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2006-11-04 - 9:50 a.m.

...a successful trip and learning experience...

I'm back from Oregon - it is pissing down rain on the entire NW Coast. sheesh.

I had a fantastic and eventful trip to Oregon, which began with some guy getting arrested on our flight, and quickly followed with Air Can. losing my luggage. This was a bit of a hassle, as it meant that I gave my talk in jeans. Fortunately, earth scientists are earthy..even though I like to don a skirt for these affairs, my audience probably didn't even notice a difference from their normal speaker attire.

And also fortunately, my luggage arrived by the following evening. I was beginning to question whether or not this would happen. The AirCan customer service rep did not inspire confidence that my bag would ever reach me when he (a) asked me to spell "Oregon State University" and then (b) asked in which province that was.... (The accent suggested that I was speaking to someone in Bangalore, India).

There were also several technical difficulties that hindered my talk - in fact, we had to begin fifteen minutes late because none of the projectors in the seminar room were working. My host was mortified and felt terribly guilty. For me the end-result was that it focused all my nervous energy on getting my laptop to work and so I didn't have any time to worry about my talk. So by the time I began speaking, I was almost completely at ease. It was one of the best presentations that I have given. In fact, there was a representative from the US science foundation present who invited me to give the same talk in DC at a workshop next Spring. (They take an interest only after I leave the country and cannot get money from them...) So the visit was extremely stimulating and I had many wonderful and inspiring scientific discussions. I came away so very impressed with the place.

Another purpose in my going there was to get some samples run for my NYC high school student's science project, and herein lies the tragedy...The samples were not packed or sealed properly and so all of the microfossils that she has painstakingly assembled over the past year were simply lost. There was essentially NOTHING left - they were completely destroyed during shipping. I couldn't believe it. My heart sank for her (and for MY time investment, too!) Fortunately, I had gotten her to collect another set of data and so her project is not a complete loss.

And, even these samples were not a complete loss. I was able to scrape together enough materials so that we could run some test samples, and they have proven extremely successful. If nothing less, she can describe how a new technique could potentially be used to do her work, thankfully.

So, I successfully avoided saying to her that a year's worth of her work had been wasted, and was able to rephrase it as "welcome to the learning experience of science. You've made a mistake and lost a lot, but you can salvage it and still have something worthwhile if you present it this way." What a great lesson to learn early, even if it hurts a little.

But in general, it was a successful trip, and I was very pleased. It was lovely to see my colleague/friend and to finally meet her charming husband. I loved their house, their lifestyle, and the general feeling of warmth, well-being, and comfort that they exuded. They were just wonderful people, and will make terrific parents to their new twins...

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