All things considered, this was a valuable and positive experience for me. The flight to and from NYC was painless even though the city is now gripped by frigid weather. I discovered some great, cheap falafel on street-corner carts/stands outside the Hilton hotel, which was a great alternative to the outrageously pricy hotel lobby food. A lot of other conference attendees had problems with the hotel, but not for me! Even the room service I ordered once did not break my bank.
I met an editor of a journal where I might potentially publish in the future and also connected with a former editor who had published my work. It is great to meet someone in person when you have only known their work on paper! Moreover, I reconnected with a couple of friends I knew in graduate school.
One panel I attended contained a vigorous back-and-forth between the audience and panel, with several competing interpretations in the audience. It was on "assessment," one of those buzzwords you often hear about. I heard another on using technology for a history class. This professor bemoaned the fact that she was virtually the only person in her department trying to keep up with the times by integrating technology into her course, with her colleagues at an elite East Coast institution seemingly dragging their heels in opposition. It is nice to hear the polite exchange of ideas.
Let's see...what else? I met Sean Wilentz for the first time. He's the prize-winning and grammy award recipient and major public figure at Princeton. He's steadily developed a public persona over the years as a Clinton defender at the impeachment hearings, a guest on MSNBC, and someone who has written on topics as varied as Andrew Jackson and Bob Dylan. Wilentz put out a lengthy tour-de-force called The Rise of American Democracy in 2005. Having talked to one of graduate students, I found out it took him ten years to write that book. I didn't want to take up too much of his time, so we chatted only briefly, but at least he now knows who I am!