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Today I went to the Columbia, SC zoo and gardens. Quite nice, though I thought some of the enclosures were small (the black footed cat from South America needed a bit more leg room, as did the meerkats, who looked plump). Getting to the zoo right when it opens is awesome, because its empty, and you can see a bunch of the animals being fed. The animals also seemed more active. The Simangs were really wonderfully vocal. Their chorus was like listening to an opera, only better. I saw koalas, and I'm not sure I ever had before, very cute and round and dull, which is what I expected, really. And a black headed python, which was cool looking. Oh, and they had a jellyfish tank with black light, which was really pretty.

The gardens were a bit blah, but okay. In between the garden and the zoo there was the remains of a mill which was destroyed in the Civil War, which I enjoyed taking pictures of. The thing about being in NC, its only barely the South. South Carolina is really the South and this is because everywhere you go there is a mention of something that was destroyed in the Civil War (which is never called that, its always some euphemism, though I never heard or saw "The War of Northern Aggression").

My paper went okay. I really enjoyed the conference. It was good to know that its not just me, its everybody that's having a hard time launching their career in this job environment. But it is depressing. I think at this point I'm going to work on my GIS skills and try to find work at an NGO or where ever I can as a GIS analyst. The competition is too fierce and the jobs are too scarce. And my heart is not in teaching.

I'm only roughly following the health care hoopla at this juncture. I am glad the Tea Baggers are finally revealing themselves to the mainstream media as what they are, the party of bigots. There is nothing populist (or redeemable) about them.
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I'm here for a mini-workshop conference. They are putting me up in a hotel and feeding me some. Which is cool. Its kind of payback- I put my foot down and got the organizer a spot in the workshop I led in France last year. I'm completely freaked to be giving a paper. Data? Data? What freakin' data? I hate my paper. I can't hang with academicese, I've lost the knack of it, somewhere. Theory... sigh. I'm trying not to think about the upcoming humiliation. I'm presenting last, so hopefully everyone will be so burnt by then they won't pay much attention (I think this was strategic on the part of the organizer, bless him).

But no matter. The USC campus is gorgeous. Just gorgeous. Its as if the super preppy half million dollar fountain having Elon got come history, character and restraint. Lovely landscaping- topiary even! And the CS Lewis Student Center looked so pleasant in its large historic houseness if I was a student here I'd fake being Christian to hang out there. I wandered around "University Hill" looking at all the houses. Such great porches- or perhaps I should say "verandas." The abundant palmettos (yay! palmettos!) and the sign that talked about "Following the Fortunes of the State of SC" which was a proxy for "all the times we closed but mostly for the Civil War (all the students enlisted in the Confederacy in 1850)" make it very clear I am in the South.

I went to eat at the Hunter Gatherer. There was a ragged stuffed Hyena in the window and strange wood carvings. The food was okay. I was glad they served hash browns (real ones, none of this homefry bs) with their burgers. Folks raved and raved about the place online- but really? Not really that great. The Wooden Nickel blows them out of the water. The beer brewed in house was pretty good- I had a Pale Ale. But even there, Carolina Brewery beats them. Having searched and searched online for restaurant recs and not found many except for the HG, I can only conclude this is not a foody town. I did eat too much so it was okay (black bean dip- cinnamon was the secret ingredient and burger and hash browns and beer = too full).

Now I'm watching basketball. I can't believe the announcer just called the players "Thoroughbreds." Blech! I think maybe Dick Vitel was better.

I should read the "White Papers" we all had to write for our papers. 37 pages of academic chest pounding vagary. Oh uff dah. Best get to it.
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I gave my talk. It wasn't bad, but it probably was a bit, hm, dull? elaborate? compared to some. No, wait, academic? dare I say it. This conference has a weird culture to it.

The dude who I quoted in it said he thought it was "interesting." I'm just going to take that as it was okay. I don't think I knocked the ball out of the park, but I didn't strike out either. I guess he walked out of one of his students talks, and he didn't do that at mine, so maybe that's good? Oh well.

At the creparie I had a bacon, spinach, tomato crepe. I also ran into a fellow I sat next to on the plane in, who was attending the "PsyOps" conference for Industrial Psychologists- there were like 10 of them on the plane. It must be huge, because later on when I was chatting to Paso about how I had run into the guy, a lady who was waiting behind us in line to get into Casamentos talked to us about her daughter from Tulane having gone to the conference too.

After the conference was done I went on a walk through Audubon Park and down Magazine St. with Paso, the plant geneticist dude who is staying at India House (he has documented the origins of vanilla cultivars via their genetics, and is doing a post doc working on sourcing corn varieties). After he had to take off for the conference banquet- which I really should have gone to, except the fee was steep and I never trust that the food at these things won't have msg, college catering is bad for it- I walked down Prytania St and took pictures of the uber posh houses. And saw oodles of people walking cute dogs.

There were not one, not two, but three fancy boutique pet supply shops on Magazine St. I get the impression folks are gaga for dogs here.

I had oysters at Casamento's with Paso. This is the first time I had raw oysters, and I really couldn't have picked a better place to try them for the first time, I think. They were quite good, but I was struck by how they ressembled cooked ones in flavor. Unless I'm in a place where I know they will be good, I'm sticking to fried. The fried oyster sandwich (they did not call it a po' boy, it was "an oyster loaf" was heavenly. The coating was just perfectly crunchy. There were signed shirts on the wall, and I took a picture of the one Martha Stewart signed "Its a Good Thing." Hee hee. That was so awesome.

I also had gellato at La Dolce Vita, they had all kinds of odd flavors, like Guiness, and a Bacon flavor. I normally jump at weird flavors, but after trying the Guiness flavor, I just had to go conventional. The Strawberry White Chocolate was really good.

I tried to check out the graveyard near Commander's Palace, but it was closed. It closes at 2:30. Boo.

Tomorrow I have to get up at 7 to get to one of the conference hotels for pick up to go on the canoeing field trip. I hope that my registration for it didn't get screwed up. We'll see.

I should be out partying, but damn, my feet hurt and I don't want to spend the cash. Maybe tomorrow.
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I met some folks from the conference when we caught the bus that are also staying at India House. I hung out with one of them a bunch and rode home with them on the bus. We are probably going to go out tomorrow night (problem: one of them is very broke and doesn't like to be treated... this could be a problem, or maybe not). I taught the gal how to play rock paper scissors, she's 38 and never had. Bizzaro!

I met the guy who I quote in my paper today, and learned how to pronounce his name. He says he is going to be at my talk. Yipes! And there are questions after the talk (who do these people think they are? historians?). Double yipes! Trying not to freak... I promised my hubinator I wouldn't be nervous, but dang. I am thinking about modifying part of my paper, but really, I think at this late date I ought to leave well enough alone. I mean, it may not be amazing, but it'll do. I wish my slides were snazzier.

Food has not been the greatest today... the food court at Tulane is not that fantastic (kind of like Lenoire w/out the local restaurants having a spot or two). Which is not a dis on Tulane, per ce, I like the campus a great deal, its lovely, and the library looks up to snuff for a school of its size. After the conference I went to a bar called The Boot for a new conference attendee mixer, an unremarkable bar (I asked for cider- and had to have a go around with the waitress who thought I wanted apple juice, or apple juice with a shot of something, we finally got around to "no, no, like beer, in a bottle- yes, alcoholic apple juice" and she got me a Woodchuck, uff dah again). And there, next to the Boot was a creperie! I love crepes. I had a swiss cheese and tomato one. I'm going to go there for lunch tomorrow. So that was today's food highlight.

On the way back there was an awesome brass band playing in the street. And we saw some frat boys having a pledge initiation ritual- they had to keep building a wall from sand bags and the fledged frat guys would knock it down, and they had to keep doing this for the whole pledge week, we asked about classes, and the dude we talked to said they worked in shifts, and as long as one of them was working, it was okay... even trough the night. He said this had been the tradition for about 15 years.

Anyway, this is longer than I thought it would be. Ooops. I should try and sleep.

India House is growing on me. But damn, this loud music could quit anytime and I'd be thrilled.
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Well, sorta. I'm going to be going on a trip for five days starting tomorrow at 5 AM, where I will network and present a paper at the Ethnobiology meetings in New Orleans. It should be fun, but I'm at the point I always get facing any trip where I really don't want to go. And its been a while since I traveled solo. Well, as long as I don't feel humiliated by the quality of my paper compared to the others, and don't get myself attacked by anyone/thing that'll be good. Low expectations are the way to go when traveling.

Time to finish packing and catch a bit o' sleep.


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