Tuesday afternoon, I took a couple of hours off from the conference. A. and I caught the bus to Tjakupai, an aboriginal cultural center north of Cairns. There was one documentary of how the aboriginals got dispossessed of their land, but the other 2 hours of the show was surprisingly upbeat. There were didgeridoo demonstrations and we got to throw a boomerang and a spear. My boomerang went about 100 yards and came right back to me. I failed to catch it on its return though -- it was about 3 feet above my outstretched hand. Naturally, we bought a boomerang at the gift shop. Will need to try it out at Cambridge park when we get back to Norman.
On the way back, we got talking to a Canadian school teacher. She was in Australia for six weeks. It was nice, she said, to have a job with a long vacation. Even nicer that a couple of friends from college had married Aussies. When I mentioned that I was in Cairns for a conference and that the conference was going on at the time, she said that she hoped that when it came time for my talk, there would be people to listen. Spoken like an old-fashioned school marm.
It's a common misunderstanding that the main reason to attend scientific conferences is to speak -- although I usually speak at the conferences I attend. Instead, it's the networking that takes place at breaks, poster sessions and dinners. The second reason, for me, is to be able to attend talks in fields I do not normally work in -- it's a good way to set up collaborations and steal ideas from other other fields. This conference, I attended talks on precipitation estimation and forecast verification. So, it wouldn't be much of a serves-me-right turnabout if no one turned out to hear me speak.
As it turned out however, my talk (on Wednesday) was quite well attended. It helped that it is part of a session on phased array radars, the hot new thing in weather radar. Secondly, there was no parallel session to siphon off attendees. Thirdly (and probably most important), Wednesday was the day of a conference outing and the banquet, so few people had day trips planned today.