Saturday, August 19, 2006

840 MWG - The Programs (Part 1)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

So, what do Mensans do at their gatherings? Mostly, ask questions.

The programs committee for the Mensa World Gathering did an excellent job. The gathering went from about 6 pm Tuesday evening 'til 2 pm Sunday, and there were more than 350 distinct presentations or events during that time, starting at like 6:30 am for things like a sunrise run, a Kung Fu seminar, and T'ai Chi Ch'uan, and running until midnight with conversational groups, dance bands, and games tournaments (Monopoly, trivia, Boggle, Pictionary, Sudoku, Set, poker, Yahtzee, Rummikub, dodgeball, Fictionary, a logic tournament, and many more. (Oddly, I didn't see a chess tournament on the list, and don't recall seeing any chess sets in use.))

Most speaker sessions were one hour, and they scheduled them 1.5 hours apart, which was nice. The conference rooms were so cold (about 63F degrees, and the AC blew a draft across our arms) that people used that half hour break to rush outside and stand in the sun to warm up. I bought some pareos in the gift shop to use as shawls.

As you can see if you did the math, each time slot had eight or ten different speakers, topics, or events scheduled concurrently. You had to pick a first choice, and then a second choice if the first choice room filled up too quickly. Which was sometimes distressing if, of the ten, there were several you really wanted to go to. And worse if you found out later that you'd picked the wrong one. (Sigh. I shoulda gone to the one on lockpicking. I later heard it was fascinating.)

So, here's a short list of a few representative topics, without description:
  • Bikers versus Brainers Trivia Tournament (Mensans are Bikers, too)
  • Rocky Horror Picture Show (the movie - come in costume)
  • Big Cat Rescue: A Sanctuary for Abandoned Exotic Cats
  • Frank Lloyd Wright and His Work at Florida Southern
  • Life in an Alternate Universe: The Indians of the Southeast
  • Orange Blossom Boys - The Untold Story of the World's Most Famous Fiddle Tune
  • Painting Across Generations - The Legacy of the Highwaymen
  • Exploring Marine Bioluminescence
  • Status of the International Space Station - What's Next
  • What's That Crawling on my Arm?
  • Apothecary Medicine and the Origin of Nearly Everything
  • A Guide to Haunted Savannah
  • Pre-Christian New World Megaliths/Dolmans
  • The Death of King Tutankhamun
  • The Giza Pyramids - Measure, Motion and Maat
  • Dumb Things Smart People Do
  • Is There Humor in Ob-Gyn?
  • Journey to the Bookshelf: From Idea to Published Children's Picture Book
  • Belly Dance Basics
  • 30,000 Years Ago (Jean Auel, on her research for the Clan of the Cave Bear series)
  • So You Want to Write a Novel
  • When Elvis Meets the Dalai Lama
  • Cognitive Ability and Personality Predicting Leadership Performance
  • Food Safety: Cooking for Crowds
  • How to Fire a Volunteer
  • Intellectual Property - Trademarks, Copyrights, and Related Topics
  • Meetings that Work
  • Formal Banquet and Dance
  • Creating and Raising Brighter Babies
  • Raising Kids for Fun and Profit
  • Why Do So Many Smart People Not Fulfill Their Promise?
  • A Mensan's Life in Hollywood
  • Adventures in Condo Management
  • Conan The Grammarian
  • Disaster Animal Response Teams
  • Drug War: How We Got Into this Mess and the Special Interests that Keep Us Here
  • Funeral Planning As Life Planning
  • How to Invest in Land
  • Martial Arts as Puzzles: Tactical Cognition
  • Schemes, Scams, and Flimflams
  • Social Entrepreneurs as Catalysts for Social Change
  • The Conscious Clock: Man's Quest for Immortality
  • Stem Cells: Myths and Realities
  • The Real Secret of The DaVinci Code Revealed
  • Neem: A Tree for Solving Global Problems
  • Run, Fight, or Submit: Tactics for Surviving Violent Encounters
  • Forensic Interrogation Using Polygraph
  • Immortality or Freezer Burn: Exploring the Science of Cryonics
  • Ask the Sexologists
  • Effective Communication
  • Who's Who in the Zoo
  • Walking Tours of Paris
  • Living in Kenya
  • Trauma Care at Ulleval Hospital (Norway)
  • New Zealand - So Few Women, So Many Sheep
  • Lost in China
  • Mining and Rescue in Australia
  • ... and about 300 more ...
Tomorrow, I'll mention some of the specific sessions I attended.

839 MWG - The Venue

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Over the next few entries I intend to report on my vacation at the Mensa World Gathering at Disney World in Florida. Topics:
  1. the venue,
  2. the programs,
  3. the people,
  4. the visit with my sister.
I got a ride to the Newark airport on Thursday, the 8th, with a friend who had a meeting in Manhattan later that afternoon. I flew first class, and it was good. Arrived in Orlando at about 4 pm and took a Disney-provided bus to the Disney Coronado Springs Resort. Disney retrieved my checked bag - it mysteriously appeared in my room later that evening - just like on a cruise.

This is a map of the resort (the bright spot in the middle of the lake is from the flash):
The large orange building at the bottom left is the conference center, which also had the only restaurants (2), the bar, and a gift shop. Around the lake are clusters of buildings, which are the hotel rooms, health club, guest laundry room, etc. My room was in the orange group at top right, specifically in the square building closest to the lake, where the point of the lake sticks up at the top center.

This map makes it all look deceptively small. The conference center was itself about a quarter mile long. The route from the conference center around the lake to my room was about a half mile. When I registered and realized how far it was, I was tempted to ask for a closer room, but then realized that the walk would be good for me. With going back and forth to my room and back and forth in the conference center, I know I walked at least three miles every day, and usually at least five. Probably more.

A view across the lake, taken from the path intersection just below my building. The conference center is the building with the gray stripe to the right of the dome. To help judge the distance, the buildings are mostly three stories high.

The lake had two kinds of fish, ducks, turtles, and cormorants. I bought some animal crackers (no salt) and spent a lot of breaks feeding them. I noticed that the ducks were afraid of the turtles, the turtles were afraid of the larger fish, and the fish were afraid of the cormorants. The cormorants were afraid of me, but everybody else loved me and my animal crackers.

This shows about half of the largest swimming pool. It continues around past the fountain on the right. Water flows down the pyramid steps, and there's a long high water slide off to the right.

This is the spa at the large pool. I fell in love with it, and spent several late nights in it. The corner behind the dark-haired guy was "my" corner. It had four good strong jets that hit my back and feet, and enough light at night that I could read my book. This photo was taken early in the day, when it was often almost empty. In early evening it was packed solid with twenty-somethings, but by late night (10 or 11 pm) there'd be maybe eight people, mostly older. That was my time.

Yes, there were some flirtations, but I wasn't interested. I really DID read a book in the spa. One guy noticed I was smiling while reading a John Grisham book, and said "Careful. People watching you might think that's an especially good book." I answered, "The book's not good, but it IS inadvertently funny. Actually, it's the jets. I've got some interesting ones here." He didn't know quite how to respond to that.

The view from the balcony outside my (third floor) room. Everybody spent a lot of time outside because cell phones didn't work in the rooms. At about 10 every night (or 9, I forget, the sound called us) we could watch the fireworks from one of the Disney kingdoms just beyond the trees.

Everything was horribly expensive. A bottle of water, soda, or iced tea was $2.50. One of the restaurants was like a fast-food place, with various stations for Chinese food, soup & salad, pizza, etc. A simple bowl of fish chowder was $7. The other place was fancier, and you could expect to pay a minimum of $25 for the simplest entree.

My biggest problem was that even at the fast-food place, you couldn't get anything small, all by itself, except maybe a piece of fruit. Everything came on a platter, with three or four other things, and it was simply too much food for me all at once, and mostly I wasn't going back to the room (where there was a refrigerator) so I couldn't doggie bag it. I ended up paying like $20 for a taco, AND rice and beans AND a slice of melon AND corn bread. I'd eat the taco and the melon and throw the rest away. Very annoying.

At most Mensa gatherings, there's a hospitality room with loads of free food, and you can pretty much live on that - like subs and pizza and salads, and so on. This time, the hotel wouldn't let them bring in anything but snacks (and the only drinks allowed were coffee, tea, water, and Coke products). They had instant oatmeal packets in the morning (I scarfed up one of them every day for breakfast in my room the next morning), boiled eggs and raw cauliflower and broccoli at lunch time, and the rest was just snack stuff. And they had a LOT of that! You'd do fine if you could live on jelly beans, all kinds of candy and chocolate bars, cupcakes, pudding snacks, pretzels, potato chips, cheese crackers, granola bars, cheese puffs, pepperoni sticks, and on and on. The food committee did a fine job on snacks, given their constraints.

The first couple nights, when I walked back to my room in the dark and passed a woodsy spot, I enjoyed the frogs that would start up as I passed. There was a "baroom baroom" frog or two, several "threepit threepit" frogs, and many "treep treep" frogs. Then it occurred to me that there was something wrong. Frogs sing when no one is around. When you come close they stop. These frogs were silent when no one passed them, and started up when you got close. I tested it by sitting on a bench nearby and waiting for other people to pass. Yup. They got it backward. I forgot this was Disney. Fake frogs on motion-detectors!

But there were oodles of live unprogrammed wading birds, crickets, rabbits and lizards. I never heard any real frogs.

Next entry - the programs. The answer to the question, "What do Mensans do at a conference/convention/gathering?"

Friday, August 18, 2006

838 I'm Back...

Friday, August 18, 2006

[Later edit - I added a link to Pussyfoot. Help her out a bit. It really is a wonderful kitty B&B.]

Very quick entry.

I got home from Florida about midnight Wednesday.

Thursday I picked up Miss Thunderfoot from Pussyfoot Lodge, picked up and sorted the held mail, had lunch with Piper, and a buncha other stuff, then went to a group dinner in Poughkeepsie. I declined an invitation to go to play NTN trivia with Tom and Mark after dinner because I was too tired, and instead wandered around a department store with Roman, looking for exactly the right pillows and drinking glasses for his place. I could barely stay awake on the drive home, was asleep by 11 pm, with my face in a crossword puzzle.

Miss Thunderfoot hasn't gotten more than 18 inches from my right ankle since she got home. Mommy feels guilty. When I got home from dinner last night, I could hear her meowing as I unlocked the front door. Guilty, guilty Mommy.

Today I futzed around with the blog-reading backlog, and I plan to go to another group dinner in Newburgh tonight. It's 4:00 pm now, and I'll have to leave here by 5:10, and I haven't bathed or even completely unpacked yet, and I have some emails I absolutely have to do, so I have to scoot.

Back later. Or maybe tomorrow.