Friday, October 31, 2008

NCPTW '08 - Las Vegas, Day 3

Another good day today; I sat in on a couple good sessions, and I finally got a chance to hang out with and meet some new folks.

Earlier in the day I hit up the conference, getting to a session called “Why Did the Tutor Cross the Road, er, Line? (And Did It Get to the Tutee?)”, about tutors who cross the lines in their tutoring sessions providing ineffective tutoring (and many of the ways that this can happen); it was an interesting study, one in which both tutors’ sessions were transcribed, and both tutors and tutees were questioned about the sessions’ effectiveness.

A SIG that I went to afterwards (“Writing Centers in Learning or Academic Centers”) centered on discussion about the growing numbers of writing centers being placed in learning resource centers, and those pros and cons. It was interesting, but only an hour was scheduled for the afternoon SIGs, and since each of the four facilitators spent about 10 minutes talking about their own situation (or reading, in one case), there wasn’t much time for those of us in the audience to talk about our own situations, and talk about what was working and what wasn’t. I wasn’t quite sure what the facilitators wanted from the session, despite it being interesting to hear their stories.

I ingratiated myself on Harry and Courtney once again, and tagged along as we and a few other attendees – Lori, Dan, and Karen – forewent the Halloween party that the conference was throwing and went to the Bellagio instead to partake in their buffet, which Courtney had heard was the buffet to go to. The Bellagio was certainly rather opulent, and huge. And their buffet was matched in size; I think I went up there three or four times. The seafood was very good (my first course); the meat wasn’t too bad either (the lamb chops were rarer than I like, although I understand they’re meant to be prepared that way, and the Kobe beef brisket was chewy; but the Beef Wellington was amazing), and the desserts were good, too. I was almost compelled to get more food, but really, how much can you eat in one sitting?

We watched two performances at the Fountains of Bellagio (both of which I filmed; one of which I accidentally deleted, which was irritating), and Harry, Courtney, and I wandered down to the New York, New York hotel and casino (because - why not?) and finally made it back to our hotels. I missed most of the decorative aspects of New York, New York when I had seen it on Tuesday night, so there was still ambience to take part of.

I was realizing after I got back to my hotel that I'd like to see the Venetian and a bit more of Paris (the Eiffel Tower was all pretty, lit up), and perhaps go on a tour of the Hoover Dam. If I ever come back.

And I certainly appreciate the ambience of Las Vegas on Halloween. And let's just leave it at that.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

NCPTW '08 - Las Vegas, Day 2

I did actually manage to spend the entire day in Las Vegas today, although today was the antithesis of yesterday; I stayed very close to my hotel and didn’t wander more than 2 blocks from it.

My poster session was in the morning, so I skipped the plenary session (which I am now sorry I missed) as well as the first session so I could set up. The other posters were pretty impressive, and many of them were a lot better than mine. This was, at the beginning, not my finest hour; I got swamped with insecurity and felt completely ignored by everyone. (I’m finding these conferences very difficult to go to alone; nearly everyone else has traveled with folks from their own academic institutions, and/or has long-standing relationships with many of the other conference attendees, so I was feeling very out of place.) I’m not sure if I was imagining the two women whose poster was next to mine giving me some rather disapproving glances, but I certainly felt hypersensitive.

Fortunately, things really picked up; a lot of people came over to ask questions, and take a handout, of which all but two of the 50 copies I made disappeared (and one of those I had designated the table copy). Bringing as many handouts was a good idea; I didn’t think they would all disappear and was relieved when they were taken. Also a good plan: Bringing business cards with my Web site URL on it, so I could refer people to that. Nearly all the feedback was positive, and those who approached and asked questions seemed genuinely interested in my experience. Quite a few just took a handout, of course, which was also fine – there’s so much information at these conferences that it’s easy to get overloaded, so I can appreciate just taking something to read later. One or two attendees seemed to be very scrutinizing, which was actually fine, but I felt I didn’t quite answer questions to their satisfaction. One fellow asked if I had a methods page, which I didn’t – and which actually would have been a good idea to include. Another fellow asked, after I had explained my research, what was sociological about my research (I had titled my poster and presentation as “Sociology as Training: The Sociology Being Used In Tutoring Reflection & Analysis”); he finally accepted my answer, albeit somewhat grudgingly, saying it was the sociological aspect of linguistics.

Well, perhaps.

In any case, after my session I dropped off the poster at my hotel, partook in a Flash Mob (wherein I got a button), and found lunch at Johnny Rocket’s before staying for part of a session about podcasting in writing centers. I was fading a bit, but after a nap I went to a Special Interest Group (SIG) geared towards writing centers in secondary schools, which was pretty interesting; discussion centered on problems and concerns of writing center work in secondary schools.

And, I went (along with Courtney, Harry, and a few other folks) to the Indian restaurant I had wanted to go to, Origin India, for dinner. It was, I have to admit, very good: South Indian grilled fish as an appetizer, and lamb.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

NCPTW '08 - Las Vegas, Day 1

Today was my first real day in Las Vegas, although to be fair I should note I spent very little time actually in Las Vegas. My Pink Jeep tour vehicle picked me up at 7:30, and off we went. Although there were nine other folks in the car (all British, except the tour guide), I was the last picked up; and I was lucky enough to get the front seat. I was suitably impressed; the tour guide was really good. He seemed to know everything about everything, told us about plant life and geography, local history of not only Las Vegas, Henderson, and Boulder City, but of a few small towns we drove through – essentially he talked non-stop for the entire 10-hour trip. And the trip was arranged well, too; we were getting in and out of the Jeep constantly so he could show us something or tell us about something and brought enough bottled water was brought so we could drink as much as we could handle (and were encouraged to drink a lot of water, too; I was surprised how dried out I got). This was not a cheap trip, although I hesitate to call it exorbitant, but I really think it was well worth it. We weren’t rushed; questions were answered; all the incidentals were taken care of (not only the bottled water, but bus transportation to and from the Grand Canyon, as well as lunch).

And I had such a good time. Being in the front seat had its perks; it was gorgeous out there. We didn’t go through the Hoover Dam, but we did get out in a good location while tour guide Jerry told us various factoids about it, and so we could take pictures. It was hot, in the mid-to-upper 80s (I was told that this was warm for this time of year), and the sun was pretty strong, but I lucked out and didn’t sunburned.

The dessert was really pretty; we drove through a Joshua tree forest; saw some cacti (of course), and saw the Grand Canyon from two different stops along the West Rim. I’ll say this: Obviously the Grand Canyon is huge and impressive and just beautiful, but that first look at it was something else. We stopped off at the Skywalk, which everyone else took advantage of enjoying, but which I did not (cameras are apparently not allowed, and I didn’t feel like shelling out more money for something I couldn’t photograph or otherwise share with anyone). One of the features of this particular area included a Native American dance troupe from New Mexico was doing some native tribal dances, which was rather nifty. Of course my video camera had run out of batteries as soon as we had left the gift shop previously - impeccable timing.

We had lunch, after which tour guide Jerry trundled everyone on a short walk up a bit higher. (I stayed put there, too; honestly, there was no “bad” location and I just didn’t feel like wrestling with some rocks that were likely to cause me to plummet over the edge.) And then we turned around, and meandered back to our hotels, of course stopping a few times along the way to check out the Joshua trees.

It was a long drive, and a long day; I didn’t realize how far away the Grand Canyon was, and in my stupidity didn’t really give any thought that it might actually be in another state, so I’m happy that I get to add Arizona to my list of states visited. By the time I got back to my hotel it was about 6 p.m., which was just when the conference folks had scheduled a poolside social at the conference site (the hotel which is right next door – very convenient), so I wandered over there, felt extremely out of place, tried to make friends and failed somewhat (although I did run into Harry briefly, which was welcome) before heading back to my room so I can pass out in extreme tiredness.

It was a good day; I loved being outside for so long. I think I’m realizing that I’m not as much of a city person as I want to think I am. Being outside – and away from the crowds – was just too much fun.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

NCPTW '08 - Las Vegas, Arrival

I’m officially in Las Vegas – it’s warm, it was sunny, there were mountains in the distance; it’s such a nice change.

I arrived at my hotel, the lovely St. Tropez just after 6 p.m. local time, and am now resuming being happily ensconced in my “suite.” It’s a nice room – I have a king size bed, a nice large bathroom, all the usual amenities…except Internet access. I know there is Internet access, but it seems to be available only in the lobby, so it looks like I’m stuck temporarily. (For the first time I really appreciate having my iPhone; at least I’m not cut of from the rest of the world.) It’s a bit of an odd layout, this hotel; it consists of several smallish two-story buildings that surround a courtyard (which includes a pool). Every room seems to have a little balcony, complete with a table and two chairs that overlooks the courtyard. It’s extremely quiet; I have the sliding door open, and it’s just very quiet and serene. I took a short walk from my room to the hotel lobby so I could post this blog entry, and I took another good look around: Palm trees waved in the breeze; there were lit paths; I heard a quiet tinkling of water from the pool; and one of the casino lights beaming a straight ray of light upward.

My flight over was fine; it was my first time on JetBlue, and insofar as JFK Airport finished Terminal 5 just last week, I was able to enjoy the newness and shininess of something that will probably be messy by the time I get back on Sunday. And it is pretty. (Although I cared not for the free WiFi in the airport; I wish I could have transported that to my hotel room.) The only snafu in the morning was my car reservation not arriving, which worried me if only because that was my method of getting to the airport. On a fluke Chris happened to be home from work so he was able to give me a ride. But the flight itself went smoothly; we took off on time and landed a bit early; I found a cab, who had never heard of my hotel but found me a Kinko’s (where I could buy poster board) and found my hotel after all.

After I set myself up on my room (and trying to connect to any of the open wireless networks, and failing), I hopped the shuttle, which dropped me in front of the Tropicana. I wandered around a bit; I hit the MGM Grand and saw a lion taking a nap; I walked through the New York, New York exhibit-y thing (I thought it would be entertaining to have dinner there but they didn’t have anything I wanted); and finally wandered into the Excalibur, where I eventually found their restaurants and partook in a buffet, which didn’t knock my socks off, but which filled me up, which tonight was all I was looking for. I will say that there seems to be quite a bit to look at in these hotels, but it took me awhile to figure out that if I wanted to find dinner, I’d have to go into the casino. I guess that was obvious, in retrospect, but I was thinking more in terms of finding good food and avoiding slot jockeys.

I wished I had someone to spend time with tonight, but I’m going to try to arrange it that tonight was the only night I’m hanging out by myself. I seem to always get a bit homesick the first night away from New York, and although I know it's only temporary, and it's comparably slight, I still wish I had someone to hang out with in the hotel courtyard and just chat.

Tomorrow I'm going on a Pink Jeep tour of the Grand Canyon. I'm being picked up very early in the morning, and I'm being driven around for 9-10 hours, so I'm going to go relax for the rest of the evening and save my strength.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Pseudo-Crazy Life

I hesitate to indicate that things are crazy, but things do proceed to be a bit on the busy side, yet there is surprisingly little that's actually new. The past couple weekends have been very social, yet I haven't blogged about them for no reason other than I haven't quite felt like writing much lately. The last weekend in August, Labor Day weekend, Chris and I took a train upstate to visit his parents, as well as visit JB, Amy, and their baby whom we hadn't yet met despite his being (at the time) nine months old. I'm always a bit surprised when I get to hold babies and they don't immediately either squirm or start bawling. Little James did neither, so as far as I'm concerned the baby is extremely cute and charming. JB and Amy live in the same town as Anne, Bill, and Ciara, so we popped over for a cup of tea and hung out for an hour or so, which I really loved doing; the Clifton Park Crew lives only about an hour or so away from Chris' parents but we never really seem to manage visiting, which I'd like to do more often. A few weekends ago we headed back upstate (again on the train) for the Eagle Mills craft fair, which I've been hearing about for years but have never gone too. I've been to Eagle Mills before but never this craft fair, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The weather was gorgeous, and there was lots of stuff to look at, so it was a good time.

The following weekend we took a bus to Pennsylvania to go to Renninger's Antique Extravaganza in Kutztown, and the Celtic Classic in Bethlehem; both events took place on the same weekend, so we hit up both events on the same day, which meant by the end of the day we were all thoroughly tired out - and a bit damp, since it rained all weekend. But we hadn't visited Mom and Dad in awhile, so it was good to spend time with them.

Last weekend was the Atlantic Antic, which in years past has been on the same weekend as Renninger's and the Celtic Classic, which meant we always had to choose which event we wanted to go to. This year the Antic was moved to the first weekend in October, which meant we could actually go. Mom and Dad were in town visiting friends who live in Park Slope, so we met up with them in the early afternoon and had a good walk. The weather turned out well, and even though I ate very little (half a sausage, half a fish cake, a bite or two of plantain), I did document everything Chris tried. (Some of the pictures turned out really well; I'm rather pleased.)

I'm a bit relieved all this social activity is over; with all the traveling and visiting we've been doing I've slacked off in my reading and homework. I haven't even had time to podcast, which I'll be doing again starting this weekend.