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I’ve been in San Diego with my mother since Friday; she’s here for a conference, and I’m here as her date. The conference is that of a national organization that links a bunch of state and local organizations that are in the business of dealing with other people’s money, so in attendance are administrators and board members of those organizations, as well as a wide variety of vendors hoping to drum up a bit of business or solidify some existing relationships. Plus a slew of those folks’ family members who, like me, are along for the ride.

It’s fun being an outsider at a conference like this, particularly as a person who attends a bunch of conferences of her own, if for no other reason than the opportunity to do a bit of compare/contrast. And boy, are conferences like these different from mine.

First off, they cost more; registration fees seem pretty astronomical, in comparision with most academic conferences, though that degree of astronomicality is significantly less than it used to be, as academic conference registration fees are trending very sharply upward. They’re doing so, however, without providing any of the bennies of this kind of conference. Here, one’s registration fee includes meals, at least breakfast and lunch, and very often dinner. (When there aren’t conference dinners, those vendors often organize dinners for their clients or desired clients-to-be.) The fee also includes a range of events, including various walking tours, zoo and museum trips, and a dinner cruise. And, at check-in, you’re handed a fairly nice conference shoulder bag with several bits of corporate-logo’d giftage included (this time around, a hard-sided CD case from one vendor, a small personal fan from another, and a couple of other things I can’t remember). Plus a choice of hat with the national organization’s logo on it.

What I’m trying to imagine is the MLA with swag. And dinner cruises. And a very, very kind schedule, in which all sessions fall between 8 am and 1 pm, leaving the afternoon and evening for fun.

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