The big day had arrived. I practically knew what all I had to say by heart. I didn’t need the slides or any such thing. I had realized this during my earlier runs, I had thought about it so much without the slides, it was almost harder with them, as I tried to match what I said with what they had on them. And thoughts always don’t flow in the same order. Also, fun examples and other insightful comments get buried when I try to bring out all the facts as presented on the slides, which I realized they could read anyway if they wanted.
Woke at the usual just before 7:00 A.M. Didn’t bathe as elaborately, as I wanted to be there early. Had an awesome breakfast, and made my way to M.I.T. One plenary and two regular sessions (with a lunch involving a different lasagna in between) of waiting later, it was time for my session, which began at 4:30 P.M, my turn coming third on the list, which meant I started around 5:30 P.M. It was not too crowded. Only around 20-25 people, which was quite the expected level of crowd at the sessions by the third day. Plugged my computer in, got on the dais, and it went off as planned. Spoke slowly, clearly, said whatever I planned to say and don’t remember stammering. Didn’t need the slides really, so just looked at them each time I paged down to see if it was the right page. It took about half an hour on the whole including questions. The questions themselves were fairly elementary from my perspective, since I had looked at the problem for a lot longer, and hence had a far more detailed view than they could have grasped in a half an hour presentation. Answered everybody to their satisfaction, and ended the events in that session for the day. Everybody was seemingly impressed. Also, my work deals with some mathematics and physics that’s of a higher degree of complexity than is usually used for this sort of work (bio people are in general math phobic), so I have to say some of them were scared. In the end, I was a happy that it went off properly, and none of the worst case scenarios I had imagined happened.
To sum this, I re-iterate my teacher’s response.
“Wonderful, excellent, and all that sort of thing. Really, I am very pleased. Sounds just like it should have been.” … “You really should be very pleased with yourself. It is probably a record of sorts to give a conference talk within 4 months of joining a project, and moreover, to do so with no advisors present.”
That evening, I left a lot later from campus, and slowly walked back home, everything looking more pretty and beautiful. I was now peaceful and actually seeing things, rather than just staring blankly at them. I reached Harvard Square, a bustling active place close to my hotel. I spent some time on the road enjoying this performer in the street playing some music I liked. I spent half an hour there, and actually payed him some money for it. Something I’ve never done before, or thought I’d ever do.
Sometime along the way, I had gotten dinner as well. Now that I was actually seeing things around me, I realized I had been here for a few days and not done too much looking around apart from the campuses. (Which were very cool in their own way. I hadn’t mentioned earlier, but I did get to darshan a good chunk of the things and people I HAD TO SEE before I die. Some people HAVE TO SEE rivers or temples or some such, for me it’s revolutionary labs, equipment and people. To each their own. Also, somewhere in the middle, I visited a couple of major book stores, including The M.I.T Press book store, which prints some cool stuff, and bought a few things I had wanted to read for a while.)
Back at the hotel, I also noticed the women at the information desk weren’t too happy about all us academics not doing anything other than, what we were doing. So I did the best I could to humour one of them, by letting her help me plan half of my next day. One of the smartest things I’ve done. At the end, it was decided that I should take the “Freedom Trail”. Boston is a historically important city, and this is a walking path which has a good deal of important sites, which are now museums and such along the way, so people can walk around and catch a lot of things in one go. Took a couple of maps, including the subway maps on how to get to downtown Boston, where this tour started, and retired for the night.
Simple things make such people happy. She was all happy that she got to help, and that I was actually going to take time out from “important things” and see their fair city.