Chicago was good. No snow or car accidents. That will forever be my standard for trips to Chicago, I think. I even noticed the hotel where we were stranded. Or maybe that was just me projecting.
I really didn't have a lot of time to do touristy things, but I think that's pretty much been covered in the past. It's strange when I think about all of the times that I've been there. Though it definitely doesn't qualify as a home away from home, it is certainly very familiar. In my response to Rhiannon's comment, I mentioned that it didn't match the fun of the random humanities trip to the city that featured important cultural events like a trip to the Museum of Broadcast Communications, lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, and Rhea Brocklehurst screaming whenever we'd cross over a sidewalk grating.Right. So after spending much of the day at the conference on Monday, I went out looking for a cafe to do my homework. I looked at a book about Chicago and thought that Wicker Park would be fun, but when I actually took a cab there, it was scary and I just went back to the Magnificent Mile and had dinner at a semi-authentic place. </p>
After that, I worked on my english paper at Starbucks until they closed and was up until two or three in the morning writing at my hotel. At least I got a 4.0 on the paper. I guess it was worth it -- even though I'm taking the class satisfactory/not satisfactory. I almost want to change the grading option to take my A.
On Tuesday, I only went to the conference in the morning and met my family in the afternoon. They drove down and went to IKEA before meeting me. We had lunch at Pizzaria Uno and pretended to shop. My dad and sister bought things at the Virgin MegaStore, so it wasn't completely futile. We went to Marshall Fields and a crazy makeup lady tried to sell us eye cream with Lily extract. My sister made a joke about my mom being allergic to it after the woman put it on her face, but the lady didn't seem to get it or think that it was funny. Really, she didn't even seem concerned that she had put something potentially toxic on my mom's face. The stuff was $80 per bottle, so we're definitely considering it as a stocking stuffer for the whole family.
After that big fun time, we went to the Chicago Institute of Art and looked at a lot of things. The most exciting exhibit was called "Michelangelo, the Medicis, and Renaissance Art" and featured some pretty incredible pieces. I'm not usually a fan of old art that depicts the wealthy, but seeing the paintings in person was pretty incredible. The people glowed and the details were phenomenal. We saw many other things, that I've seen before. My mom is much slower at museums, and my dad, sister, and I ended up ahead of her, waiting in front of the famous picture of Paris on a Sunday when it's raining. The artist's name starts with a G.
By that time, we were all overloaded and somewhat dehydrated. We made an escape from the museum and sat on the steps near the lions and tried to fend off the panhandlers for a while. After a quick snack, they went back to Michigan and I went back to the hotel. I made an attempt to see if anything exciting was happening in the city, but wasn't really successful. I walked around the immediate neighborhood looking for an alt-weekly paper, took some pictures, had a drink at the hotel's martini bar (a blues martini - gin, vermouth, and blue curacao), and just stayed in watching television, reading, and getting ready for my presentation.
The poster session went pretty easily. I showed up at the conference center around 9, unrolled my giant (40 x 80") poster, pinned it to a stand, and went get a peppermint mocha (the best coffee beverage, maybe ever). The presentation went like this: a group of 15-40 people assembled at poster #1 and the presenter would talk for about six minutes and then take questions for a few more minutes. There were eleven posters, and mine was number five. So, it was pretty straightforward. For not really preparing things to say in a systematic manner, my little talk went well and I didn't say anything too stupid. No one really asked any difficult questions, so that was a relief. After my turn, I half-followed the group and half-sat by my poster for other questions from people. It sort of feels like selling something, but not exactly. I was torn between wanting people to stop and talk and not wanting to get hard questions. One person who came to ask questions didn't seem to understand the concept of people having two copies of each gene. After the two hour session ended, I quickly put the poster back in the tube and took the shuttle bus back to the hotel to check out. This was mildly stressful since I only had a few minutes to get my things packed and the bus was delayed by a construction vehicle parked in the middle of the road. Like I said, the stress was only mild and I checked out on time.
I only had a couple of hours between check out and my flight's departure; so I left my bags at the hotel and walked around Rush street looking for food. I settled on a sushi place (name translates to Happy Sushi, I think) where the food was sent out on a conveyor belt and the charges were by the plate. Having special vegetarian orders, none of my food arrived this way, but it was still pretty cool.
The flight home was really long, but uneventful. In Phoenix, I had dinner at a mexican-type place. Only after ordering did I realize that this was the place where everyone went to smoke cigarettes. Probably the only smoking location in the airport terminal, but whatever: I've always been a proud second-hand smoker! My shoeless aisle-partner on the flight back had cooler Apple stuff than I did and I tried to think of excuses to buy an iPod to replace my Archos Jukebox or to get a titanium PowerBook, but was unsuccessful. Other than that brief technolust, I mostly read a book for class and slept.
All in all, the conference was interesting. Wandering around with 30,000 people in the setting of cardiovascular disease related show and tell was pretty cool, though I'm not sure that I learned a lot. It's kind of hard when the whole thing is a series of fifteen minute talks on different research. I've heard that it's really all about networking, but I was too shy or not in a schmoozing frame of mind to capitalize on that opportunity.