Since a few weeks, I was offered the possibility to attend the conference via Marc Kuchner who was gracious enough to offer it to me as a thank you note for translating the whole Disk Detective website for the project. I knew it would come down to a period where the numerous challenges I have to take on in order to relocate my life to Melbourne would make it so that it would be very difficult to attend. Not to mention being stricken with physical ailments that makes my daily existence quite difficult. I left the idea simmering in the back of my mind for all those weeks, feeling it almost impossible to attend and besides, all the "brains" that would be there... What would I possibly be doing there was my constant question.

Calendar days went on so fast. I succeeded in making sure the site would be ready for the conference. I finished my work with great relief knowing that I probably am moving on to achieve better things and to finally grow as my aspirations drives me to. Needing more than being a race rat for other people's goals. A great sense / need for achievements and a thirst for reconnaissance probably drives me deep within and I certainly was not given any of these where I worked so for a person to spend most their lives laboring with great efforts and pride into something that is clearly not recognized, appreciated or valued was a constant pain in my soul. Feeding the exact opposite of what I needed... Self-doubt, rejection, depression, and the shattered belief that by working hard, you get recognized was something I had to address and I think ultimately, life will prove me ( and them ) that I made the proper choice. There is no growth where respect is absent. There is no happiness in exploitation. It's a learning experience...  Just like a precious metal through the forge of a blacksmith or jeweler, it needs to be heated, battered and purified in order to become the precious substance that it is meant to be... The last six years of my life gave me the solace to understand and recognize that I am worth much more. Capable of much more and to not be afraid to embrace change and embrace the unknown for it is far more scary to dwell in stagnation than taking a chance and face yourself out there.

Now you can understand a bit better how I felt about the perspective of showing up to a World conference of super brains in the field of Planetary Disk and the search for life elsewhere in the cosmos... All that I worship ! Oom-Ahhh! Ooom -Ahhh! Am I the sacrificial lamb on the alter of a science God for a ritualistic ceremony ? I was afraid of being the only NOBODY pointed at awkward in a corner, uneasy and totally spaced out by every conversations. The Waldo of the conference! Nooooo! What a nightmare! Snap out of it! girl, if you don't go, you will regret it! And armed with this in my little chest, I went... Nightmarish traffic jams, got lost in the sub-subterranean complex of parking mazes and underground plazas to finally get to the lobby of the hotel venue where the conference was unfolding...

There's a man at the entrance of the reception hall at a table, very concentrated on his laptop, not even looking at me as I stood there for a good 5 minutes.... To hell with it! I sneak in and walk along a side mezzanine giving a nice view of the conference stage where the talks are closing for lunch... Damn!  As I turn around and walk back to the entrance of the reception hall, Marc Kuchner sees me and yay! Finally! Am not lost anymore ;) He then introduced me to Oliver Hernandez which was the head organizer for the event ( the man at his laptop not acknowledging me was him ! lol ) We took pictures of them together and then we walked back to the conference venue where the Disk Detective poster was on display. We met with Nick Seigler I believe which had a few things to discuss with Marc regarding a project in specific after which we took the time to get snapshots of each other in front of the display.

After pictures were taken, Marc introduced me to Dr. Glenn Schneider who is an Astronomer at Steward Observatory, and the Project Instrument Scientist for HST’s Near Infra-red Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer.Mr. Nick Seigler ( I believe Dr. Seigler to be a Technology Development Manager at Jet Propulsion Laboratory and an active member of the Kepler mission team, according to my research on the net for I have not had the opportunity to discuss much with the gentleman ) and his wife, and Ms.Farissa Morales who works at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an astronomer with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope mission. She started her career at JPL as an engineering intern and did A LOT of manual classifications under WISE lol and we all headed down to the Central Grand Station underground plaza to to grab lunch in the food court area.

As we finished our meal and my phone kept buzzing for one of the journalists from Le Devoir, Ms. Pauline Gravel was desperately trying to get a hold of me to interview me for my experience as a "citizen" super-user.  Once back at the hotel, Marc and I found a little boudoir area where we sat down and called the journalist so she could interview me as planned. After almost 20-30 minutes of phone conversation, the interview was over and Marc and I sat there and he opened his laptop to sow me certain things I am less aware of or find more difficult from a technical aspect regarding the the spectral signature versus the SED ( Spectral Energy Distribution ) We had fun with that ;)) I left Marc at that point, wishing him good luck on his next trip to California to the Google Foo conference and thanking him for the opportunity to assist briefly to the conference and in the hopes that my passage did serve the purpose it was planned for and went back in the sub-subterranean maze of parking levels to hunt down my car and get back to the south shore to my boxes and my domestic mayhem. Wheew! What a day!

All this to say that it was nice, however brief. It was nice to meet Marc in person and he is a very gentle calm, smiley soft spoken man. He is very far from the self-imbued cliché image of the big shot scientist full of himself if anything, he seems like a genuinely open and caring person who's passion with astrophysics is only equaled by the gentle cares he brings to showing other people and communicating his passion.

I appreciated the opportunity he provided me with perhaps dipping in the world of "big shot scientists" and get a taste of what this passion is all about.

If anything, I've learned that humility is a very noble trait to possess and that I should hold on to  what I am passionate about and make more of that stuff, a reality in my life.

After all, it's not every day that you are gunning down the hallways of awesome!

*** The opinions expressed here are solely mine and does not represent any of the mentioned individuals in this blog post