We’ve been back from DC for most of a week and I’m still just finding my feet, but here are a few brief observations anyway.
My talk at the Library of Congress before the convention went very well, despite the fact that they moved it to a different room at the last minute and put the sign announcing the change outside the new room, and there was another event with free food at the same time which took away many of the people who might otherwise have attended. We wound up with about 20 people all told, most of them square dancers who were also in DC for the convention.
Although I felt incredibly underprepared, that thing in my head that takes over when I have to do public speaking did its job and the presentation came off smashingly. Some of the square dancing librarians in attendance were so excited they were talking about inviting me to speak at an ALA conference. I’d love to, and I hope it really happens. I’m also going to try to sell the talk as a non-fiction article.
I’d originally planned to speak without visual aids, but at the last minute I was inspired by a talk at TED.com and decided to put together a PowerPoint slide show consisting only of images. It worked great, even though I had to clutch the projector cable in my hand all through the talk to keep the image from turning magenta. I also used PowerPoint to record the talk, but unfortunately it only recorded the first 10-20 seconds of audio per slide. Which is a real shame, because the bits that did get recorded sound fabulous.
The convention itself was superbly run and featured a lot of great dancing, including several unusual specialty tips: the Cipher tip with calls delivered as spoonerisms or riddles, a Mirror tip that swapped left for right (if your square breaks down during a Mirror tip, is that seven years bad luck?), and an hour of six-couple “rectangle dancing.” Allowing people to choose their table mates for the banquet, then placing the tables at random, was an excellent innovation. The one negative comment I have was that the Fun Badge Tour buses were given insufficient directions, which (together with a mechanical breakdown) caused us to miss an entire stop on the tour and wound up with our bus being so late for the last stop we had to dance it by ourselves. We had fun anyway.
We also visited the Newseum (highly recommended), the Spy Museum (only okay, especially because it was so crowded that day) and the Smithsonian Natural History museum (I saw so many skeletons there that for a few hours thereafter all the people looked like skeletons with skin and bones on) and ate many fabulous meals. The convention was right at the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan subway stop (and why are the first two separated by a hyphen, but the last two by a slash?) and there were dozens of great ethnic restaurants within one block. Probably the best meal was the Afghan dinner we had on the first night, but none of them was less than good.