April 9th, 2010

storyteller doll

Trip to L.A.

I spent much of the week in Los Angeles at the annual Space Systems Risk Management Symposium. Because of how my company does travel booking, I had to do some manipulation to get reasonable flights, which means I ended up flying out Tuesday morning.

I went to take out the trash on my way out - and saw a bunch of junk spread on the floor of the trash room. It took a second for me to realize that part of that junk was a sleeping person. I threw my trash in the chute and left a message on the management office's answering machine. Normally, I'd have called the police, but I was running late and didn't want to risk missing my flight.

The flight out was fine (especially as I was upgraded) but there were strong headwinds so we got in about 45 minutes late. I made it to the afternoon tutorial I was signed up for on time, but it also strikes me that travel planning would be a really good example to use to explain probabilistic risk analysis and decision theory to people. We have a good idea of the on-time percentages for flights. And I'd contend we can come up with a reasonable idea of the consequences of various degrees of lateness, depending on what one's reason for travel is. The sort of people I deal with tend to travel a lot, so this is an analogy they should be able to relate to.

Anyway, the tutorial was about 45 minutes of useful material, buried in 4 hours of material. It was not well-structured and I was sure that it was going to be completely valueless, but the last section redeemed things. It reminded me of the importance of including examples all throughout a presentation, instead of starting with hours of theory.

The rest of the conference was somewhat mixed. My goal at conferences is to find a few gems a day, so it was a success in that respect. It also meant that I've reached my mandatory continuous learning hours for the year, which is also useful. However, I continued to be irritated by people who had poor microphone skills (hint: if you plan to walk around during your presentation, use the wireless lapel mike, instead of just wandering aimlessly away from the podium) and distressed by the abuse of apostrophes on briefing charts. When I rule the world, there will be retraining camps for people who use apostrophes for plurals and who have not learned that "its" is the correct possessive. I had time for a couple of other meetings (brainstorming with one person about an issue that I think will be important in the future and trying to do some replanning with one of my henchmen on the project he's working on).

The timing of the trip worked out nicely as this month started on a Thursday, so the first Wednesday was followed by the second Thursday. That meant I could go to Long Beach Storytellers on Wednesday night and Community Storytellers on Thursday night. Both were very enjoyable and I saw several people I haven't seen in ages. I told the new story I've been working on at Long Beach and concluded that Gafni the Gonif works as a name, but the ending isn't there yet. A particular highlight of last night at Community Storytellers was hearing Leonard sing his Passover song ("Sweet Whitefish and Pike" to the tune of "Sweet Betsy from Pike"), followed by his playing a new waltz with accompaniment by Dan on bass.

I flew back way too early this morning. I did get upgraded again, so I'm 2 for 2 as far as United's Unlimited Domestic Upgrades policy goes. Now I am home and rushing around to do things before flying to Boston tomorrow morning. I am also trying to decide whether I have enough energy to go over to the Library of Congress for tonight's Music and the Brain lecture. Sleep? What's that?