A few loose words about my experience of Maine Event, our annual week-long lab retreat at Harvard's Howell House in Kittery Point, ME.
Pictured here is the introductory "slide" for my session (note the high-tech multimedia presentation equipment), which I intended to preface with a brief historical note on the geopolitical origins of Belgium starting with the Romans and the well-known (in Belgium) Julius Cesar quote "Of all the peoples of Gaul, the Belgians are the bravest" (I'm afraid that when living abroad, I tend to get annoyingly nationalistic... but my colleagues don't complain as long as I keep a steady supply of beer and chocolate available).
This was to be my supporting figure, an astoundingly accurate map of the Old World drawn entirely in freehand with some cartographic assistance from the iPhone Google Maps application during lunch break (toot my own horn, moi? never, mon capitaine!).
As it happened, the map and its facetious labeling inspired our Great Leader, El Jefe, into a somewhat rambling but thoroughly enjoyable historico-philosophical commentary (see annotations in red) on Descartes and the roots of European Enlightenment.
Then we got into some hardcore discussions of genome sequencing, quorum sensing, bacterial conjugation and the ecology of small molecule production by Bacillus cereus, and that allowed me to refine my work plan for the coming year.
That's part of what Maine Event is like -- but it's also something completely different for someone else. And don't get me started on the food, drinks and oh yeah, the crazy games of after-dinner charades (official lab clue for "famous person": point at El Jefe). In all cases, it's intense, it's exhausting, it's immensely rewarding.
And this year we even got to learn a cool new dance move: the mating parade of the blue-footed booby. No kidding, send the boss to Galapagos and back he comes with tales of boobies, how serious is that ;-)