As I write this account, I've just returned from what appears to have been a successful Annual General Assembly (AGA). The initial doubts about Cleveland as an appropriate location for our 2011 AGA proved unfounded. No members disappeared mysteriously in the night, were lost on intrepid expeditions into the surrounding wilderness, suddenly decided to abandon everything and join a rock and roll band, or were struck by meteorites.
Travel to and from the AGA was long but trouble free for me. My flights on Continental were on time, and I got through airport security quicker than expected. I heard that others encountered delays and substantial complications, especially those coming from France, Germany, and Southern Oregon.
Cleveland turned out to be a quite pleasant location for our AGA. I heard suggestions that certain areas should be avoided, but that is true of most urban centers. The areas I visited seemed as safe as any large city's downtown core. There were more local attractions available than anyone had time to visit so we were hardly deprived in that respect.
On the other hand, I spent most of my time inside the hotel so we could have been anywhere and I'd have had a great time. The attendees were a pleasant mix of old friends and new acquaintances. There were enough attendees that I ran out of time before I ran out of people I would have liked to talk to or things I would have liked to talk to them about.
Now that I think about it, this AGA did seem time-shifted towards earlier hours. There didn't seem to be any late night games, and hospitality generally wound down before midnight. On the other hand, by 8:00 AM there were already Ilians congregating in the Atrium for breakfast. It could be difficult to leave the table as new members kept joining the group. Some mornings they were closing the kitchen and turning out the lights before we reluctantly suspended our conversations long enough to relocate to our hospitality suite.
The hotel was comfortable and accommodating. Our hospitality suite was large enough to hold all of us, and was well stocked with food and drink. Our meeting rooms fit all those wanting to attend. What more could we need?
Speaking of the hotel, the suites were spacious and the staff very courteous and helpful. The staff were especially attentive to our members with disabilities and/or medical needs. Our committee chairman reported that they had been very easy to work with in setting up our event, and found ways to get him everything he asked for. The cooked-to-order breakfasts were good enough that I had to skip a couple of lunches. Our hospitality suite essentially relocated each evening between 5:30 and 7:30 to the hotel's bar to partake of the Hotel Manager's Reception (complimentary drinks and snacks).
In what is a dubious "first" (at least in the period I've been attending AGAs) our hospitality suite got so rowdy on two different nights that the police were called. To be accurate, I didn't personally witness these events. My information is admittedly second hand, but from a very reliable source. There were some rumors that it might have been hotel security not the city police. What is reasonably certain is that Ilians attending the Cleveland AGA became so excessively exuberant in their gaming and conversation that men in uniforms and badges had to come to our hospitality suite to calm things down!
To be fair, at this AGA the practice was to use a chair to hold the door to the hospitality suite open, and some of the neighboring suites held non-members. The previous practice of blocking the door so that it closes but can't latch/lock seems a better approach.
Searching for the bright side in this dubious distinction, I'd say it at least provides strong corroborating evidence that attendees had a good time - just sometimes a little too good!!
We had three presentations, our keynote speaker, the banquet, and two meetings spread over four days, and it still seemed like there wasn't enough time to fit it all in.
The chronic problem at AGAs is getting distracted by an interesting conversation and not noticing how much time is slipping by. This AGA was no exception. One evening as I was arriving at the Manager's Reception, I got distracted by an interesting conversation within a couple of feet of the bar and never did make it those last couple of feet to order a drink.
It was hardly surprising that a trip to the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame and Museum was scheduled for Thursday morning. Cleveland is very proud of the Hall of Fame. The group I was with grew up in different parts of the country and the differing perspectives were as interesting as the explanations in the displays. We made it though all of the levels but could only watch the shorter movies all the way through. We only watched a segment of a long concert video which if I remember correctly was 117 minutes long. We had to return from the Hall of Fame on time because we had a presentation scheduled for 4:00 PM back at the hotel.
Our Thursday afternoon presentation was by Douglas Miller: "Interactive Concepts - Identifying and interacting effectively with different personality types". He presented and demonstrated a classification system for personality types similar in concept to the Myers-Briggs personality types but much easier to use. During his presentation, Miller had us separate into various types, and he appeared a bit surprised that our membership was spread across all of the types. So much for the public stereotype of Hi-IQ societies members. He made a number of interesting and potentially useful points and observations.
On Friday there was a "Group Discussion of Effective Methods in Getting Your Book Published", but the original presenter had to cancel. She sent Ed her notes and we carried on without her!
Saturday we had an interesting and entertaining presentation by Thomas Wertman, Chief Investigator, Ohio MUFON, on "Why I Became a Ufologist". His focus was more on the process and difficulties of investigating than on particular events. He did debunk a few example UFO sightings to illustrate the sorts of situations he often encounters. He also offered a few examples from the "uncertain" category - "uncertain" being about as far as he would go in terms of a yes or no answer. I was fortunate to enjoy some conversation with Wertman back in our hospitality suite after his presentation. Interesting fellow and topic.
Our keynote speaker was Geoffrey Landis, Ph.D., NASA scientist and award-winning science fiction writer. His topic was Venus and the potential for human colonization. He first introduced us to the hostile conditions, and the difficulties we would face terraforming the planet to the point where humans could exist on the surface. He then made a fascinating case for "floating cities" at an altitude where the gravity and pressures are naturally within the human compatible range. The atmospheric contents at that altitude would be useful for raw materials and less toxic and corrosive than lower down.
Along the way Landis made a quite interesting case that floating cities in the Venusian atmosphere would be easier and more "human compatible" than trying to live on the surface of Mars or the Moon. They would be orders of magnitude easier and centuries quicker than terraforming the planet itself. It's possible to imagine floating cities or a similar concept as a human scale project. They work with the existing conditions instead of trying to change the basic nature of an entire planet as a precursor to starting the actual project. Spending centuries and vast wealth on terraforming a distant dot in the sky is too vast a project for most humans to comprehend, let alone dedicate their live to accomplishing. The multi-generational builders of Europe's grand cathedrals could at least see the accumulating results of their labors and sacrifices even if they knew they would never see its completion.
We held an informal pre-meeting Xboard discussion Thursday evening to try to solve any issues that might delay our formal Xboard meeting. Our informal meeting took at least an hour longer than the official meeting. Turns out most of our undecided issues are undecided because we don't yet have enough information to decide them.
All in all, Intertel is in pretty good shape. Our membership is up and our finances have improved considerably. We have some relatively new members on the Xboard, and they've brought new ideas and perspectives.
One issue that was discussed but remains unresolved is the possibility of accepting existing tests administered in unconventional situations where official norming isn't available, and accepting achievement tests (ACT). Our current list of tests aren't typically administered in schools anymore, and it would be useful to find a way to work with the ones that are.
Our on-line offerings have expanded considerably this year. It came as a bit of a surprise to me that our Facebook page has grown to nearly 200 members, and appears to be fairly active. Bill Kruse is our Facebook administrator as well as webmaster of our public website. Bill couldn't attend but two of our Xboard members are active and were of great assistance in helping the rest of us understand how our Facebook page works.
Our server now hosts two general topic email discussion lists: Top1 and Topgun. Each list is intended to offer a different environment that will appeal to a different segment of our membership.
Our on-line options are increasing in diversity, with each hopefully adding to the range of alternatives available to our diverse membership.
The Xboard approved accepting on-line payments for dues and Intertel store purchases through PayPal. This should be particularly welcome news for members in region 6.
The Xboard decided it would be a good idea to create a special purpose email announcement list that can be used to send occasional important messages to all of our members with email addresses. The list would be used to notify members of elections, Integra submission deadlines, AGA developments, etc. The expectation is the announcement list will only generate a couple of messages per month, but will provide a faster means of providing members with time-critical information than the two month lead time required by Integra. Only our office manager and possibly a couple of officers would be authorized to post messages.
None of the above should alarm those members who depend on the paper versions of Integra and their regional newsletter. It's been projected that some day in the future we will be forced to give up printed on paper publications, but so far that date remains too distant to estimate - certainly years in the future.
The location of our 2012 AGA will be Grants Pass, Oregon, set in the Rogue River Valley with the Siskiyou Mountains providing the backdrop. It was decided to also invite Mensans. Non-Intertel registration will be $10 extra. In 2013 region 4 will be hosting our AGA.
Once again, the time went by all too quickly as it always does at AGAs. I'm already looking forward to next year's AGA!