Where to start? To quote The Sound of Music once again, we'll start with the beginning, because it's a very good place to start.
While 2006 was an annus horribilis for this blog, your host had never had any plans of retiring ([It just looked that way for months at a time. Define "plans". -- ed.]). The lack of productivity aside, it had been your host's intention to go to the annual Linguistic Society of America conference from the day he found out it would be in Anaheim. If nothing else, he hoped it would be an opportunity to meet some of the people who made it so worthwhile when it was a more regular activity. Beyond that? Well, as he told a former professor who he was pleased to run into on the first day of the conference, it might be a chance to pick up some inspiration and find something to write about again. That alone would be wonderful.
It had been my hope to write something each day of the conference, and thus, properly speaking, the first LSA-related post ought to have occurred on Thursday night. It's not like I didn't hear things worth posting about -- The Tensor gave an interesting talk which I even asked questions about in the Q&A session (without him knowing who I was). Would've introduced myself at the end of the session, too, but I lost track of him shortly before it wrapped up. Whoops. In any event, following the session your host ended up going to visit with an old friend from college, who happened to be in Orange County as well, just for a couple of days. Being up until midnight, and having to be up at 7 am to make the drive back to Anaheim from LA the next morning, getting a post done just wasn't in the cards.
What SC could not have predicted was what a wonderful day the second day of the conference would turn out to be. The presentations were interesting -- the entire panel on approaches to complexity was worth hearing (and worth its own post), Heidi Harley's discussion of the amazing theory-busting data that she's pulled out of Yaqui has me excited to read more about it, and as much fun as the endangered languages symposium was, it was worth sneaking out in the middle to the session titled "That" to hear a talk titled "What does that mean?". Not a whole lot as it turns out, which was a point made in an interesting and experimentally novel way. The official SC wallet is meanwhile screaming in agony from damage inflicted on it by a trip to the publishers' exhibit room -- your host came home with four books, and has to pick up three tomorrow in cases where he bought the only copy they'd brought. After the third such incident, your host remarked to a publisher's representative that it looked like he wouldn't leave the room until every publisher there owed him a book on Saturday afternoon. Lots of good stuff, much of which I hope to write about as I read, and not all of it computational in nature.
But the highlight of the day came at 5 p.m., when I went to the hotel bar to meet up with other linguistics bloggers. The Tensor was there first, and when I went up to introduce myself, one of the first things he said was "you owe us a couple of posts about how that jury turned out". He's right, of course, making a point which Dad SC and the aforementioned friend visiting for a few days have been pushing themselves, but more importantly, as soon as he said that, I knew it was going to be a good evening among friends.
I proceeded to have a wonderful time getting to finally meet many, not to say all, of my favorite linguistics bloggers -- the aforementioned Tensor and Heidi Harley, Mark Liberman, Claire from Anggarrgoon, the Literal-Minded Neal Whitman, Russell Lee-Goldman -- and a few more who I should be reading regularly. Had other longtime favorites like Polyglot Conspiracy, Languagehat, and EFL Geek been there, the hotel staff might have had to drag me out of the bar. Having missed the last two LSA conferences after planning to go to both, it was my first time meeting any of them, and I'm pleased to report that every last one is as friendly and interesting an individual as you would guess from reading their blogs. Despite my prolonged absences from the linguistic blogosphere in the last year, I felt as welcome as though I had never been gone, and I thank them all for it.
I get to break one interesting piece of news that many people at the gathering don't know about because we didn't all leave at the same time. While Ben Zimmer has already noted the selection of "to be plutoed" as this year's Word of the Year on Language Log, those of us who gathered in the bar missed the announcement altogether when it happened. So when your host and a couple of new acquaintances ran into a camera crew from the Discovery Channel, at the conference to cover this earthshaking story ([don't you mean "Pluto-shaking"? -- ed.]) none of us had any idea what to say when they asked us to offer our reactions. Once they realized we weren't kidding about not knowing the word that won, the crew cut us a deal -- they'd tell us the word, but only if we'd let them film our reactions. Was SC ready for his close-up? Who knows? But you might be able to find out, if that clip makes it to TV. Your host had to sign a waiver form giving them permission to use his image without compensation, despite his rates being far more reasonable than Steven Seagal's already, but the most important part of the form to him was the part where he gave them contact information so they could call to tell him if he'll be on. If so, rest assured that the information will appear here immediately ([and be bumped to the top every day until it happens -- ed.]).
All told, it was a wonderful day at the conference, and I'm very much looking forward to another day of more good sessions than I can possibly make it to. I'm currently planning on going to the morning sessions on corpus-based investigations and computational approaches to linguistic analysis, followed by Mark Liberman's must-hear speech on the future of linguistics, and concluding with the certain-to-be-uncontroversial symposium on the tension between missionary and academic linguistics. The LSA convention has been enormously interesting for me, and I regret only that I waited so long to go!