should really be taught to and followed by people in other countries. She did a survey and found out that many third-world, less industrialized countries were not as up with ethics as the rest of the world. Specifically, she called out China and India since there are a growing number of clinical trials being conducted in those countries. She didn't want to rag on them, instead suggesting we support them. Awesomely, during the Q&A, there was a dude from India who addressed her statements. He gave his perspective on the industry in his country and agreed that the medical writers there should be supported rather than looked down upon.

One person pointed out that ethical standards differed in other countries, so how could we go about developing a code of ethics that would be accepted globally?

"Go to the ICH," I remarked. "That's what they're for, right?" The International Conference on Harmonisation.

"That's exactly what I was going to say," said Jenni. What! I was just spouting bullshit! Who knew I actually had the right idea? It's like I know things now.

The speaker's talk was somewhat controversial, but it gave people something to talk about for the rest of the conference.

On the way out, I encountered a young blonde woman. Glancing at her badge, I saw that she was from Davis. I told her I was from Oakland. Pogo was also a red dot, so I told her to come to the Chapter Greet and Go dinner tonight. We talked for a while; I didn't have an open session to go to so I wasn't pressed for time. She was a PhD student in her fifth year, and she knew she didn't want to spend the rest of her life on the bench. Unlike everyone else in her program, she had no desire to go on to a post-doc. She loved the science, and she loved the writing, but she couldn't take all those damn Western blots anymore. Medical writing was a natural fit for her. She had won a travel fellowship, so she was here to explore her options and learn about the field. I gave her some tips on conferencing and told her to come to my things if she could. We exchanged cards before I went back up to my room.

In my room, I once again stared at all my slides, but I knew them backwards and forwards by now, so it was just time to go and do fine like everyone said I would. I packed up the laptop, making sure I put a copy of the most recent version of my presentation on a flash drive.

I was a little late for lunch, and many seats were filled. I was having real trouble this year finding familiar faces. People I knew either weren't there or not coming to the big events. I finally found a seat next to Tom from Jellyvision, who gave me encouragement for my upcoming workshop. The vegetarian option was some sort of spanakopita-type thing that was pretty good. The speaker spoke of the importance of publishing research on publishing. Man, even research can be meta!

Tom and I both had workshops at 2, so we left as soon as the talk was over to go get set up and prepare. Except we got lost trying to find the room. So much for leaving early. I finally found my room and was surprised that there was no one there. I thought there would be some sort of A/V person to help me set up. I was all on my own? I...I'd never done this before!

I turned on Smellerbee and listened to calm, relaxing music. The big screen was down, and the projector was on. To the right of the screen was a table with a podium and lots of wires. I took out the laptop and turned it on. As it booted up, I looked for a way to plug it in. That was the easy part. I plugged in the mouse. I saw that there was an Ethernet cord and popped that in, but when I loaded IE, it gave me a Sheraton screen and asked for a user name and password. The screen looked different from the one I got in my hotel room, and I'd already paid ten bucks for Internet, and I wasn't going to pay again, so fuck it, I would just use the wireless.

There was a blue plug that looked like a monitor plug, so I hooked it into the appropriate port on the laptop. And now...how did I get it to go on the screen? I knew it was a really simple combination of buttons, but I couldn't remember! I tried going to Display options, but while it recognized the second monitor, it wouldn't do anything with it. Aah!

I also plugged in some USB receiver that looked like it was for the wireless clicker to use with PowerPoint, but the clicker didn't seem to be working either! Did I have to install something? The light was green! It was on! Was I supposed to turn the clicker on? WHY WAS NOTHING WORKING. THIS WAS MY VERY FIRST WORKSHOP. PEOPLE WERE ALREADY COMING IN AND I WAS TOO WRAPPED UP TO GREET THEM PROPERLY. I STILL HAD MY HEADPHONES ON WTF.

I galloped outside to ask a monitor how to get some A/V help. She said to go to the back of the room and call the number on the phone. I went to the back to of the room. There was no phone! What was she talking about?! I stormed outside and paced up and down the hall until I saw people that looked like they were A/V folk and asked them to please help me for the love of God.

The guy came in and pushed that simple combination of buttons on my laptop. Nothing happened. He did it again. Nothing happened. He messed with the Display options. Nothing happened. He pushed Fn-F7 over and over. Nothing happened. Also, yes, my clicker wasn't working. He called in backup, who brought me a new clicker, and that clicker worked, but the laptop still wasn't displaying. They called in even more backup, who brought my a new laptop, and I was really damn glad I had my flash drive ready. I loaded my presentation materials on the new laptop, which, what the hell, totally displayed on the big screen. Someone hooked me online so I could access a webpage I needed for my talk, and then another guy plugged in a cord for sound, which we tested and which was loud. Finally, something like ten minutes after two, we were ready to get started. THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN! I was supposed to have gotten everything set up and then sat there and done breathing exercises and meditated and been in a very good emotional and mental state! I am surprised I didn't completely break down.

"Welcome to Introduction to Cancer Pharmacology," I began. "If you're looking for Introduction to Underwater Basket Weaving, that's next door." My audience laughed. I had been told there were 32 people registered, but it looked like there were only twentysomething people there. I didn't count. I had expected horizontal rows, but instead the room was set up with lots of round tables. Nice was on the front table to my right, and, hey, Hal was in the back! I knew two people! Whew.

I started out by gauging the science education level I was dealing with. Raise your hand if the last biology/biochemistry class you took was in...grad school.

More people raised their hands than I expected. Four or five, I think.

College? Most everyone else. High school? No hands, I don't think. Middle school? No hands.

"Kindergarten?" a woman remarked, totally stealing my joke.

"You saw where I was going!" I said jollily. Jollily? Is that a word? Anyway. I told everyone that I'd be covering some biochemistry and cell biology topics as refreshers, but please ask me to define something if they didn't know it. Also, clearly, I talk fast, so tell me to slow the fuck down if needed.

I went through the background slides. This was my first time giving my talk in front of a live audience, and, wow, it was so different from talking to myself in the mirror. People were watching me. They were listening to me. To me. Me, at the front of the room, while they sat in their chairs. There was this whole power dynamic that I had never accounted for and wasn't quite comfortable with yet. Luckily, the AMWA conference is pretty chill and not terribly high-pressure. They sat there and listened. I wasn't sure when or how they would respond to things.

Nice was the first to ask a question, I think. Or it may have been a comment. But she noted that something I'd said was something she had not known or thought about before. "All right, we're already learning!" I said. I was enjoying this now. This was pretty fun, and I was more prepared than I thought, even though I was still stumbling over my words at times.

Sometimes I got questions I wasn't sure about, since I am not really an expert, but usually someone else in the audience could help out. And then one time someone asked me whether the benefits of tamoxifen I had just talked about were still valid in the light of new research and I was all, uh, sorry, I got these from my textbook that was published in 2000, so I haven't looked at those studies. I, uh, should check those out! Er.

One woman asked me to explain the difference between competitive inhibition and antagonism, since I was using the terms sort of interchangeably. Doesn't inhibition mean that the drug binds to the enzyme permanently? Oh, no, that's a different kind of inhibition! Let's teach you some science, lady, some science I haven't talked about in years and may be teaching you wrong, lady! Man, I had to think on my feet and make shit up. It was good times.

One woman asked if they could get a copy of my slides since, unlike most presenters, I hadn't just turned my slides into the handout...because I didn't have my slides done by the handout deadline, so instead I created an awesome, useful handout and then put that information on my slides. But, geez, some people just NEED to have slides because they don't want to write anything down or something. I told her that she could e-mail me and I would send them to her. I later discovered that she e-mailed me on her BlackBerry during the workshop. Geez!

The audience was pretty receptive. There was a woman on the left who seemed pretty knowledgeable and asked good questions. Hal asked some questions, and Nice was frequently commenting or asking questions. It was very cool. She and another woman had a little discussion about the level of expression of EGFR and HER2 in the heart and lung as compared to the expression in the cancers themselves. Another woman totally knew about antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytoxicity and could support me on its existence.

To my surprise and bafflement, when I checked the time after going through the first section of drugs, we had already reached the halfway point! Holy crap, I was actually behind. It was a perfect place to take a break, though, so we recessed for fifteen minutes. During the break, a couple of people told me I was doing really good and they were learning a lot.

After the break, I knew I actually had to speed up a bit, but I did still ask for everyone to take a moment to appreciate the glory of DNA. I went through the rest of the drugs with few hitches. They got a kick out of my sound effects, especially the exploding TMP. And some of them remembered things from before when I asked about them!

Last night, I had thought of a good time-filler, and even though we were actually behind, I still wanted to do it because Tom had encouraged audience interaction. I asked for some volunteers to be nucleotides. Not surprisingly, Nice was up for it, but it seemed like she was the only one and I would have to ditch the idea. But then Hal came up, as did a couple other women who had asked questions, I think. The more receptive members of the audience. Then we had a live-action demonstration of DNA alkylation, and I have no idea whether it got the point across, but I hope it worked? It was something, at least.

Donut mitosis was a hit. "I love it!" said Nice. "It works both sides of my brain."

Earlier in the talk, the dude from the trio last night asked if a certain drug was like paclitaxel, a drug he had heard about. Nope, I said, we'll talk about that later. When we did, I think I could actually hear audible gasps at the fact that paclitaxel actually worked by promoting microtubule formation.

I pimped The Manga Guide to Molecular Biology as a good resource for learning more about the basic concepts we'd talked about. I had brought it out at lunch as well; Tom had liked it.

The low point came as I started to transition from drugs on the market to innovative cancer therapies for the future. A man commented that many cancer drugs don't cure cancer; some just extend a patient's life by as little as a few months. So could I tell him which of the drugs I talked about really killed the tumors completely and which just allowed the patient to live longer?

It was a perfectly reasonable question, but I had no fucking idea. And, as one ought to do in such a situation, I came straight out and said that I hadn't looked at those factors when I did my research on these drugs, but I would look into it. Then I started flailing around a bit, trying to come up with answers from what I knew, agreeing that many drugs only slowed progression of the tumor rather than kill them completely. Hal tried to bail me out by noting that this was a pharmacology course, so his question was sort of out of scope since it was clinical. We were able to move on, even though I had been thrown.

The final section was the one I was least comfortable with, since it was all very experimental work that I didn't completely understand myself, but I made it through okay. I ended right at 5, leaving no time for further questions. Luckily, I had reminded them to fill out their evaluations after the break. I...hoped they were good.

I packed up my stuff, and Hal accompanied me out. She said the workshop was exactly what she had been looking for, which was fantastic to hear since I had no idea what people were looking for. She'd worked on many projects and heard about many of these drugs, but she didn't actually know about them. She told me not to worry too much about the evaluations, especially if some people complained that the slides didn't match the handout. Some people just complained a lot. If everyone but one person liked something, don't let that one person sway your opinion. On the other hand, if most everyone didn't like something, you should probably fix it.

Now, I haven't seen the evaluations, but I've already gotten a couple positive e-mails about my workshop. Observe:
Thanks again for the fantastic cancer pharmacology course - it was so well organized that it actually made sense to me!
When I asked who she was:
I was one of the cytosines, and sat at the front table to your left. I'm a regulatory medical writer with a basic biology background (from a long time ago!). I have little to no memory of organic chemistry, but was able to follow your presentation and I've been telling all my colleagues about it since getting back home!
My boss thinks I should set up a Facebook fan page for my workshop. This woman would join:
Thank you for the well-presented Intro to Cancer Pharmacology course. I thought the content was interesting and the drug information was compiled in a thorough manner.
When I asked her if she might offer more feedback if I'm asked to do it again next year:
I think the overall response to the class was a positive one and I do hope that AMWA does ask you to develop the course for credit. There are very few places to find the information you presented in the manner in which you presented it. I think your workshop filled a void in the AMWA offerings.
I FILLED A VOID YOU GUYS.

I went back to my room to decompress a little before dinner. I decompressed for a little longer than intended, and when I got down to the Greet and Go, it was already time for the Go part. Pogo was there, though. They were shuffling people into cabs, but the restaurant was apparently only half a mile away, so some of us decided to walk. It was a small group, consisting of a woman I knew, a woman who looked familiar but was new so I didn't actually know her, Pogo, and two guys we'll call Jimmy Pop and Ali. Jimmy Pop recognized me from a previous Asilomar conference. He did look familiar, but I wasn't sure he was who I thought he was. I would have to confirm it later.

It was chilly and windy outside, and the walk seemed to be longer than half a mile, but we toughed it out, even after we were passed by one of the cabs. Pogo and Jimmy Pop and Ali and I were all about the same age, and we gravitated to each other in the face of those decades older. Ali was also a red dot.

We chatted on the way to our destination, El Fenix, a Tex-Mex chain. The cabtakers beat us, verily, so they had a large table set up; we latecomers got our own little table. Awesomely, however, our waiter offered to do separate checks for us!

Seating order: Ali to my left at the head, Pogo across from me, Jimmy Pop, woman I don't know who turns out to be a travel writer at the other end, woman I do know, me.

The menu claimed the tortilla soup is "famous," so Ali wanted some. I am a fan of tortilla soup, so I wanted some as well. Pogo chose a soup/salad combo. The woman next to me liked flautas. There were over a dozen combos for me to choose from, and I found one that seemed to have a good variety. An enchilada, tacos, and a "guacamole tostada." Which Jimmy Pop and I discovered really was just a corn tortilla with guacamole on it. Luckily, Ali had a lot of beans and rice on the side for me to add to it.

During dinner, we talked a lot about Pogo's research on autism, how it's really two hundred different diseases that get lumped into one syndrome. Recent twin studies have identified a genetic link—as opposed to an embyronic link. I asked her about the whole thing about vaccinations causing autism, and she said that the likely explanation is that kids with autisim have a weakened immune system, so they have a stronger reaction to the vaccine, and then they're diagnosed with autism later. Or something like that. It was basically CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION, FUCKERS. Pogo was interested in teaching a workshop, and I encouraged her to do it, since the science curriculum was still being built and they really needed people to develop courses.

In discussing our work, I learned that Jimmy Pop worked at a pharmaceutical company I recognized. I asked him if he knew Molly, whom I'd met at DIA and had known my co-worker Capitulation (whom I'd also met at DIA). He laughed. Molly was his boss. Ha! We didn't even spend that much time together, but I remember her because of her awesome name and accent.

I had to lead my dessert klatch—"From ABC to the WB: TV Worth Talking About"—at 8, so I had to leave earlier than the rest of the group. Pogo had met someone who was taking my klatch, an Indian woman from our chapter. She introduced me to her.

I had intended to take a cab back, but I saw that I had plenty of time, so I joined a group who was walking. In the group was an Indian doctor who had written some book chapters. There seemed to be a lot of Indians at the conference this year. I didn't end up talking to anyone on the walk back, though. The walk back seemed much shorter than the walk to the restaurant.

When I arrived at my klatch table, the Indian woman was there with some chocolate cake. There was no one else. I went out to get some chocolate cake for myself. I ran into Aioli, and I waited for her to be done talking to someone before telling her about Pogo's interest in teaching a workshop. She thanked me.

Back at my table, there was still no one else. After some time, a Mexican woman showed up. And no one else. Someone had claimed my klatch was sold out, but a grand total of two people had shown up.

And neither one of them watched television.

I. Uh. What. But. Uh. Er. Huh. I.

The Mexican woman hadn't even had a TV for months, and she didn't understand why people watched television shows regularly. The Indian woman had such a short attention span she had to watch movies in half-hour increments each day, and she didn't know who Tina Fey was. When I named all the shows I watched, Mexi said, "Wow, if I watched all those shows, I would get fat. I do this and this and this, and, good God, I actually have a life. You are such a loser for watching so much television." Okay, only the first sentence was verbatim.

Mexi had loved Seinfeld and thought no comedies today could compare. She had tried The Office, 30 Rock, and How I Met Your Mother but hadn't gotten into them. I explained Weeds to her and she said, "What, her husband didn't have life insurance?" I explained how awesome Dexter was and she said, "So, you think that show's going to last?"

It was such a fucking disaster. There may be TV fans in AMWA, but there are also lots of other interesting klatch topics, so I don't think I'm going to do this again next year.

Back in my hotel room, I relaxed and then called home. I would be meeting my current potential future wife at 5ish tomorrow.

Tomorrow, the adventures continue!
Current Mood: numbnumb
Current Music: Deftones - Xerces

(12 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:tripoli
Date:November 2nd, 2009 04:20 am (UTC)
(Link)
Oh, good, I'm glad (though not surprised) your workshop went well. I'd have liked to have seen the cytosine LARPing, but it sounds like people got a lot out of it.
[User Picture]
From:musesfool
Date:November 2nd, 2009 01:17 pm (UTC)
(Link)
AV is always, always a thing. There's always something that goes wrong with it. You just have to keep breathing and eventually they get it to work somehow.
[User Picture]
From:equustel
Date:November 2nd, 2009 03:20 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Yay Tustin! \o/ The only thing we've really got to show for ourselves is being Locke (from LOST)'s hometown, I think. Otherwise, we're just "that place between Irvine and Santa Ana". lulz.

Anyway, glad to hear everything went so well! High five. I'm so impressed with people who have the nerve for public speaking/presenting - it's something I'm just not cut out for. I like to hide behind my delete key.
[User Picture]
From:lembeau
Date:November 2nd, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Jollily? Is that a word?

Absolutely. *nods*

Yay for things going well! I think you should make a Facebook group just to see if people will join it. And you can be famous on the internets in a different corner. The part where you had technology fail was incredibly sucky and so true. It always happens! You plan out everything in advance and something always tries to throw a spanner in the works. I'm glad you were able to get your bearings. And thank you for the link to the donut mitosis. :OD

Re: your TV discussion, did they misrepresent you or something? Did people think they signing up for "How to be Miley Cyrus"? Why would someone who doesn't watch tv sign up for it? It makes no sense!
[User Picture]
From:jeeperstseepers
Date:November 2nd, 2009 10:15 pm (UTC)
(Link)
According to my check, my waiter's name was Carlos D. Ha!

Ha!

...it was so different from talking to myself in the mirror. People were watching me. They were listening to me. To me. Me, at the front of the room, while they sat in their chairs.

Yep. It still hits me now and then, and I have an internal freak-out while teaching. My mouth continues speaking, and my ears hear my voice like it's coming from a different person and my head is thinking "OH MY GOD THEY'RE ALL LISTENING TO YOU AND STARING AT YOU! RUN AWAY! RUN!!!" This is after many years of teaching. Problems many?

But, geez, some people just NEED to have slides because they don't want to write anything down or something.

Ah, I see you've met my students.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:November 2nd, 2009 10:29 pm (UTC)
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Ha!
I made sure to put that in for you! I actually said out loud, "Carlos D? Really?"
[User Picture]
From:punzerel
Date:November 2nd, 2009 11:19 pm (UTC)
(Link)
CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION, FUCKERS

Seriously! This causes me so much darn anger on so many levels. It kind of makes me want to chop people's heads off.

Yay for awesome workshop! Boo for family pressure and weird people signing up for discussions they're not interested in, though.
[User Picture]
From:prophetkristy
Date:November 3rd, 2009 09:57 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Yay workshop! Welcome to the teaching life. And thanks for the link to Donut Mitosis; I'm totally going to use that in my classes now!
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:November 4th, 2009 12:49 am (UTC)
(Link)
If you e-mail the guy, he'll send you a high-res version of the photo. He was really excited that I was going to be using his art as a teaching tool.
[User Picture]
From:prophetkristy
Date:November 5th, 2009 02:29 am (UTC)
(Link)
Eeee! Awesome!!

Hey, do sciency art and post it on the nets, don't be surprised that teachers want to steal use it!
[User Picture]
From:thetheatremouse
Date:November 7th, 2009 09:51 pm (UTC)
(Link)
According to my check, my waiter's name was Carlos D. Ha!
I feel dumb for not understanding why this is humorous.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:November 7th, 2009 10:01 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Don't feel dumb. Carlos D is the bassist for Interpol.

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