Wednesday, November 23, 2005

SBL Assorted Reflections

One or two additional general reflections, of varying degrees of importance:

(1) My move to the USA makes me even more conscious of what I (and many others) stand to lose when the divorce between AAR and SBL happens. The Duke reception featured many faculty and students past and present across the two societies; I met new colleagues there too, and won't do any longer after the divorce. Likewise old Birmingham friends -- a couple of my most enjoyable meetings were with AAR members, one at Birmingham and one who used to be at Birmingham. Is there anyone who thinks that the divorce is a good thing? I haven't yet met a single one.

(2) Why do people hover around the doorways of meetings? This annoying habit gives the impression, almost always incorrect, that the room is full, and it encourages other to join the loiterers. It discourages people to cut through the loiterers and go in to the room and find a seat. I say: make a decision and go in and sit down, or leave.

(3) Why do people put their papers and books and bags on seats when they can see that the room is nearly full? If there are 10 people in a 200 capacity room, fine: spread out! But if there are only 5 or 6 spare seats, keep the seat next to you free and then those who get past the loiterers in the doorway will have somewhere to sit other than the floor.

(4) Two and a half hour meetings are too long to go without providing a 5 minute break at some point for people to stretch their legs. If you are chairing a meeting, add a leg-stretch break.

(5) The timing within the sessions could often be more precise. Let's face it, a lot of people want to go to a paper here and a paper there, and vague timings, overrunning, etc., makes that more difficult.

(6) The SBL is an enormous meeting, and perhaps because of that fact one can take the organisation for granted. In spite of the odd problem here and there, in my experience there are only ever minor glitches. The meeting is superbly organized, and it struck me this year that we really ought to say thank you a bit more often. I suppose that because we can't put a face on the organizers, we often don't take the opportunity to praise them.

Update (Thursday, 10.13): (7) Let me add my agreement with this one from Jim Davila on Paleojudaica:
One last thing: this year was the most confusing I've seen in terms of publicizing where sessions take place. I am not sure it was a good decision to remove room listings from the main program book. I appreciate that this made it easier to update the room bookings online to note late changes, but even the downloadable PDF files (which I printed out) had a lot of errors. Next time I will know to ignore them and just go with the Annual Meetings At-A-Glance booklet distributed at the meeting, which did have accurate information.

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