Sunday, June 24, 2007

Out of Touch

Jason Snell made a liar out of me. I told my boss that I was going to the mountains with my family. Don't bother trying to get in touch with me. I will not have internet access. Cell phones don't work up there. See you on Monday when I get back to the office.

Then Jason Snell wrote an opinion piece about the Lair in the current issue of Macworld.

Every summer, I go to the Lair of the Bear, a camp for University of California alumni in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The entire idea of the Lair is for families to spend a week in the forest, away from the insanity of our busy lives. And yet, over the years, that retreat into the woods has become less of a retreat.

We’ve all got our cell phones. There’s wireless Internet access at the main office. Even the sounds of the forest have been augmented by iPod speaker systems.

Do I exaggerate? Only a bit. In reality, Lair of the Bear campers tend to keep their gadgets under control. I rarely see campers talking on cell phones. (It helps that only one carrier provides reception at the camp area.)
For me, and many others, Lair is about reading actual print (books and magazines that have piled up around our homes) and talking face to face with other engaged readers. I want my uninterrupted reading and chatting time. I do not want to be wired and connected.

Jason, my boss reads Macworld. I subscribe to the one carrier that gets reception at the Lair. Now he knows that I could have turned on my cell phone and checked my email all along. If my boss is reading this, I would like to add that the wi-fi is slow as molasses (worse than dial-up!) and that the Lair is extended network and ultra-pricey.

My two after dinner talks were hampered/enhanced by technical glitches. Both camps, Blue and Gold, should have working projectors. However, one was broken and the other speaker had dibs on the projector both nights. (Perhaps it had something to do with his contribution to the most important science story of 1998? Unfortunately, I could not attend his talk on either night because I was busy giving my talk then. I heard from the other campers that he was fantastic.)

We improvised quickly. We got the word out for staffers and campers to bring laptops to the theater. I brought my iBook and my slides on two USB thumb drives. We loaded up the talk (in either pdf or ppt format) onto the others' laptops. At each talk, campers clustered around the 4-6 laptops in the audience. I sat facing the audience with my laptop in front of me. I said click whenever I switched to the next slide (and read the title of the next slide).

I actually welcomed the informality of this setup. It fostered a more interactive discussion. I am not fond of standing in front of a big screen. I am still slightly traumatized by the time, a few weeks ago, when I said "multi-variate optimal interpolation" in front of a room full of NASA administrators and they all giggled.


  1. D'oh!

    You should've just told your boss I didn't know what I was talking about.

    -jason @ MW

  2. Imagine my surprise when I opened your blog today and saw my husband's name! I've been reading your blog since I found your Lair packing list and realized that you knit too.

    Welcome home. What was your talk about? And what knitting did you bring? We're leaving for Camp Blue this Saturday and I'm in a packing frenzy.

  3. I am of the mindset that vacation time is your time -- not time for the boss to phone you. Otherwise, you should not have to deduct that time from your vacation stash.


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