Ahhhhh the College of Problems of Drug Dependence, hang out in foreign locals with a bunch of binge drinkers. Sweet.
So anyway I drove up to Quebec last friday. I got stuck in customs for about an hour, but not too bad. I figured Canada would be beautiful and interesting, but right over the border Canada kind of looks like Ohio.
I wanted to go through Montreal, cause I hadn't seen the city. It was a beautiful city on one hand, and disgustingly ugly and industrial on the other. I got a little lost, and was just sticking my head out my car window on the street and asking the other drivers for directions. I was expecting people to respond to my lack of French rather rudely, however people responded quite politely in their french accents to keep moving forward and I would bump into the road I needed.
After being stuck in a traffic jam in Montreal for about 2 and a half hours I decided to put the peddle to the metal and get to Quebec fast. People drove like maniac's on the highway from Montreal to Quebec. The speed limit was 100 km/hr (~60mph), and the flow of traffic was approaching 150km/hr (~95 mph). At one point I was doing about 85mph and I saw that behind the car that was behind me a cop with it's lights on was speeding up. Was this cop here to pull me over for going 85, or the guy in front of me for going 95? No he just wanted us out of the way so he could go 105.
I got lost twice in Quebec when I got there (the city planners available in the 1700s were just not that good... no foresight). Finally after just parking and hunting for my hotel by foot I checked in. I found that my cell phone would not work in Quebec so in order to phone the girlfriend back at home I needed to hunt down a phone card (press one for english a french voice tells you), and got an over priced burger.
The conference itself was a good deal of fun. The group I'm from has few younger people so I was sort of left to make friends on my own. Two people in particular helped me out by letting me trail along and drink with the cool kids. A little moderation held me to only one hangover.
I snuck out to the mountains on Tuesday, ended up climbing up to the top of a gigantic water fall, which was really cool. Covered in sweat and wearing a T-shirt that has two dogs humping each other on it I bumped into a lab from UNC who was having dinner at my hotel. The group's senior researcher asked me to have dinner with them. Slightly embarrassed about my smell and appearance, I accepted, but snuck up to to shower first. So thanks for buying me that delicious duck breast.
I gave my first talk on the Wednesday before I would like to say it went smoothly... but alas. The first computer it was on was displaying the talk fluorescent yellow, so I switched it over to a windows machine. After a minute hold up I started the talk... the moderator promptly shut the computer turning it off. After three minutes of trying to turn it back on I moved back over to the mac, the problem being that the AV cable wasn't a tight fit. Outside of an occasional fluorescent pink flicker the talk then went off without a hitch. When done I sat down and there was so much adrenaline pumping through my veins that I felt like I had been slipped some speed.
All in all a good trip.