Fata Morgana (chimerically) wrote,
Fata Morgana

the rest of GHC and Chicago

I've summarized my favorite talks - now on to the rest of the conference. The attendance was the highest yet, at over 800 participants. Apparently they had to turn some people away because of fire code regulations. It was great to meet so many other women, especially since I would never see most of them at HCI conferences. Parts of the conference annoyed me a bit, though, as they had at the conference in 2002. There is a clique of women computer scientists who are active in particular mentoring and community-building efforts (such as the conference), and they all like to praise one another effusively in their keynote speeches. I wholly support their causes, but this aggrandizement just rubs me the wrong way.

One of the plenaries

Google was prominent throughout the conference. At least a dozen Google employees were running around in black Google T-shirts with "Amazing Grace" on the back. (I won one in a raffle, and I also got a white version of the shirt along with a new keychain-whistle-flashlight-compass and another copy of Unlocking the Clubhouse as shwag.) On Friday night, Google threw a massive party. I arrived two hours late, coming from a CRA-W reunion (where my Talent Cards poster was enthusiastically received!), and the party was still going strong, though they had run out of the Google LED pins and the glowing drink cups that many partygoers sported. There was a dance floor, DJ and karaoke, tons of snack food, free drinks, air hockey and foosball tables, a projection of current Google searches, and old-school arcade games (including vector-graphics Asteroids, on which dag29580863 proudly earned the highest score and then took a picture to commemorate the occasion).

The Google-fem T-shirt; the door to the Google gala

After the banquet on Thursday night, I went Argentine Tango dancing with two others. I danced once with a really good leader, who promptly readjusted my International Standard position to a forward-leaning, more Latin-like hold and then swiveled me around the floor most adeptly for a few songs, giving me pointers and complimenting my fast learning along the way. The whole experience made me want to try more Argentine Tango.

We went salsa dancing at a noisy club after the Google shindig on Friday night with a larger group. The club experience always intimidates me, and I mostly stuck to dancing with dag29580863, janviere, anemone, and others in our group. Part of my aversion to clubs is that I've never learned how to deal with leers or overly-friendly men (I've been in too many bad situations with the "just be friendly but not that friendly" approach, so now I just avoid it entirely), and most ballroom dancing clubs have so little of this that it's easy to ignore or escape.

For lunch on Saturday, a group of conference attendees went to Berghoff Restaurant, an old German establishment that my anachronistic uncle recommended. We split up shortly after that. dag29580863 and I went on a wonderful tour of old downtown skyscrapers, put on by the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

The Berghoff; (S)ears Tower

A fire leveled the city center in 1871, in the middle of a massive boom, giving city planners a chance to build from the ground up - and up they built. With the city center constrained on three sides by water and on the fourth by heavy industry, city planners went for height, building taller and taller buildings in a quest for more space. The first skyscrapers in the world were built in Chicago. We toured skyscrapers built between 1871 and the 1930's. They ranged in style from middle-eastern to Art Deco, but all that we saw were gaudy, with ornate foyers to attract businesses. There was little construction in the 30's and 40's, and skyscrapers of the 50's and beyond are vastly different and subjects of another tour.

A clever Art Deco elevator display in the La Salle Building (the whole display is a miniature of the building, each column represents and elevator shaft, and the numbered light shows the current location of that elevator)

After the tour, D and I test-drove Segways at the Segway Chicago center. (They do tours by Segway on Wednesdays.) Then we took a quick wander through newly-opened Millennium Park, which has a lovely Gehry-built amplitheater and a playful, reflective piece of art D dubbed the "millennium bean." These and all of the beautiful buildings made me really miss art classes and want to pursue more design. I fully plan to sometime in the future, but this stuff is so captivating, I want to do it now! (I often find myself torn between my various passions of technology, social issues, and aesthetics.)

Segway fun; Gehry amplitheater; millennium bean

I posted more pictures of my trip on my photos page.

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