July 2, 2007

Norrköping trip photos, set 1

You can now see photos of the trip to and the environment of the conference. I'm doing my best to stay up a few hours longer so I can get the pain of jet lag out of the way by tomorrow morning. So while I have loads to catch up on, a little travelogue:

June 26: Tampa-Atlanta-Copenhagen flights. Overnight flights to Europe are not designed to be fun. I anticipated getting little sleep, so at least I wasn't disappointed by the occasional and incomplete napping. Zonked in Copenhagen, shocked to discover something in the airport that's in the photo album linked above, frustrated that there was no Swedish train-line agent there to see if my ticket for the 12:44 train could be changed to the 10:44 train that I might have been able to make, disoriented when my train was canceled but I had to luck into finding out the way we're supposed to handle it (hop a commuter train unpaid to Malmo and get the ticket reservation changed there, in Sweden), and relieved to get the train reservation changed in Malmo, where I found a quaint and very pleasant coffeehouse.

But my adventure wasn't over: heavy rains had warped or otherwise damaged tracks over a small stretch, so everyone had to get off the train and onto buses. I was probably the only passenger happy with the detour: As Bengt Sandin confirmed, tourists often pay high prices for precisely the rural-Sweden bus tour I got without any extra charge. I had a dermatologist sitting next to me, and we talked about how our 15-year-olds are environmentally conscious. This was either foreshadowing for something the hotel did (show Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth over and over again on one of the movie channels) or just a common concern. In any case, I finally arrived at the hotel late at night, a little before sunset. I met some colleagues on the deserted main street at 10 pm (2200) and discovered the dearth of nightlife. Ah, well.

On the whole, the conference was quite good, in part because organizers had arranged for an online upload, so we could read a bunch of papers before the conference. There were several I discovered I hadn't but wanted to download after the conference. The repository is a nice feature that many conferences are now using. I heard 2 of the three plenary sessions, and they were linked thematically, though without any conspiracy. Kriste Lindenmeyer argued that Americans haven't shown the capacity to understand and cope with dependency as a concept, and Linda Gordon argued that the innocent child rhetoric has been damaging to children's interests when applied to public policy. Both are firmly rooted in historiography in the U.S., but Gordon's message is the one that I suspect is hardest to swallow, in part because of the deep roots of "child saving" and other patronizing reform movements.

One of the very nicest experiences was a conversation I had with one of the other presenters after his session and a Major Scholar whom I knew strongly disagreed with the presenter's perspective. The Major Scholar didn't try to browbeat but just asked factual "how did this happen?" and "what happened to this?" questions, listening intently, finally asking a few questions designed to prod the author to rethinking a basic perspective. I don't know if the author picked up on the clues, but it was one of the gentlest acts of intellectual criticism by a peer I've seen in years. For those who encounter intellectual sadists, there are better ways and better colleagues.

The return trip by train was much smoother, and I had enough time to visit the center of Copenhagen, having dinner and then walking briskly as far as I could in the 3 hours before sunset. Those photos aren't up yet, and I'll have a bit more to say, because a few are directly connected to one of my areas of research. All I will say is that I saw plenty of cows, white hats, and European architecture, and I ate well. It was good.

When I returned to the hotel, I heard about the Glasgow car bombing attempt. I also saw the short clip of new British PM Gordon Brown talking to camera from a hallway in 10 Downing Street. Definitely not the glitz of Tony Blair, but I suspect the British public will welcome Brown not as the dour Scot but as the sensible Scottish PM. It doesn't hurt the impression I received of him that he has a history Ph.D.

The plane flight back yesterday: Copenhagen-Paris (Charles de Gaulle)-Atlanta-Tampa. Charles de Gaulle is a horribly confusing airport, and I'm one who takes O'Hare, Atlanta, and Dallas-Ft. Worth in stride. I made the plane without fuss, but I saw the panic in other passenger's eyes. Air France is definitely a different airline. Delta flight attendants on the way over announced that passengers over 21 could have one complementary (alcoholic) beverage with dinner.  Air France was willing to give you a glass of wine whenever. (I had two glasses of red wine in the 9 hour flight.  Gasp. Horrors!)

I returned with photos, one scholarly book, two Swedish folk-rock albums, two postcards, and two newspapers (an edition each of the International Herald-Tribune and the Daily Mail). I have a few dozen e-mails and a bunch of tasks to organize, and it's back into the fray.

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Posted in Random comments on July 2, 2007 8:58 PM |