Saturday, May 16, 2009

ASM General Meeting Blog Diary - Day One

Before I talk about the Workshop that I attended today, let me say one thing. Oh, and I hope that people who were responsible for setting the workshops up read this. Whoever had the brilliant idea of housing the workshops at Temple, and then thought it was a good idea to not have shuttles on Saturday to and from the workshops ... is an idiot. This was by far, one of the dumbest things that they could have done. Temple University IS NOT, IS NOT, IS NOT in a good part of town. Telling people they needed to take public transportation, or a taxi, to and from these workshops was a supremely dumb idea. Add to this the fact that a majority of the people who attended these workshops were not Philly natives, and you had a lot of lost people wandering those streets. That was inviting disaster, and if no one got mugged, it was a miracle.

Me? I walked from my hotel to the workshop. It was a two mile walk and I didn't have to go to far to remember that I hate large cities. One block from my hotel, passed the first individual passed out on the sidewalk, three blocks from my hotel, passed a puddle of slowly drying vomit. And the smell ... it was humid so the stink hung in the air. It smelled like your typical large city, like wet trash, and not just any trash ... if you;ve ever worked in a restaurant, and went near the dumpster ... that sort of smell. Bleh. When people talk about the sights and sounds of big cities, I don't know where they're looking at, or smelling.

Having grown up in NYC (Brooklyn and Queens), I know the rules of engagement. At all times, act like you know where you're going. If you're lost, act like you know where you're going. Do not act like a tourist, do not make eye contact with people on the street, do not respond to cars which pass by ... go directly from Point A to Point B. So when I approach Temple and I see cabbies dropping clearly lost people out on Broad Street, I thought "What a freaking mess." and tried to point out to people where they needed to go.

There was breakfast prior to the workshops in the morning, in the student center, but no signs pointing the way. Oy! Basic fare for breakfast, fruit, juice, danishes ... nothing to get excited over.

Then off to the workshop. I was in WS-04: DNA Sequence-Based Identification of Bacteria: Generation, Analysis of Data, and Interpretation of Results. Dag Harmsen of the University of M√ľnster was the organizer. It was a good overview of sequencing, and phylogeny, and if you're new to sequencing, it's worth a looksee if they offer it next year. Most of it I already knew, but it was good to get some review and since we're encouraged to review and place such stuff on our IPP (Individual Performance Plan) and I was going to be at ASM anyways, I figured what the hey. It was geared primarily towards the clinical lab, though they did talk about phylogenetic analysis, and discussed matters purely from a direct sequencing approach (assuming pure samples, which means no talk of cloning and chimeras). Nothing really exciting or out of the ordinary, except for the one dude asking about dominant and recessive genes (eh?), and the dude from NCBI getting his knickers in a twist when it was mentioned that in a lot of cases, GenBank is a mess. He tried to cover NCBI's ass by talking about their new RefSeq project ... yah dude, but for a lot of 16S stuff, Genbank still sucks. Anyways.

Oh, the other annoying thing was that even though they said there would be WIFI available, there wasn't. Highly annoying, and when it was pointed out to the staff, they acted like they didn't know anything at all. Also highly annoying. That was however, the only hiccup in the entire day. Boxed lunch, and then finished out the workshop and walked back to the hotel. Hopefully no one died getting back to their own hotels.

After that, freshened up and set about the town. Took in more of Chinatown, and ate dinner at Ly Michaels which was a nice modern Asian cuisine restaurant. It was a bit pricier than the place I ate the night before ($12.95 for the main course, as opposed to the $6.95 Pho) but still reasonable and excellent. Had the summer rolls with hoisin sauce and the curry chicken. Both excellent! A good way to end the day.

Tomorrow, more sight seeing and dining. Going to make it to the Reading Terminal Market for a cheesesteak!


laurel said...

I was curious how applicable the ASM workshops (and meeting) is for folks who do environmental work vs ESA or SSSA... although I've been disappointed in the SSSA biology section these last few years.

each time I go to a conference I am reminded of how much I hate large cities. I have never lived in one and hope I never have to.

Thomas Joseph said...

Almost everything ASM does is aimed at the clinical/medical research microbiologist. Environmental microbiology is an afterthought. I am a member of both ASA and SSSA (and probably SWCS soon) and the problem is ... none of these societies answer all of my needs.