Digressions & Diatribes

by Kort E Patterson, Editor

Portland AGA 2006

I want to thank the members of the AGA committee for all their hard work in putting on the 2006 Portland AGA. I think it's fair to say that we managed to put on an exceptional AGA.  The comments I've heard from the attendees have been overwhelmingly positive, with the hospitality suite getting especially high praise.  (Think home baked cookies and brownies!) While I'd like to take full credit for such a successful AGA, in reality those honors were earned by the various members of the AGA Committee:

Laurie Yadon - Hospitality Co-chair
Nancy Browne - Hospitality Co-chair
Jeffry Fisher - Beer & Wine Steward
Brewster Gillett - Hotel/Banquet Coordinator
Nancy Block - Local Attractions Coordinator
Joyce Clark - AGA Committee
John Herrmann - AGA Committee
Charles Awalt - AGA Committee
Hollis Mulligan - AGA Committee
Kort E Patterson - Chairman

The composition of the committee pretty much precluded any possibility of the chairman becoming an autocratic dictator. Rather than vainly attempt to impose my arbitrary will on the committee, I took the easy way out and just explained our goals and limitations, and then just tried to get out of the way. The hardest part of my job as chairman was encouraging local members with useful expertise to volunteer to handle appropriate areas of our AGA. After that, I mostly functioned as coordinator and facilitator for the largely self-motivated committee members.

I did have the temporary honor of being the repository of the region's oral history of folk tales, legends, lore, - and maybe even a little folk wisdom - regarding Intertel outside our region, since I at least claim to have personally ventured over the mountain, and trekked across the vast unknown lands beyond, to witness seven previous AGAs. (Need room, plenty food, drink, tables, sitting places. Hang sign on door: "Hospitality Suite"!)

Getting to the hotel turned out to be more of a challenge than expected - at least for those driving. The city tore up the only street leading to the one-way street in front of the hotel shortly before the AGA started.

The perversity of Oregon weather also manifested itself. It has never rained on July 12th in the Salem area in all the time weather data has been recorded. This was the first time we've held an AGA in this area, and it seems awfully suspicious that the first time it has ever rained on this date, just happened to be during our AGA. The weather did turn clear and sunny by the time people were leaving Sunday.

We enjoyed six presentations - two Friday afternoon, and four Saturday morning and early afternoon. Friday started out with a presentation by the world's only 3-D Museum (actually 3D Center of Art and Photography). We all put on special glasses and viewed projected and printed 3-D images, while the speaker from the museum told us some of the rich history of stereoscopic photography.

The second presentation was by Kellogg Creek Software, the developers of a political strategy game that teaches players how the American political system works. The founder entertained us with the process and politics that led to the creation of his company and its products.

Our banquet Friday evening was followed by our keynote speaker, provided by Maryhill Museum which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. The mansion that became the museum was built by Sam Hill, and the history of the building and its colorful builder is an entertaining tale. Several attendees drove up the Columbia Gorge to the Maryhill Museum on Tuesday. Most noteworthy were the collection of Rodin sculptures, chess sets from around the world, and native American artworks and artifacts.

Saturday started with a presentation on Fully Informed Juries, and the critically important role of informed citizens in the defense of freedom. The speaker was our own Iloilo Jones, now Executive Director of the Fully Informed Jury Association/American Jury Institute.

Next up was Norm Winningstad's presentation on conflict resolution. He introduced us to his "quadrant" concept for understanding and resolving conflicts. He calls his concept "The Area of Enlightenment", and has written a very readable book on the subject.

At 1:30 PM, John Herrmann both informed and entertained us with popular misconceptions, ironies, and hands-on examples of relative dimensions. As a grand finale, John staged a test of telekinesis with all attendees concentrating on moving the shaved tennis ball hanging from a string at the back of the room representing the moon. The experiment appeared to succeed, but owed more to John's cleverly concealed electronics than the combined mental powers of the audience.

The final presentation was provided by Joyce Clark, who had to struggle against a developing sore throat to narrate her slide show on the waterfalls in Oregon. In addition to providing us with the obvious perspective of the spectacular scenic views, we were treated to see the changes in several of the more interesting waterfalls over different seasons of the year, and over years of varying precipitation.

I built a Linux cyber cafe for the AGA with a desktop server and two diskless workstations. The hospitality suite only had a single "Wayport" Internet port, but the desktop server was able to share that single port with three different users at once.

One purpose of the cyber cafe was to act as a sightseeing information kiosk. We worked up a browser page of links to webpages, maps, and other info for an eclectic list of recommended local attractions. The web browser bookmarks were loaded with locally useful links. Three video documentaries about the geology and formative events that shaped the local landscape were available with just a couple of mouse clicks. There were also several collections of digital photos that could be viewed individually or as slide shows. The assortment of Oregon photos provided by Joyce Clark were particularly impressive, and were played repeatedly.

The contents of the previous four AGA Picture CDs were also available on the cyber cafe desktop, and it was particularly entertaining for the "regulars" to look back at the previous times we'd been together.

The cyber cafe's music jukebox wasn't as popular as I'd hoped. Conversation was clearly the preferred audio entertainment. Appreciation of "unnecessary" sources of sonic clutter - even beautiful background music - tends to decline rapidly as the number of different conversations going on at the same time in a room increases. Quiet moments when a little musical entertainment was appreciated turned out to be few and far between - although not altogether lacking.

Since it was likely that most attendees wouldn't be familiar with Linux, I wrote a short introductory manual and printed two copies. The manuals were still in pristine condition at the end of the AGA, having been studiously unread by all. In spite of this being the first exposure to Linux for most, attendees had little difficulty using all three terminals for a variety of purposes other than investigating local attractions. Showing off pictures of newly adopted kittens, sharing favorite websites, checking email, playing games, and printing airline boarding passes were just a few of the observed uses. I'm happy to report that in spite of the comprehensive failure to read the manuals, the cyber cafe ran continuously without crashing or needing to be rebooted from Wednesday afternoon until the last terminal was taken down Sunday.

There has already been a beneficial side effect for the local area. Locals only get to see local attractions when they have out of town visitors, and so some us also got to see things we'd never seen before - even after living here for decades!

We'd hoped to attract more attendees, but in the end attendance was about average. Those who couldn't make it missed a really good time. We certainly achieved the primary objective of an AGA - for the attendees to enjoy the experience.

The next AGA will be in Atlanta!
Hope to see you all there!

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