31 March 2014

ASCD 2014: The Travelogue Edition

Even after nine years, this is still a personal blog. Sure, the posts are more career-based, but I'd like to think my sum is more than my educator parts. So, here's the inside edition from my trip to the ASCD annual conference.

The Train
I first took an overnight trip on Amtrak for the 2010 ASCD conference in San Francisco. And I fell in love with the whole thing. I have taken several trips that time, and heading to Los Angeles and back was no exception. The Coast Starlight offers amazing views of the ocean, small town life, snow covered mountainscapes, and more. I saw a ton of wildlife---a flock of pelicans landing in the Pacific, a herd of elk moving through the Oregon Cascades, seals at the nature preserve near Salinas, California, coyotes, deer, and countless species of birds. The plant life is also fabulous. I always meet great people on the train (some are a little...different...but that makes them all the more fun to chat with over dinner). I sleep well and enjoy the opportunity to let someone else drive, cook, and clean for a few days. It's perfect for someone like me who is usually more focused on the journey than the destination.

The Hotel
I have to say that Los Angeles is full of impossibly good looking people behind every counter and order pad. The hotel was no exception, perhaps as a distraction from the IKEA meets Motel 6 interior. I did get hit on in the bar by a randy older (70+ year old) conference attendee who gave me his card and told me to call him if I was feeling "adventurous" while at ASCD. I am not uninitiated about the teachers-gone-wild attitude at conferences, but I admit that it's been a long time since I've seen it in action. Between him and the day-drunk at the bus stop who also decided I was fair game, I'm not sure what it says.

The Earthquake
I haven't felt an earthquake since the 2001 Nisqually event. I had been wondering about a California quake while wandering around the city...and then, it happened. (Not implying a cause-effect relationship, mind you.) This time, I was on the fifth floor of a building---no roaring sound, no wavy floor. But I felt it long before I saw evidence on the local morning news program on the tv. (No, I wasn't watching the station where the anchors dived under the desk.) Being in Los Angeles for an earthquake was not on my bucket list. Still isn't.

Yes, I did some tourist things. I rode the open-air double decker bus through Hollywood, down the Sunset Strip, through Beverly Hills and downtown LA. California always feel a little surreal to me. The weather is too perfect, the people both good looking and friendly, and every view reminds you of a movie you've seen. Mirage or not, it's easy to see why so many people have moved there...why I had so many students who pined to go back after their families headed north.

My favourite stop, however, was the Museum of Jurassic Technology. Unlike the earthquake, this was on my bucket list. I have wanted to visit since reading Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder in the mid-90's. It is a difficult museum to describe, as it's really a meta-museum---a museum about what it means to be a museum. How do you know whether the placards beside a display are accurate? What about the ones who dedicate a specific room to someone---does the someone really exist? How do we decide what's "worthy" of display and what isn't? Mind you, none of these points are outwardly raised by the museum, but you can't help but think about them when you see an exhibit dedicated to oil paintings of dogs involved with the Russian space program, a series of artfully displayed miniature staircases with architectural information as you ascend a stairwell, or put on glasses for a 3D presentation that is ostensibly translated from the French version. After waiting nearly 20 years to visit, I have to say that the experience exceeded my expectations. If you find yourself in the City of Angels, make time to stop by.

Conference Center
I don't mean to sound sleazy, but I've been in a lot of convention centers...and the one in LA is larger than any of them. You might expect to go to a conference and do a lot of walking. If you go to LA, double your expectation. Los Angeles is not a good city for walkers---nor bike-friendly, either---but at least there is shopping, food, and more convenient to the conference. You could do worse.

My netbook died my first day in LA. So I ended up tracking down a new one (and HDMI cable) for my presentation. Tech support at the conference center was very helpful.

Have you been to LA? Were you there for ASCD? What are your favourite memories or places to visit?

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