Colorado Trip, Part 2

The next morning, Wednesday by this time, I had to get up early after a day of travelling, for breakfast and a poster session.  Luckily, I did not need to be at my poster until the second half of the session because I went to a couple of posters, and the got really tired.  So, I went out in the hallway and slept on a bench for a while, until it was my turn to answer questions.  Some industry employees came up to my poster to ask about my technique that I use to study protein misfolding and aggregation.  This went on for two hours off and on, and somehow I managed to make it through that session before lunch was served.  The three of us there attended the early afternoon podia sessions.  There was a coffee break mid afternoon, but I went up to the room and slept.  Getting up to the room left me breathless due to the high altitude.  I became curious, as I did not get breathless when I was in Oregon, where they also have mountains.  Later on, I looked it up, and it appears that Breckenridge has an elevation of 9-11,000 feet, while the highest point in Portland is only 2,000 feet.  We went to dinner, which was fancy appetizers and beer.  We then attempted a nature hike, but turned around after 20 minutes because of the high elevation that we were at.  We took some pictures and called it a day.

The next morning, we had breakfast and attended more podia.  It was diung the mid-morning coffee break that we decided to start driving back to Omaha.  One guy wanted to see Chimney Rock, so we planned our route for that.  We had a 13 hour drive ahead of us.  We drove down the mountains to Denver, before turning north and stopping in Fort Collins for lunch and gas.  That would be the last sign of civilization and anything attractive for the next 4 hours.  Once leaving Colorado, the mountains began to fade away, and were replaced with dry hills with the occasional rock or tree when we were driving through Wyoming and the Nebraska panhandle.  We got to Chimney Rock around 5:00 PM when the visitors center was just closing.  It was around 105 degrees outside at that point, and it was dry, compared to the 60 degree weather up in the mountains earlier that day.  We then stopped in Bridgeport to use the restroom before moving on to North Platte, where we stopped for gas around 9:00 PM.  The time zone changed around this point, and it was sunset.  From North Platte on to Omaha, it was my turn to drive in the dark.  I had to drive in a downpour of rain before we stopped in Grand Island for a late dinner.  We were hoping for something quick at the truck stop.  However, the Subway was closed, so our only option at that point was to eat at the diner.  By the time we left, it was 12:30 AM, and we did not get back into Omaha until 3:00 AM.  I was pretty much jetlagged again for the next three weeks, and I was busy moving out of my apartment and into a house, but that is for another blog post.

Colorado Trip, Part 1

It was only a couple of hours after returning home from Portland that I found myself going through airport security once again for my third flight of the day.  I was heading to Breckinridge, Colorado for a  conference on Protein Aggregation and Immunogenicity in pharmaceutical applications.  The trip itself started off interestingly, as when I got through airport security, I found out that my flight to Denver would be delayed by two hours.  This meant that I would miss the shuttle bus that goes from the Denver airport to my hotel Breckenridge, which is about 100 miles away.  I quickly got on the phone and called taxi and shuttle companies to get a quote on how much the trip would cost.  The costs would have ranged from $200.00 to $400.00, so I quickly gave up that option.  I was ready to cancel the trip and go home, as I was tired.  I then called my labmates, who got there earlier via automobile, to see if they were willing to pick me up from Denver.  They agreed to go to the airport, and I told them to get started as early as possible.  I got on my flight, which was another blur, and then we landed at Denver.  However, once we landed, we sat on the runway for about 30 minutes before pulling up to the gate.  When I got out of the plane, I walked across the entire airport because I needed to kill some time before my ride would come.  As soon as I found the entrance, I saw a black Ford Fusion pull up and two Chinese guys waving at me.  They were my labmates, and luckily for all of us, we found each other at just the right moment.  Considering the massive size of Denver International Airport, what are the odds?  From then on, it was 90 minutes of driving through steep mountains in the dark.  We finally got to the hotel in Breckenridge around midnight, wrapping up a very long day for everyone.  I was too hyper to go to bed right away, so I took a shower.  The room was pretty much a two bedroom apartment, and I got a nice bed that made it so easy to sleep.

Northwest Trip Finale

We had to get up at 3:30 AM on Tuesday morning for our flight out of Portland.  The night before, I did not sleep so well, and getting up early was very tiring as well.  We got a cab to make sure we made it to our early flight.  I dropped a bunch of cards out of my wallet on the airport drop off and had to pick up all of my stuff on the pavement while trying to pay the cab lady.  We got through security fine and then our plane.  Since I checked into Southwest airlines late, I ended up with an aisle seat.  It did not matter, as I was half out of it during the flight, but did not get much good sleep.  We had a three hour layover in Phoenix.  We got to our connecting flight gate back to Omaha, and I fell asleep waiting.  I slept for about a half hour, and when I woke up, my brother was gone.  In a daze, I called him up.  Apparently I was too boring for him when I was asleep, so he got up and walked around the airport.  I had a light lunch at the airport, even though it was only 10:00 am or so, and they were still serving breakfast at most of the food kiosks.  We got on our flight, which was another blur to me,  and I was in a middle seat, and my brother was somewhere else on the plane because I checked in last minute.  I was too busy the previous day to care.  At 3:30 PM our plane touched down in Omaha, and the trip was over.   My brother and I were safely home.  However, for me, I was in Omaha only for a couple of hours because I had to go on to a work conference in Colorado that evening, but I will end this post for now.

Northwest Trip, Part 6

Monday was our final full day in Portland.  We managed to cram in most of our Portland sightseeing on Monday afternoon.  We had a quick brunch in the hostel, and then we went up to Washington Park for the views and the gardens.  That did not take as long as anticipated, so we then went up to Oregon Health Sciences University campus.  The view was better up there, but we were disappointed that we were unable to see either Mt. Hood or Mt. St. Helens from up on top of the hill due to the smog.  Other than that, it was a clear day, and we got many good shots.  We went around the campus, and it felt very similar to the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where I spend a lot of my time.  We took a ski lift type tram to get up and down the hill where the campus was.  We then ate a late lunch at Virginia Cafe, and then went over to Voodoo Donuts for some donuts.  I ate a donut immediately, and then saved another one for the next morning’s breakfast.  We then went shopping at the University of Oregon apparel store for Oregon Ducks souvenirs for my uncle, who is a fan of their football team.  My brother went back to the hostel, but I went to one last meetup arranged by Advanced Riskology blogger Tyler Tervooren.  Because of our early flight the next day, I left the meetup after only one hour.  I had some simple dinner in the hostel before showering and going to bed.

Northwest Trip, Part 5

On the second day of the summit, I slept in and missed the first two talks.  I was really tired, and I decided not to get up for Chris Brogan’s talk.  At the time, it felt like a talk that I “should” attend, but since I am not so much into “shoulds”, I went back to sleep for an extra hour or so.  It turns out from what I heard from other attendees that it was an amazing talk, and people got some superhero trading cards.  Please refer to the other blogs about this amazing talk that I missed out on.  By the time I got to the theater, Cal Newport was beginning his talk.  Cal is an assistant professor at MIT.  His talk was not about doing what you love or what you are passionate about.  Instead, it was about why this advice is bad, and the alternative to that.  The alternative is to become really good at something, gain respect in the field, and then when the right moment comes, leverage the experience and pivot into something that is more intrinsically rewarding.  He used a couple of examples for this.  The first example was with Steve Jobs.  Steve Jobs spent much of his teenage years working in circuit boards and building microcomputers.  However, when he went to Reed College (located in Portland), he did not major in engineering or anything related to computers at the time.  Instead, he majored in Religion, with a focus on eastern religions, mysticism, and literature.  While in college, he was working part time for Atari before dropping out of school.  He sold circuit boards to a computer shop for a while.  The moral of this story is to get good at something, and to do it first to see if you are passionate about it.  It is always important to take the action first instead of thinking about it in the abstract.  Another takeaway from this is that the longer someone is in a position, the more that they feel like it is a calling, and because of this, it is beleived that less than 4% of raw passion directly translates to a career.  The second example that was used was an editor from the New Yorker.  Once the editor is in a strong position at the company, instead of taking a promotion, he quits and moves to Vermont, and wrote several best sellers on environmentalism.  His work in newspaper editing was then leveraged to a career in writing books.  The third part of his talk was that what you do for your work is what really matters, but instead what sort of lifestyle traits that are desirable.  So, the most successful people are somewhere between a super passion and a career in ditch digging.

That was the last talk before lunch, and then it was back to the food carts up the street for lunch.  I had Thai food for lunch that day, and I ran into some other people that I met at a Steve Pavlina workshop last fall.

After lunch, I went to my first breakout session by Scott Dinsmoore.  I chose this breakout session because it deals with connecting with other people in a meaningful way.  The first step is to provide a new and unusual experience for the person that you are meeting with.  The second step is to help friends without expecting a return, so when you find a way to reach out, do it!  The third step is to show up and be there for that person.  There was some reference to that is based off of pickup artist techniques.  Scott used an example on how he sent an unusual postcard to Warren Buffet, and then got to meet him in Omaha this past spring.  Overall, I thought that this session was going to be more interactive than it actually was.  The main thing that I got out of it is that it would be helpful for me to read “The Game” in order to improve my social life, and by extension my professional life.  This is a theme that I am working on, as I realize more and more that a person’s relationships are a major factor in defining the quality of a person’s life.

The next breakout session was a Travel Hacking workshop.  This was much more interactive than I thought it would be.  Everybody was giving each other advice on how to find mileage offers on credit cards and how to redeem miles, and even to upgrade airline miles.  I wrote down a lot of notes for websites that I have yet to check out, even one month after the fact.  The hour at this session went by really fast.

We all went back to the theater for a WDS attendees stories forum.  This consisted of last years attendees who returned this year, and what they have been up to after last year’s WDS.  I don’t actually remember much about each story, but they were inspiring.  The two that I clearly remember was about an older attendee who lost his business and his home a few years ago, and then he started making balloon animals, and he got good at it.  He now travels the country making balloon animals, and he was even hired to make balloon animals for the WDS.  The second story that I remember was about an attendee who developed breast cancer last fall, and performed a song about her experience on a ukulele.   It was a pretty lighthearted song considering the circumstances.

The final speech was by JD Roth, who has a personal finance blog called “Get Rich Slowly”.  It was not about personal finance so much as his life story.  It was a story of reinvention at several points in his life.  He was bullied in school, so he reinvented himself to become more active in school activities.  He was successful through college and getting his career established.  However, he started to burn out, resulting in being $35,000 in debt and overweight.  In this hole, he reinvented himself again, and his personal finance blog is a part of helping others get out of their financial ruts to begin with.  The main points of this talk was to allocate as much money as possible to things that truly matter and cut back on everything else.  An example of this is to put rocks in a jar first, then the sand, because if the sand goes in first, there will be no room for the rocks.  Another takeaway from his talk is to focus on one thing at a time, finish it, and then move on.  This takes about 10,000 hours per thing to become an expert at it.

After that, Chris Guillebeau had a surprise for us.  He gave each of us $100.00 in cash to go out and make the world a better place.  It took me a few days to decide what to do, but I got my idea a few days later when I was in Colorado for a work related conference.  Colorado and many other states have been suffering from wildfires this summer, so my idea is to help those affected by the wildfires with my $100.00.

There was an after party at the crystal ballroom that ran from 8:00 PM to midnight that night.  At first, the party got off to a slow start.  There a group performing old-time standards from the American songbook, but at the time it felt like elevator music.  Things did not really begin to pick up until 10:00 PM when an Indian DJ came and played his Bollywood dance mix.  The last two hours of the party was everybody jumping around looking uncool dancing to Bollywood music.  After the after party, some of us went to look from more clubbing action downtown.  Three of us, including my brother, ended up at an arcade and played some games until closing time.