Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Random Bullets of MLA 2023

Figure 1. Marriott Marquis in San Francisco.
 Happy New Year! It's time for the (somewhat) annual MLA roundup.

The last MLA I attended in person was in Chicago (2019). I attended & presented at MLA 2022 virtually and attended but didn't present at 2021. I like virtual conferences, and as my Visa bill tells me this month, they're also a lot less expensive. (No reimbursements from Northern Clime.)

But on to 2023 San Francisco!

  • It's probably not news to anyone that the travel to San Francisco presented "challenges," as we now call problems. Southwest had just barely recovered from its scheduling meltdown when an "atmospheric river" unleashed a "bomb cyclone" of rain on the Bay area, right at and before--you guessed it--the exact time when MLA was scheduled to start. I lucked out by getting there just before everything hit, but the rain and wind were epic at times. 
  • Because of travel and illness issues, I heard that some sessions scheduled to have, say, 5 people had only 2 show up. That can't be helped (except through virtual sessions), since even the mighty MLA can't control the weather.
  • The MLA had the good sense to choose a main conference hotel--the Marriott Marquis--right across the street from the 4th St. Trader Joe's. How great is that? Instead of a soggy $15 breakfast sandwich, you could get food that you actually wanted to eat. The rooms had real mini-fridges so that you could stock up on salads or Diet Coke or other familiar treats. And the hotel actually honored the deal where if you were a (free) Bonvoy member, they waived the $14.95 internet fee.
  • Speaking of technology, A+ for that! When I went up to the projector with my big bag o'dongles (HDMI, VGA, etc.--thanks, Apple!) ready to get set up, I discovered that the HDMI cable and connection were already at the podium, so there weren't any awkward cords. Audience members politely reminded people to lean into the microphone. And there was even a tech person coming by to make sure that we were all set up, that the screen actually showed what we had on our computers, etc.
  • The conference venues (the hotel and the Moscone Center West) were good as well. The Moscone Center is cavernous, with ceilings about twice the height that you'd think is necessary, but that's just what you want in COVID times--social distancing. 
  • I heard from other attendees that some of the hotel sessions were overcrowded but didn't see it at the conference center. Of course I got lost going from one to the other, even though they are literally like one block apart, but that's due to my terrible sense of direction and the lashing rain that made the street signs hard to see.
  • The MLA sensibly mandated masks, and everyone I saw wore masks except when actually presenting papers. 
  • The Big Meeting went smoothly and focused on issues of actual, practical use to the profession. I groaned inwardly when we were broken into small groups for discussion a few hours into the meeting, considering it cosmic payback for doing this in teaching, but the discussion was actually interesting.  

This doesn't address the many interesting sessions, but I'd be here all day doing that. 

Happy 2023!

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