Alas, when people gather to share stories about the horrors of airplane travel, we'll have nothing to share about our flight home from Brisbane. Everything was on time, all of the gate agents and flight attendants were friendly and good natured. Economy class on V Australia turned out to be every bit as comfortable as advertised, and Lynn had some fun conversation with the guy sitting next to her, who was on his way to LA to meet, for the first time in person, his internet girlfriend of nine months. We watched movies, had some pretty good food, slept for a bit. I did a lot of writing.
We breezed through immigration and customs and transferred our luggage. Stopped for a cappuccino, and then on to the Sky Club to check email and have a bloody mary. It was early morning in LA, and just after midnight in Brisbane (our flight left Brisbane at 11:00am on Sunday and arrived in LA at 6:45am on Sunday. I love that.)
I'd already upgraded us to first class for the flight from LAX to Atlanta, so we had lunch on the plane. More reading and writing and another hour long nap. A short layover in Atlanta, then home.
Halfway around the world in 24 hours.
I was trying to explain to someone who'd not been to an ICML conference before what was different about this gathering from other meetings of librarians. I said that, first of all, the people who came to this meeting had a shared concern for global health issues and, in particular, the challenges of getting good health information to people in developing countries. They have an expansive view of the role of librarians. And secondly, the people who came to this meeting really wanted to be here, and most of them had gone to some personal expense and trouble to be able to make it. Even with the global economy in the state that it is, there were some 500 delegates from 45 countries gathered. So it's very different from the typical domestic regional or even national meeting where many of the people are there just out of habit -- they go every year and are mostly interested in seeing their friends and checking out the local restaurants. Of course, seeing friends and checking out local restaurants was a very important part of this meeting as well. As was finding new friends.
The meeting was incredibly well organized. The keynote sessions were uniformly excellent, from Jeff Drazen doing a brilliant kickoff that provided considerable insight into the challenges of putting out a top-tier journal, to Ian Frazer on the critical role that librarians have to play in addressing health challenges in developing countries, to Brian Fitzgerald, at the session that I chaired, doing a rapid-fire overview of the intellectual property issues swirling around open access, the Google book settlement, patents in the digital world, and the opportunities for collaborative drug development. The contributed papers & posters covered an extensive array of subjects, and I have to give particular credit to the presenters for whom delivering a paper in English was a considerable challenge and who had the courage to rise to meet it.
Conference support was superb. The Bearded Pigs even had a professional sound & light crew for our performance at the gala dinner. With Malcolm up in the rafters monitoring everything, I'm sure we have never sounded as good (and likely never will again). There were still a half dozen dancers on the floor when we finally wrapped it up at 11:30.
Oh, I suppose we'll tell the story about one suitcase being delayed for a day on our way in, and the tale of our poor lost cab driver who took two hours to get us to our hotel from the airport (typically a twenty minute drive) will be good for the telling. But right now, after getting a good seven and a half hours of sleep and waking up at my normal time on a Monday morning, I've got nothing but good things to say about international travel. Americans really ought to do more of it.