I'm finally back home again after a very intense week at the conference. It was a fantastic and academically inspiring time in many ways, but now I'm completely exhausted. I've just finished sorting through a load of emails that needed responses and a few other outstanding work matters, and I think that's probably about it for me this weekend as far as intelligent activity goes.
It's pretty interesting going to a conference that's outside your area of expertise, as much for the fun of experiencing a different scientific culture as anything else. The differences are very subtle, but interesting, and two things in particular surprised me a little.
Second, I was agog at the number of people using laptops during talks, and particularly people surfing or checking email. Now, it's entirely possible that I'm just a bit out of touch (not having gone to a really big Biology conference in a couple of years), but at most conferences I've attended, very few people have even used laptops to take notes. A wireless connection in the lecture room does allow people to do cool things like downloading a paper mentioned in the talk, or surfing the speaker's home page. However, some people were either parallel processing with great efficiency, or just using the time to catch up on email or other tasks.
The terrible temptation for me was to look over their shoulder and see just what they were finding so fascinating. If they were Mac users, I felt even more compelled to see what they had in their Dock. I didn't quite feel that I had the chutzpah to open up my Powerbook, so I sat there like Dr. Luddite with my Moleskine and fountain pen. I'm planning to sort and transcribe my notes on to my computer next week, and hoping that the transcription process might prompt a bit more processing and synthesis of the ideas I was exposed to.