Wednesday, June 21, 2006

DIA Adventures

I'm in Philadelphia for the Drug Information Association annual meeting. It's my first one. A huge event. All of the hotels in the city are sold out. Prices are ridiculously high. The streets are swarming with grouchy taxi drivers. It's east-coast summer typical hot and muggy. And places that would normally be very quiet on a week night are hopping.

The Pennsylvania Convention Center is enormous. It's the largest public construction project ever in Pennsylvania, and it spans two very large city blocks. The building is a strange mix of modern architecture with the feel of a grand old converted train station or warehouse. There's good reason for this - the Grand Hall and Ballroom occupy the renovated Reading Terminal Trainshed, which is the oldest surviving single-span arched trainshed roof structure in the world (and the only one of its kind remaining in the US). And when you're inside it looking up, it feels that way. The ceilings are high, hallways and buildings spacious. Inside the grand hall, it almost feels like an outdoor square. The first day of the conference, there were folks wandering around in Colonial costumes, including one dressed as Ben Franklin. Also, there was a man in knickers and a 3-pointed hat carrying a bell and announcing the start of events rather like a town cryer.

The lecture sessions seem to be hit or miss. Some have been great. Some have been just terrible. The vendor exhibit hall is sort of interesting. I wonder if they actually generate any new business during this event. The give-aways at the booths were quite interesting. Some very creative, and some very obviously a token advertising pen or keychain or other trash-able item. But I got a few good things. A blow-up blue soccer ball for Jake. Blue & yellow M&Ms for Jake. A few alterable items, like a red canvas tote with black handles (that I'm hoping can be bleached to pink) and a little hard cover book that holds sticky notes. At one exhibit, I played a really fun game. It's a glass box with a door that you step inside. Fans are turned on, and you have one minute to catch 20 pieces of paper that are flying around in the air. It's really hard to do, but also really fun. It doesn't feel like a whole minute. I won a set of small Bose speakers for an iPod. At another booth, they were doing drawings for $100 American Express gift certificates. I showed up just a minute late for the drawing last night to learn that had I been there, my number had been drawn. Ugh.


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