31 July 2007, More meetings

Written 31 July 2007

Small meeting bannerToday, the meetings got down to more serious business—no more leisurely 9 a.m. start; no more entertaining history-and-future-of-the-society talk by a senior member. Today, it was show up at 8 a.m. and listen to 15-minute talks all morning. Actually, this year's format makes it easier to keep your attention span up. Each talk is followed, as usual, by a few minutes for questions, but in addition, every four talks or so, the floor is opened for a 20-minute general discussion, some of which have been quite lively. The group and the room are so small that local-committee gofers have no trouble taking a mobile microphone to each person who has a question, so everyone can hear every question and its answer. (The animals forming the numerals "13" on the poster are (left) a harpacticoid copepod and (right) a nematode; these two taxa make up the bulk of the benthic meiofauna, and yes, the nematode normally assumes that shape.)

Poster easelsThe posters have been set up in an adjoining room, and the poster session is huge: 120 posters (of which over 100 actually showed up) out of 150 registrants! As a result, they're packed pretty tight. The whole room is full of zig-zag "folding screens" (like those ones you see in stars' dressing rooms), each with half a dozen 4o-inch by 7-foot faces on each side, placed about 4 feet apart. Fortunately, they seem pretty heavy and sturdy, because when 150 people cram in there to look at and discuss them, it's going to be elbow to elbow, and everyone will be juggling cocktails as well, so each screen is sure to be backed into repeatedly. Each author will be posted in front of a 4o-inch-wide space, immediately next to another 4o-inch-wide space (and another author) placed at 90 degrees to it, and they'll be facing two more authors 4 feet away across the aisle. Should be interesting. David somehow turned out to be poster #1, so he'll have an extra foot or two of clearance in front of his poster and will face only a wall and the entrance to the room, so more than one person will be able to look at his poster, and chat with him about it, at a time.

Lunch dessert tableWe once again took advantage of the special discount on the hotel's lunch buffet. The pattern of the buffet is the same each day: bread and butter, three to five salads, several relishes (like olives, dried tomatoes), three to five sauces (vinaigrette, mustard-mayo, a pinkish fruity cream sauce, vinegared minced onions, etc.), a pasta with accompanying sauce, two or three vegetables, a poultry dish, a beef or lamb dish, a fish dish (the last usually with a sauce), and a table of cakes, custards, pies, and fruit. But the actual dishes change. For example, yesterday we had sautéed lamb in honey sauce but today grilled beef, yesterday chicken with garlic but today chester with walnuts ("chester" is patented chicken specially bred to be oversized and more turkey-like), yesterday spaghetti and tomato sauce but today noodles with a cream sauce full of green peas. Yesterday's dessert assortment included, among other things, a very sweet meringue cake, a passion-fruit cheesecake, syrupy pumpkin compote, and the local speciality spiral cake. Today we had, among others, caramel flan, jack fruit in syrup, a lemon meringue tart, and an outstanding guava bavarian (the pale pink one in the center). The meats tend to be pretty simply grilled (and a little overcooked just because of the buffet format) and accompanied by one garnish (sautéed garlic, toasted walnuts, capers, etc.)

A curious European asked one of the local scientists about the custard apples (Annona squamosa, Annonaceae; the lumpy green objects in the photo) arranged, with other whole fruit, on the dessert tables. As a result, they broke one open, and we passed around chunks of it for tasting during dessert. We get a different cultivar of custard apple occasionally in Tallahassee, and they're pretty good. They're smaller (single-serve size) congeners of the (watermelon size) graviola (of which the delicious juice showed up again at this morning's coffee break; definitely my favorite).

Written 1 August 2007

After lunch, David and I again took a turn on the terrace overlooking the beach. I could hear small birds in the nearby trees (coconut palms, which are ubiquitous here, and a common street tree in the Malvaceae, with yellow hibiscus-like flowers), but they were hard to spot. By the time I unlimbered the binoculars and located a bird, it flew to a palm directly overhead, so all I could see was its yellow breast. The birds were the size of, and acted like, warblers, but their song reminded me of our house finch. (I've also seen and heard that world-wide scourge, the house sparrow, in the neighborhood.) Across the side street, though, I could see a dark-colored bird fluttering against the white stucco wall of an appartment building. I turned the binoculars that way and was delighted to see a large hummingbird, with spectacular long tail streamers, visiting a feeder on an appartment balcony! At that distance I couldn't make out any color markings—it seemed uniformly dark-colored on the back.

After the afternoon sessions, which lasted until 6:20 p.m.—a long day!—we again repaired to the bar for caipirinhas (everyone's new favorite drink, apparently; I've been studying the the technique involved so that we can serve them at home, although we'll have to use ordinary rum, of course), then to the hotel's restaurant again.

David had filet of beef in wine sauce, similar to the lamb of the night before, but with much narrower noodles. I ordered the grilled "robalo" (Centropomus undecimalis, common snook, the same one we have in Florida). It was cooked a little more than optimal but not still very good. It was dressed (as seems usual here) with lime juice and lots of large capers and accompanied by buttered vegetables (clearly yesterdays lunch-time steamed vegetables sautéed in butter, but excellent nonetheless), marred only by a fewof the green beans, which were very tough and stringy.

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