Sunday, March 25, 2001

Greenville, South Carolina

I just got back from a weekend at the SERMON conference in Greenville, South Carolina. (SERMON = SouthEastern Regional Meeting On Numbers) This is my 8th straight SERMON; I'd have to rate it 3rd in terms of location behind the two in Charleston.

I wasn't expecting to enjoy the town that much. I had been in Columbia, South Carolina the previous weekend, and didn't expect Greenville to be an improvement. (Columbia ranks #5 in terms of SERMON locations -- it hosted in '98.) For some reason, I flew in Friday morning, even though the first talk wasn't until 4. I hopped into my rental car (a Mitsubishi Galant -- this Avis Preferred thing is paying off) and drove off in search of adventure.

In truth, I expected to end up at the mall watching a movie to kill a couple of hours. But as I drove around, I followed the signs to the art museum. Well, I thought, this might be mildly amusing. What are they going to have here, that I can't see much better back home in DC? Well, as it turns out, 24 watercolors by Andrew Wyeth. This was a much more impressive museum than I expected. I also enjoyed the Casselli exhibit. Other than that, they mostly had Southern works, mostly realist. I also looked at an exhibit by Nancy Grossman. "Grossman is best known for her sensual and often brutal wooden sculptures of heads, wrapped in black leather skins and adorned with spikes, guns, zippers, and masks." Uh huh.

Then I drove downtown for lunch. It has a really nice downtown. Main Street is lined with a lot of nice restaurants and vaguely interesting shops (perhaps more interesting to those who shop more than I do). Later that evening someone described it as what Athens (GA) would be like if inhabited by adults. I check into my hotel, the Hyatt Greenville and relaxed for an hour before heading out to Furman.

Things I learned about Furman this weekend:

  • Their sports teams are the "Paladins". To a D&D fan like myself, this was pretty cool. I tried to go to the bookstore on Saturday to find some nerdwear, but it was closed.
  • One of their cheers is "FU once, FU twice, FU three times, FU all the time!"
  • They provide rides to get students safely around campus, to local drugstores and other places. They chose to label the flyer giving the times for this as "Escort Services Schedule". If it hadn't been for my respect for public safety, I would have taken it.

The conference was nice. The talks weren't as interesting as they were last weekend, but it was good to see friends from grad school (as well as various profs).

Sunday, after the conference was over, I broke out my skates for the first time this year and skated around the Furman campus for a while. I was a bit unsteady. I'm not sure about the transference of any physical skills from skiing, but I think mentally the skiing has helped -- I know better how to identify areas for improvement, take appropriate risks -- and of course, I re-learned the fact that when I'm not paying attention, I end up on my butt.

A good weekend, but I'm looking forward to being home for the next month.

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