AGU = A Great Undertaking?

I’m stuck at home and dealing with a formidable, unexpected foe: FREE TIME! I think my utter dread of unstructured minutes motivates much of my multi-tasking. Maybe I should be more aware of that.

So — I’m creating a blog post, because otherwise, I’d have to…I don’t know what.


A highlight: the many former Slugs who were at the meeting!

I’m blogging about blogging at AGU.

I know many Slugs have already heard my reactions to our AGU experiences. So, I’m curious to hear your reactions, now that we’re at least 70 miles away and a day removed…

Did you have a good time? Were you as stressed as I was? Did you feel like an alien in a foreign geo-landscape?

I’ll start with some brief thoughts, just to get the ball rolling (or, get the approximately spherical — or possibly ovoid — object moving along a surface by rotation):


Five favorite moments:

1. Being starstruck in the press room (more than once)

2. Hitching rides with crazy cabbies (x2)

3. Learning about the funkiness in our solar system — ice volcanoes and propeller moons and equatorial mountains, oh my!

4. Getting to hang out with thousands of scientists (I love scientists)

5. Being challenged with jargon-laden subject matter and trying to turn it into something accessible — quickly. I realized I use jargon as a crutch when I’m confused or unsure of details — to avoid it, you have to understand a concept well enough to explain it using original, lively words. And that was challenging for me, a gene-junkie writing for a blog where “biology” is a bad word.

(6. Calling my dad to ask about the definition of a ‘moon’. It’s a good question. Think about it.)

Least favorite moments?

1. Hearing that Felisa Wolfe-Simon was tweeting reactions to a panel discussion about her SNAFU’d paper…as it was happening. barf.

2. Drowning in jargon.

3. Waiting…tick tock.

4. Suffering through interminably long escalator rides. (I guess it makes sense for them to move at a glacial pace. But as Harvey Leifert astutely noted, the glaciers are speeding up. Moscone Center — get with it.)

5. Having “farting” exchanged for “burping” in a blog post. Farting is the perfect analogy for methane plumes on Mars. (yes, sometimes I’m like a 12-year old.) <– just kidding, that wasn’t one of my least favorite moments. But it’s funny.

Your turn!!

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8 Responses to AGU = A Great Undertaking?

  1. Melissae says:

    I definitely found it challenging to turn a 15-minute talk with limited background information into a 350 word blog post within three hours. I didn’t always make the time deadline, but I pushed myself to try for it. And this experience showed me that I can do it.

    I think large conferences can be useful to writers–if you have background knowledge in the area. But even if this meeting was all about chemistry, I’m still not sure I could combine reporting with learning and hunting for feature stories. If I’m writing on short deadline, I’m not attending talks and poster sessions. And didn’t I go to the conference to learn about the latest developments in a field?

    • nadia drake says:

      Good point re 15-min/350-word relationship. That was tough. With very few exceptions, I mostly combined presentations within a single session, or covered longer talks. Or extensively relied on the InterWebs…and the people sitting near me 😉

  2. Will says:

    I hope the elder Dr.D. replied to your question with the phrase “that’s no moon! It’s a space station!” And then you posted it on YouTube for fanboys to geek out on…

    I’m stressing out about free time too. Heading to the gym now actually for some mindless exercise wheel therapy.

    • nadia drake says:

      Oh no, Doc. W! Did Montana turn you into a hamster??

      Doc D said, “ah. that’s easy” and then geeked out on me. It was fantastic. And yeah, I should’ve posted it on YouTube…next time.

  3. Donna Hesterman says:

    I chose which session to attend strictly based on what sort of accent I thought the speaker might have. Since I had no means by which to judge the inscrutable abstracts, this was, in my view, a sensible second option. It’s not easy to find an Irishman in that crowd, but I managed.

    I find geology fascinating now — much more so than when I took a 2-credit “rocks for jocks” course at UF half a billion years ago. I think it is a beat I would love to work; but not on a three hour deadline with 15 minutes of information tucked loosely under my belt.

    My favorite moment? That first 15 seconds of tiramisu in my mouth on Wednesday. AGU fed us well. I’ll always remember them fondly for that.

    • nadia drake says:

      Cornell offered a ‘rocks for jocks’ class — and a ‘stars for poets’ course. I — to my chagrin last week — skipped both. 😦

  4. Danielle says:

    I had fun at AGU. At least that’s how I remember it now. Oh, wait. If I dig a little, I can detect traces of anxious memories.

    Granted there is nothing very unusual in me feeling anxious. But it is certainly a grand undertaking to quickly pound out stories covering complex subjects you’ve never been exposed to, based solely on a poster, a 15 minute chat with the researcher (if your lucky) and a little panicked Googling. Try writing with authority and flair when you are convinced that you have it all wrong.

    Though I tried to be careful, for example, my Tibetan post, (one of my favorite because I found the researcher and the location so interesting) had to be revised after it was posted. Some of the revisions were political. The Chinese government, it seems, can’t be trusted to put up with any criticism, no matter how light. But I even got some points of the science wrong (rain patterns were shifting, monsoons weren’t, or they were actually, but they weren’t “predicted to;” the Tibetan plateau is en route to becoming a carbon sink, it’s not there yet.)

    Most changes were language tweaks, conveying subtlety that I didn’t pick up on during our poster-side chat and my reading and re-reading of the poster PDF. Fortunately the researcher graciously worked with me to get it right. She was happy with the piece in the end and grateful for the publicity.

    My least favorite moment, though, was speaking with a certain oceanographic researcher after his presentation. Apparently, in my determination to get it right, I was asking questions that were too basic. He demanded of me, “Did you even attend my talk?”

    Thanks for being so approachable buddy.

    In all, I had fun. It didn’t feel like I was able to do the science justice, since most of the fields were far removed from what I’ve been exposed to. I wish that I’d been able, via some wired wafting and warping in spacetime, to live the week at AGU at half of the speed, that I’d had 48 hours to a day, while the rest of the world had to take it at 24.

    • nadia drake says:

      A 15-minute presentation isn’t long enough for background, let alone nuance or subtlety! (in most cases. sometimes, presenters did a very good job) I think that’s where we need to lean on questions from the audience…but when there isn’t time for questions, what can you do?

      And, I’m sorry that guy was rude. He should’ve been grateful you were trying to get it right!

      If you get a do-over at half speed, let me know because I want in!

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