Technology Saved the Day – I Hope

This week I’ve been at the Drug Information Association (DIA) Annual General Meeting in Washington, DC. The meeting ran from Sunday evening to Thursday lunch. Besides attending some of the sessions, helping to answer questions at the Open Text booth, and talking to reporters about the SAFE initiative, I also chaired and presented at a session. There was one little problem: while that session was originally scheduled for Tuesday it was moved to Monday from 1:30 to 3:00pm. And the reason that was a problem was because York University decided to schedule Karina’s Honours B.A. graduation at 7:00pm on the same Monday. Try as I might I could not find a way to travel from Washington to Toronto and then on to York in the intervening four hours – the airline schedules just didn’t jive. Lindy felt that I should cancel my DIA session to attend; I considered it, but since I had invited Ruedi Blattmann from Switzerland to present I wasn’t too comfortable doing that.
Fortunately technology came to the rescue. Coincidentally Karina sent me a link to an article about a honourary degree being presented by York University to Dr. Tak Mak – someone I worked with about a decade ago. In the article it mentioned that the variousw Spring convocation ceremonies would be broadcast live by streaming video!! Yeah!
I watched part of an archived convocation – it wasn’t bad. I was to stay at a Marriott-Courtyard in Washington and they usually have free high-speed Internet access in their rooms. I talked to Karina to see if she was OK with me attending virtually – and bless her, she said she was. I arranged that she should have her cell phone on so that I could call her right after the convocation. It sounded like a plan.
On Monday, while the rest of the Open Text staff went out to dinner, I went back to my room and connected to the Internet. Precisely at 7:00pm the video stream started. The picture was fairly good and the sound excellent. I listened to the opening speeches and the awarding of a honourary degree. Then they started on the graduate students… disaster. There was a problem with the sound – it appeared that the wrong microphone was connected – I could barely hear the people names as they came to the stage. And with their big, floppy red hats I couldn’t see their faces. But after about ten minutes the sound was fixed and clear. Then when the undergraduates started to come onstage, it was clear that they weren’t wearing the same hats and their faces would be visible. Phew!
But one problem remained: as an almost endless procession of undergraduates came forward in the different programs, occasionally the director decided to switch to a camera giving a panoramic view of the hall, so you couldn’t see one or two candidates before the view switched back. Fingers crossed it wouldn’t happen when Karina came up!
Finally we got to the Honours Humanities graduates, and right at the end Karina’s name was called, together wit the fact she was receiving the degree Summa Cum Laude, and she came up to receive her degree; I could clearly see her face – but then the camera view switched to the panoramic view. But I had seen her and I yelled, “Yeah Karina” in my hotel room.
Right after the ceremonies I was able congratulate her by phone; at that point she hadn’t even met up with Marc, Lindy and Lindy’s parents, so I go the first word in.
When I talked to Lindy later it turned out that she had sat near the back of the Hall with Marc and that the best view they had was via a large monitor that was showing exactly what I saw!
So with a few close calls it worked out. It’s not the same as being there, but its much, much better than missing everything.

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