Home again, home again, jiggety jig

Although I’m no longer doing client projects on a regular basis, I am doing quite a lot of work for professional groups including both ACM SIGCHI (Special Interest Group in Computer-Human Interaction) and the Fulbright Association, and my days feel as full as ever.

This past week has been spent in Denver at CHI2017 which was, as always, a great chance to catch up with friends and learn about so many things.  This time, I learned about the impacts of concussions and using a walking boot, as well as the expected HCI/UX.

Our cab coming into Denver from the airport was hit at high speed and my friend, Sara Drenner, and I were both injured – though not visually.  Not just stiff necks and aches throughout, but also, in my case, a serious concussion.  Later, we found out that Sara also had a serious concussion.  We went to Urgent Care as soon as we got into town where they checked us out, and declared us fit to attend the conference, as long as we tried to “just take it easy”.

That was a real challenge – it was, after all, the week of the CHI conference – the one time during the year when I network and catch up and present our work.  Plus I was responsivle for 3 things:  the weekend’sSymposium on HCI Across Borders, my CHI Story about the Birth of SIGCHI, and the first and only “Remix” session.

Luckily, the amazing team, the Dream Team, that did the planning for the Symposium on HCI Across Borders (which I will cover separately) was fabulous and managed most all of the the 2 days, with me popping up from time to time, but otherwise “taking it easy” by just passively watching and listening.  By Sunday afternoon, however, I was finding it harder and harder to be in the brightly lit room or to follow closely what was happening.  I ended the Symposium with a “charge” to the attendees, encouraging them to continue to network amongst themselves, and to do the great research they had presented, telling them, “You are the future!”  It was a bit less impactful than I would have liked it to be since by then, I was slurring my words, being confused, and having a massive headache.

I was hoping these would go away with a good night’s rest, but nope – on Monday morning I was significantly more confused and emotionally labile, and word finding was getting much, much harder.  So I went to the ER to have a CT to check for a brain bleed as directed by the Urgent Care doctor.  Amazingly, this is was a smooth and speedy process. Presbyterian Hospital Denver whisked us in and within 15 minutes, I was having a CT! The doctor came immediately and we were out in about an hour!  Incredible!  Unfortunately, I was ordered to avoid screens to “not think” and to sleep all week.  That proved to be very difficult, but I did this as much as I could.  However, as you can imagine, it really ruined CHI for me.  As a result, the only technical things I attended were mine – the Symposium, CHI Stories and Remix (more on these later) and Ben Shneiderman’s Keynote (plus bits of the other 2 keynotes) and a celebration of Scooter Morris that I had co-arranged with Matt Jones, and where I played my role of The Original Dr. Dray (yo!) to give Scooter gag gifts.

What struck me despite my brief attendance, was the amazing outpouring of love!  Knowing my CHI friends, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, but it was really incredible.  People helped carry things, arrange things, cover for things, and even get me a scooter so I could get around a vast space without too much stress and fatigue.  This was such a heartwarming experience.  I wish I had had a magic bag so I could collect it all to bring out on sad days.

My last morning, I attended the EC meeting, although I was pretty much unable to follow what was going on, and didn’t contribute anything.

I will be heading home late this afternoon, and can’t wait for the jiggity-jig!

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