Thursday, February 14, 2008

Blogging From Boston

So just so no one hears any wild rumors... I won a national science journalism award to attend the AAAS conference in Boston this weekend. More specifically, it's through the National Association of Science Writers and consists of a travel stipend to Boston and attending the program and following around a science writer for the day (who, in my case, happens to be a senior science writer for TIME magazine), and the AAAS is the biggest general science conference in America. More as this unfolds, but in short right now I'm typing down in the hotel lobby right next to the convention center feeling rather pleased and excited about things.

Quick notes as I think of them, in roughly the order they happened-

~ Registering for the convention and all that was thankfully not a problem: as some of you might recall there was a flurry of activity upon me realizing I had no journalism professor to vouch for me legitimately getting press credentials, but luckily there was so much activity going on I didn't need to dig out my press clippings to prove this point. I subsequently got a cool badge with "press" written on it and a new canvas satchel stuffed with detailed schedules, itineraries, goodies, and a free puppy like all these conferences give out. Except this one doesn't have Maxwell's Equations or the Force equation stitched out on it, of course, so if anyone wants an AAAS canvas satchel let me know lest it end up in the back of my closet upon return home.

~ I met L.K. and his wife in the airport as they were going on the same flight as me. Turns out his wife is a wonderfully kind woman whose acquaintance I was pleased to meet, so that was interesting. L.K. also noted that coming to AAAS as your first conference is similar to getting your first car and it's a Hummer (ie it's huge and you don't know what to do with it), so we'll see how this goes.

~ Also interestingly, I lucked out and have my hotel room to myself (because there's an odd number of guys and girls in my group and I sent in my travel info last- let this be a lesson to you!). I soon realized this is the first time ever that I have a hotel room all on my own which is odd considering how much I travel: it's just usually my family is there or my friends or I'm in a hostel or what have you. Kind of interesting but I keep out of the room because it's eerily quiet, which is just as well I think!

~ Because it was such a gorgeous day in Boston, I wandered several blocks down Newbury Street primarily all the way to the Hancock Building for lunch at a place that sold great panini. I also kept my eyes peeled as I have a two-week-old Little Cousin who I'm going to visit while in Boston and I needed to get her something nice and cute. Because my cousins have a Labrador retriever, I ended up settling for a plush Spot toy with accompanying little cardboard-backed book for babies. Some of you will surely argue that I am premature in giving a newborn infant a book, but you've gotta start 'em young in my opinion. (Plus hey keep it in perspective, that book will so come in handy in just a few months!)

~ A bunch of us science journalist students through the program I'm in got together for dinner today, and as I'm sure you'd guess they're all wonderful people with a great geek twist. Of the seven I've met (there are 10 total) roughly half are journalism majors, and I'm the only physics/astronomy person as the most focus on biology (because that's what happens in these things). Because I was the only one who knew how to get around Boston at all we went to Newbury Street and wandered looking at the restaurants until settling for a nice Tapas place. We shared our dishes and decided on a rule that we should all try something new, be it portabello mushrooms or non-peeled shrimp the "squid cooked in its own ink" (which no one tried, hmmm), so I chose rabbit. It was pretty good!

~ Needless to say I like everyone pretty well. A few things I learned through everyone sharing stories and information:

1) I am a grossly underpaid writer. As in, no one could believe that I write regular columns and feature-length science articles and not get any compensation for it whatsoever because that sort of thing just doesn't happen at most other student newspapers. When I asked what the going rate was, the general consensus was between $20 an article and $12 an hour, which is a decent range but nonetheless something rather than nothing. Hmmm.

2) Despite being underpaid, I still have probably the most prolific streak of anyone when it comes to quantity (save some journalism majors whose lives revolve around the paper). For example, there was one guy who thought he was pretty cool for writing for an actual paper, instead of just a school one like most everyone else, but then he got to mentioning that he wrote an article a week but they were "only" paying him for 20 hours/week even though he probably worked twice as many hours.

"How long are the articles?" I asked, rather impressed.

"Pretty long," he said, "about 600-800 words. I refuse to turn them in until they're perfect."

I stared. You can argue what you want about the quality of my work, but I can't imagine spending what is essentially the same amount of time you'd spend working at a full-time job writing one brief (by my standards) article, even if it was a topic on which I was completely unfamiliar before. Perhaps my opinion is just what happens when you frankly don't have the time to play around with your work because that's not your primary focus?

3) Further in the "Yvette totally does not understand how the world works" category is the interesting fact that apparently my science journalism award thingy is up there in prestige. In a "70 kids applied for 10 spots" sense, which I totally wasn't expecting.

4) Tomorrow the Ig Nobel prizewinners are giving a lecture, and we all agreed to be going. It will be quite fun!

~ Ok, that's it for now as the brunt of the conference begins tomorrow and I must be going to bed. Will report on more later!


CiD said...

Dibs on the AAAS bag.
See last post here
for my bona fides.

Hey...ya comin' to the fun'n'games at either Hidden Hollow or Apollo REndezvous this year? Me'n'Thumper'n'Russ would love to see yas...