I recently attended the International Developmental Biological Congress in sunny Edinburgh, Scotland. Here is my diary.

Day One

Saturday, 8:15 AM: Arrive Edinburgh hotel, early. Wait for room in hotel bar.   Soccer, a hateful game, blares at 8:30 in the morning. Bourbon appropriate?

 Saturday, 5:15 PM: Take walking tour of city. Discover no one in Scotland speaks English.

Day Two

Sunday, 1:00 PM: Pick up press credentials.  Easy because no other sane journalists here.

Sunday, 1:15 PM: Discover that British have nickname for my profession that actually makes it sound dirty: “Journo.” Hate the British. Then, upon reflection, decide term is actually kind of …swinger-ish.

Sunday, 1-5 PM: Read and do not understand entire 4-day program. Toblerone candy bar a medical necessity.

Monday, 2 AM: Search for Tylenol PM capsule. Find (7) Good and Plenty's instead. Eat.  Gag.

Day Three

Monday, 8:30 AM: attend plenary session on membrane permeability, downstream redox sequelae and the fekkakte2 region of Chromosome 7. Catastrophic headache ensues.

Monday, 10:15 AM: First coffee break.   Manage to find and buttonhole one of the two most important interviews that I flew halfway around the world to see.   May get 10 minutes.   In the lobby.   Later.

Monday, 10:45 AM: Return to seminars. Globally resentful.

Monday, 11:30 AM: Presentation, allegedly in English,  on tissue patterning,  positional information, and the fruit fly.   <Scottish accent>But I don’ gare abow no fugging fruitfly!

Monday, Noon: Get lucky. Instead of usual one-hour sulk-and-pout-o-rama, locate and interview the other researcher I came to see. Speciality: using salamander egg extract to restore chromatin function in black6 mice. Discover, after medically-necessary beers, that his real interest is evolution, and how the x-ray’d skull of a salamander at stage 35 of development looks exactly like a human at that stage becauseeveryoneknowsthatfrogsreallyaren’tagood modelforregenrationbecausetheirobvariesarehugeand disproporionatetobody sizeunlikehumans and salamanders and …

I now have one story. Yay! 

Monday afternoon: Seven presentations on upstream genetic determinants of embryonic remodeling. Keep nodding out. Actually snore out loud next to very hot zoologist. Brain in very bad shape.

Monday night:  Required “journo” self-tour of scruffy manly sections of town. Frightened. Out. Of. Fucking. Mind.   Run back to clearly gay tearoom. Read more embryology.

Monday evening, 11 PM: Finish reading next da'sy papers and vow to get interview with subject number one.   Mini bar not restocked.   Global resentment renewed.

Day Four

Tuesday, 8:45: Bright and chipper and get seat next to hot Zoologist. Weather outside very warm. So why is zoologist wearing scarf around neck again?

 Crying Game

Tuesday, 8:45-11:30 AM:  Must focus. Presentations on amphibian early development key to next book.   Lots of frogs, even though everyone knows that … (see Monday Noon above).   
Sty developing in left eye.

Tuesday, lunch: Tour and take in poster session on current research, including: tissue organogenisis in the Oregon newt; polarity, cell signaling, and mesoderm gastrulation in fugging fruitfly; planaria: a new old model for head and tail regeneration; and: “Limb buds or apical cap: a reconsideration.”

Eat chair.

Tuesday afternoon: Seven sessions of critical data. Everyone in auditorium now knows I have sleep apnea. Also: discover zoologist has very large Adam’s apple. Is it just me, or what?

Sty swelling. Bela Lugosi effect now complete.

Tuesday late afternoon: Buttonhole subject number one while she has entire buttered scone in mouth. She agrees to meet me later for interview. Return to hotel for catnap. Wake late, run to conference center without tape recorder. Also without socks.

Tuesday evening: Attend late sessions on disease specific mechanisms and stem cell therapy. Stalk and catch subject one. Note small scone spleege on collar. 

Tuesday, 9 PM: Intimate meeting with subject one in mobbed, cacophonous reception area filled with subject-one’s best friends and miscellaneous winos, geeks, schlebs and low-verbals. Get ten minutes, five of which spent answering her questions about what I am doing.   Interview ends when hot zoologist invites subject-one to dinner.

Tuesday night: Utter petulance. All night. Even after great penne and meatballs.

Day Five

Wednesday morning: Avoid zoologist.   Attend brilliant sessions on amphibian-mouse-human homologues. Very helpful, now getting somewhere. Then spy subject one. Decide to cast eyes downward in defeated pathetic way like  Antonio Barden int hat movie where he and Penelope Cruz andScarlet whatever and…

Feel ashamed of self and guilty in very primal Catholic way.

But wor-erks! Subject gives me one hour and promise to host me in her lab in Dresden next year. 

Take rest of day off to celebrate and visit museums and buy wife present she won’t like. Ja-wohl!

Wednesday evening: Return to conference to view new poster session and walk around trade floor exhibits. My favorite part.  This is where 'molecule meets money'. Note industry drift away from fruit flies and back to amphibians as developmental model. Note also ubiquity of mouse X-ray systems. Nice blond former auto sales lady demonstrates. Must first put probe up mouse keester. Yay. Then: Mouse pees all over nice blond former auto sales lady. Yay again!

Day Six

Thursday, 8:45 AM: Drag self into crucial morning plenary session. Spill entire triple cafe latte and stain aisle of auditorium.   Actually hide self in darkened balcony.

Thursday, 11:15 AM: Encounter chairman of conference to whom I kind of bullshit-ted about "my interest in your specialty of rhomboid proteases." Fortunately recall PubMed abstract on his work so I can pose bullshitty questions.  BOOM - gangster!

Thursday, 12:30: Re-interview the salamander brain guy to flesh out biographical details, which can’t get just by reading papers. Talk into copy of X-ray study. Visuals important.   If you’re an editor.   If you’re a “team player.” If you just don’t want to deal with words. If you’re eff-ing seven years old

Thursday afternoon: Culture time! Go to Edinburgh's old High Street and watch semi-nude juggler on unicycle. Just like Venice beach. But without the English language. Also:  buy extra bag to tote home wife’s (inevitably hated) present.

Thursday evening: Return, for third time, to nice Italian restaurant and order Fettucinii Amatriciana. Fettucini now looks like planaria. Steak like frog ovarian cavity.   Do not care because am mother-fucking King of Universe!

Final Day

Friday, 7:30 AM: Pack, eat banana and check out of hotel.   Have major gas.  Always a plus on a transcontinental flight.

Friday, 8:15 am: Arrive at airport.  Uneventful check in. 

Friday, 9:50 AM-4:45 PM: Fly to Los Angeles via Newark Parallel Universe.   Fear returns.   Also read conference notes and underline key passages, which I once saw a New York Times person do.

Friday, 4:55 PM: Get bags, get taxi, nap on way home.

Friday, 5:50 PM: Home. Look at mail. Invitations for new conferences.   Hey, this one in Paris looks absolutely crucial…!