I continue to be fascinated by the captioning on the huge screens at the front of the main tent sessions. At first I thought someone was typing what the speaker was saying, which I found incredible, because several of the speakers, especially Ted, spoke so fast, and quoted so many statistics, that it seemed unfathomable that a typist could keep up.
Eventually, I decided that some kind of speech recognition software was being used. It was most interesting with the multicultural speakers, especially the ones with heavy accents. When the speaker pronounced something that I had trouble understanding, I would glance over at the captioning, which was generally about one sentence behind. When it got to that word that I was waiting to see what it was, it would pause, as if it were filtering through a number of possibilities, and trying to choose the correct word. Some times, it did not. Acronyms, of which there were many were sometimes problematic. The first time one speaker used PwD (Person with Disabilities), it interpreted it as PwB. However, the very next time the speaker used it, it rendered PwD, which I also found very interesting. I wondered if a human was watching, and making corrections, if the software was somehow self correcting, or if the speaker just annunciated (sp?) it differently the second time. Very interesting.
During the introduction of someone on a panel at one point, the program interpreted the word Curt as Crut. I suppose that's better than Crud. I also noticed that the program was editing superfluous words, or utterances, such as uhm, and uh, but did not edit out the dreaded "like" and in, "I went over, and like, turned off the switch."
During a break today, I returned Richard B.'s in Toronto's call. He told me that he is trying to create piece of GLBT education material for a presentation to IBM Canada executives on May 11th, and he wanted my help if possible. He wanted to illustrate a situation where an executive is speaking, says something not inclusive, or even offensive, without realizing it, and what happens in a GLBT person's mind in reaction to it. He said they had already had ideas of the things the exec would say, what he wanted my help in was in illustrating the thought process of the GLBT employee, a la Will & Ned. I found this idea very intriguing, and was flattered that he thought of me as a "go to" person to help with the task. Especially since, at one of the recent sessions it was pointed out that one of the ways to make yourself "known," and to be "recognized," was to become the "go to person," on a topic -- that is the person people think to "go to" when they've got a problem, or just need help.
I haven't been in the best frame of mind here up until today, that is to say, yesterday, especially. I can't really pinpoint what it is, but questions that I have asked myself in the past are resurfacing. I don't like that they're resurfacing here, though, when this conference is supposed to be recognition event, being chosen as a top technical person in IBM, and make you feel valued in the corporation.
Instead, I find myself asking myself these questions: "What am I doing here (in IBM)?" "Is this the best use of my talents in life?" "What is an ESFJ doing in an xNTy company?" "Could I make a living creating Diversity Education?"
During the morning break, I found myself in the hallway where the coffee and soda was being served, at an empty registration desk area, facing the wall, drinking a cup of coffee, and staring at some framed artwork on the wall, pondering these questions. In the glassed frame, I could see the reflection of people coming, and going behind me, with every once in a while it looking like someone was coming up to me, and I was thinking, "No. No. No." In the end, no intrusions.
I tried to call Mom & Dad on both their home phone and cell phone, to no avail.
During lunch, I tried accessing my e-mail to a very frustrating four attempts, but couldn't stay booted long enough to do so. This computer virus is very frustrating.
The morning session on Accessibility today was so fascinating. This amazing female, blind, Japanese employee gave a presentation that was so heartwarming. Both the work she was doing, and she as a colleague, made me feel so proud to be an IBM employee. It's so rare that we get to see technology being created that is significantly improving the lives of people.
I met "the guys" at the bar for drinks before heading over to the Gala Dinner. Phillip, my favorite person to have met at the conference so far, was there, and waved me over. Shortly after, Paul and Justin showed up. We had a brief discussion about being out at work, which I welcomed as I wanted to make a few points about Paul's comments at the restaurant last night.
At the convention center, where the Gala dinner was being held, we found a bulletin board with a "seating chart" for dinner. This caught us all by surprise, and our initial reaction wasn't terribly good. But, after thinking about it, it is a diversity conference, so we should be sitting with people who don't look like us.
As it turned out, there were several Tivoli people at my table, three of whom were from the group I tried to organize for lunch on Monday, so that actually worked out well. We had one lady, Chinese, I think, at our table, and her name was Jenny. One of the cutest straight guys at the conference was at my table, what luck, and I got there second, so of course sat right next to him. His name was David, and he turned out to be totally cool. The table, actually, turned out to be a lot fun.
Ranjan was at my table, and he was in his "traditional garb," which folks were encouraged to wear to the dinner. Alex made a comment about how great Ranjan's shirt was. I said, "And what about my traditional gay garb? I'm not really pleased with it" -- it was a regular collared, button down, short sleeve shirt. "I really should have worn a few more chains, more jewelry, don't you think?" They all chuckled. Jenny then mentioned that she was the only "girl" at the table. I leaned over, but said aloud, "Not really, honey; I'm sort of in your corner." More laughs all around. I also articulated to the group how odd it was to be "white men" there, as it almost certainly led to the conclusion, "Oh he must be a gay guy." The group seemed very comfortable in the situation, and the conversation, which was great. Later during dinner, Jenny leaned over and said, "I hope you don't mind, but I was wondering if you could tell me what your parents' reaction was when you came out." Another good sign that my openness helped diffuse any discomfort there might otherwise have been.
I asked David, who was actually Hispanic, but looked very "white" if he thought people assumed that he was white, and therefore gay, here, and his response was, "Probably, but it doesn't bother me. It happens all the time." And he really did seem to have no problem with it.
I predicted chicken for dinner, but it turned out to be "surf and turf," with steak for the turf and salmon for the surf. I can now see why they usually serve chicken at these events. There were a couple of problems with the steak, as they didn't ask us ahead of time how we like it cooked. Fortunately, mine came medium-well, which is exactly how I liked it.
We had an IBMer sing, whose voice was good, but not great. Then a dynamic speaker, who I would, if I had to, classify as a "new age type." However, her recounting of pulling together an international team on a huge, and complex project, was very interesting, with several lessons about culture and diversity, which naturally was perfect for this conference.
After dinner, an Hispanic band was introduced; a man and a woman came out to Salsa dance for us, and then got most of us out on the dance floor for Salsa lessons. Jenny grabbed me to dance, which was okay, but I much would have rather danced with a man. She had a whole table of straight men to choose from. Oh well, maybe she wanted to feel like a Lesbian a bit. :-)
Unfortunately they played Latin music all night, which wasn't bad in and of itself, but it did limit the number of people dancing, and I desperately wanted to two-step or line dance. I actually taught Garret the Boot Scootin' Bogie, which she had actually learned six years ago, and came back pretty quickly. There really wasn't good music to do it to.
Neil and Bob did some totally inappropriate dancing, which made me embarrassed to be with the GLBT group.
After the dinner, a group of us, probably about 12 of us went to the hotel bar, and drank from about 10 until midnight. Bob continued to be obnoxious, pinching people's nipples, which both Phillip and I really hate, and to have the most atrocious breath possible.
Paul got loaded, and eventually was approached by one of the bartenders, who was actually walking around picking up empty glasses. As the bartender got close to him, Paul said, "Yes, I'll have another." He said, "Actually, I'm not taking orders, I've come over to ask you to please not sit on the glass coffee table." Paul was toasted by the end of the night.
Andrew, from the UK, made suggestions all night long about being interested in me, which I constantly deflected. While it was flattering, it got old after a while. Phillip and I went to the bar to get refills, and I told him he needed to rescue me. When we sat back down, he sat next to me. Eventually, we to get one more drink, and Andrew said, "Well, I'm going to bed." Great, I thought. He stood up, and put his lips right on me for a kiss good night. Fortunately, it was a short peck. His teeth need some attention.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Philip today, and know we will continue to correspond once we get back to work. I walked back to our rooms with him. He was in Tower I and I was in Tower II. Sweet guy.
Once back in the room, I packed up, and was set to check out in the morning on the way to breakfast. I got to bed at about 1:30.