24 October 2006

Oh, Canada

First off, let me say how nice it is that people (you know who you are) are actually complaining when I don't post for a while. Honestly, it's nice to know that at least some of you actually look forward to reading this thing. That said, there's a good reason there haven't been many updates lately: I've been in Canada. The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology was having its 66th annual meeting in Ottawa, and being back on this side of the Atlantic, I just couldn't pass it up. I'll admit I had my doubts when I first signed up, but in retrospect it was an excellent decision.
It turns out Ottawa is a really interesting place. It's not very large, and the vast majority of the city is extremely nondescript. That said, the area around the Parliament building is nothing short of gorgeous. First of all, there's Parliament itself. I've seen my share of world capitals, and Canada's just about takes the cake. As far as location (a bluff above the Ottawa River) goes, I don't think it could get much better. The building itself is something of a mix between Westminster and a French chateau (I'll admit that my first impression upon seeing it at night was that it looked like a haunted house, but maybe I'm just being influenced by the season). Actually, the English/French conglomeration makes a great deal of sense in Ottawa, which is just about the only truly bilingual city I've ever visited. If you cross the bridge a few blocks from the B&B in which I stayed (the Auberge du Marché, which I very highly recommend if you ever find yourself traveling to Ottawa), you're in Quebec. I'm told that many tourists do just that to brag about having visited the Francophone world, and I'll admit I did as well. I had a good excuse, though: I wanted to visit the Canadian Museum of Civilization. It's really a great place, especially if you like Northwest Coast Indian art. In fact, Ottawa has a disproportionately high number of really outstanding museums, making it a far more interesting place than most cities its size would be.
The reopening of one of those museums, the Canadian Museum of Nature, was what brought the SVP meeting to Ottawa in the first place. They have what has to be one of the world's great dinosaur collections, and we got to be the first to see all those fossils in their brand new gallery. That was one of the highlights of the trip, but the best part was getting to see old friends from Seattle, Chicago, and Bristol. I also got a chance to meet some of the big names in paleontology, including John Alroy and Mark Norrell (meaningless names to most of you, I realize, but an honor for me). All that was great, but I think the most important thing to come out of this meeting for me was the fact that I've gotten excited about paleontology again. I'll admit I may have gotten a bit apathetic in the last few months, but after Ottawa, all I can seem to think about is what I can do to guarantee that I get to present something at next year's meeting (well, I'll admit I think about the World Series also). Thanks, Canada: it's nice to be enthusiastic about something again.

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