Volleyball with Astronauts

Before I add more posts recalling and reviewing sessions I attended at the 2009 ASA annual meeting, I wanted to highlight the other equally valuable aspect of attending: Fellowship.

Of course the weekend included scheduled times of fellowship, such as the Friday mixer after the opening plenary session and the Saturday Texas barbecue dinner and line dancing. After all, the meeting was at Baylor University in Waco. (Two years earlier in Edinburgh, Scotland the dance was a ceilidh.  I wonder what sort of dance it will be next year in Washington D.C.)

At any one of these activities, you might find yourself in a conversation circle, in a dancing line or at a dinner table with some contemporary hero of science like Jennifer Wiseman (on Wikipedia), chief astrophysicist of Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics at Goddard Space Flight Center. (On Friday night she and David Leckrone shared about the recent Shuttle mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.)

I had already met up with Denis Lamoureux on Thursday night at the Dallas Airport, where we waited for the same flight into Waco. He introduced me to Bethany Sollereder and Leslie Wickman (LinkedIn), who were also on the flight. Walter Bradley and Bill Jordan met us at the airport and brought us over to Baylor.

At the Friday workshop (“Teaching about Science and Christianity” – more on that in a subsequent post), I sat by Jennifer Billman from Messiah College, Heather Prior from King’s University, and Bernie Dehler. It was a pleasure to meet them and learn about their work and interests.

Meal times in the cafeteria were great, and I don’t mean because of the food (I get much better at home and didn’t have much of an appetite for “industrial food” after having recently read The Omnivore’s Dilemma).  It’s the fellowship and conversation that’s important. I can’t exactly remember all the people I shared a meal with, but it included (in no particular order) Anita and Paul Seely, Ralph Davis, Craig Rusbult, Sean Cordry, Steve Badger, Daniel Harlow, Margaret Towne and Bryan Isaac.

On Saturday I had a “private” lunch-time meeting with Loren and Deb Haarsma (Calvin College), author’s of the wonderful book Origins, to discuss my ideas and plans for the ASA homeschool resources website. In fact, I connected with several people about the homeschool resources project. I had a conversation with Bob Fay and soon learned that he is a chemist at Cornell University as well as the author of a popular college Chemistry textbook!

I was glad to meet Dennis Venema (LinkedIn) from Trinity Western University, who I had interacted with a little on the ASA email discussion list. He gave a nice talk on the genetics of human origins. Despite the fact that evolution is always a hot topic at ASA meetings, there doesn’t seem to be very many biologists in the group who know their evolutionary genetics (David Campbell is the other). If I had stayed in academia, I would have liked to contribute talks of this sort.

So, what’s this got to do with volleyball and astronauts? Well, it turns out that Leslie Wickman from Azusa Pacific University and Dominic Halsmer from Oral Roberts University, both serious athletes, were itching to play some beach volleyball on the court in the commons area. They were struggling to find two other able-bodied players among the 200 academics at the meeting. Somehow, they thought I might qualify and asked me. So, on Sunday evening we skipped one session to play some frisbee (I held my own there) and volleyball. I was teamed up with Leslie against Bernie Dehler and Dominic. It was a very even match, with Bernie and I barely filling our places alongside our professional partners. I was exhausted, but I really enjoyed learning a little bit about the strategy and techniques required for two-on-two play. In case you don’t follow the links to their bios, let me tell you that Dominic is really a ranking athlete, and Leslie is a former astronaut, professional football player and beach volleyball player!

Thanks to everyone at the conference for the privilege of meeting and getting to know you better. I hope to see you again soon.


1 comment to Volleyball with Astronauts

  • Hi Doug,
    When I first saw this title I thought “Wow, volleyball in 0 G” … but I guess your match was much more down to earth. Looking forward to your ongoing comments on the ASA meeting. Maybe sometime I’ll be able to make it as well … sounds like an amazing experience.