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Atlanta

Short version: I've returned from an extended weekend in Atlanta for a conference meeting (the Society for the History of Technology). I gave a paper to a modest, but respectably-sized audience and it went well, complete with positive feedback. I spent a great deal of time being social, particularly with old friends, most of whom were inconveniently out of town for the weekend. Along the way, I saw the Botanical Gardens and the Art Museum there.

Long version: Right after class on Thursday, I left for the airport. The flight was uneventful, as was getting to the hotel. Alas, it was not so easy to get to my room. I was given a swipe card and a room number and pointed in the direction of the elevators. The elevator went up, failing to stop at my floor. It went down, and failed to stop on my floor again. I was already rather frustrated since I'd been unable to register for the conference, having missed registration by 15 minutes. It turns out that they'd upgraded me to a lovely club room, on a floor which requires using the swipe card in the elevator in order to successfully press the button.

Feeling rather ignorant of the logistics of the program, I ended up skipping the plenary in favor of going out to dinner with Costanza, a friend from Venice doing her PhD in Finance in Atlanta. Ironically, the reason she was going to be out of town this weekend was to visit my sister! She took me to her favorite restaurant, a steakhouse called Longhord. She recommended the steak, but I was so out of the habit of ordered it that I ordered the pork chops instead. Nevertheless, she let me have a bite of it. Wow. I'd completely forgotten why people bother eating beef. That was why people bothered - it was amazing. Of course, I still probably won't order beef since it won't live up to the wonderfulness of Costanza's dinner. The key lime pie I had there was the best I'd even had, not that I'm a connoisseur of key lime pie.

I spent all day Friday in conference sessions, give or take lunch and dinner. Most of the sessions were good. One particularly good one was on processed foods, including a talk on the development in the 1930s-1950s of appetizing frozen fruit and veggies. The talk featured samples of peas frozen in different ways. The book room wasn't open long, so I spent some time in there, only acquiring one book (and another the next day, although not technically in the book room). ultrascichick knows I can't resist a good meal and we went for lunch at the Four Seasons. As long as I'm awarding superlative accolades, I'll just say that those were the best croutons I'd ever had. The rest of the food was respectably tasty (Southern friend chicken salad, acorn squash soup, and a white chocolate grapefruit mousse). I went to a reception that evening and afterwards went out with a graduate student from Imperial College and another who'd just won the dissertation prize the reception was in honor of. I wasn't up for staying up as late as they did, wanting to be at least somewhat well rested for my talk on Saturday morning.

My paper was the last of four. Happily, my entire session was excellent, all on interesting topics: the making of anatomical teaching models from the 18th century; boatbuilding in the 9th and 11th centuries; and the installation of a fourteenth-century Sienese aquaduct. Our commentator took the opportunity to comment on the state of hiring in medieval and early modern history of technology positions (poor) and the quality of our papers (high). In other words, the audience was encouraged to make sure the likes of us were going to have appropriate jobs available to apply for. My own paper went well, I thought. I felt comfortable with my presentation, and even received a few questions. Sadly, I rarely receive many questions after giving conference papers - positive feedback, yes. Questions are few.

Saturday also featured the graduate student breakfast. Highlights included a senior member of the society remembering me from last year even though I'd forgotten that we'd met, and seeing Nicolas, who used to me in my program. I also attended the special interest group Women in the History of Technology (WITH). By the afternoon, I was tired of being in the hotel and ferocious air conditioning, and so I went to the Botanical Gardens, which were about a 10 minute walk away. They were lovely. I wandered and rambled among the herbs and sat in the Japanese Garden. I particularly liked the orchid house and their spectacular collection of carnivorous plants. Going back to the conference was much easy after some sunshine, greenery, fresh air, and tropical mist. When I returned, an impromptu re-gathering of most of the people involved in my session happened, a chance for us to get to know each other further. Astonishingly, the man who'd given the paper on boats was from my home town, and went to the same elementary, junior high, and high school I had. His father even owns one of my mother's prints. It's a very small world.

After Sunday morning's session, I met Nicolas for lunch. We attempted to go have brunch at a place called the Flying Biscuit, but weren't up to waiting an hour in line for a spot. Instead, we went to a mexican restaurant across the street called Zocolo. I had eggs benedict with a chipotle hollandaise sauce and cheese grits on the side. Really, really good. Afterwards, siusaidh picked me up and took me around her neighborhood, the Highlands. We dodged AIDS walk hordes while browsing through stores and finished with a delicious gelateria. She dropped me off at the art museum for a quick trip around the Ansel Adams show with pittenweem's mother, who then took me home and fed me dinner. I felt cosseted. From there, I was driven to the airport to intercept f_butterfly who was just arriving back from away. She, in turn, took me out to dinner with a good friend of hers, and I had a lovely smoothie, plus a slice of chocolate banana cake. We were both exhausted from our weekend, but stayed up late talking anyways. It had been about six years since we'd seen each other, and there were lots of little things to catch up on. Impressively, she now owns a house!

After entirely too short a visit, she dropped me off at the train station in the morning, and I headed back to Toronto.