Last week I was in Indianapolis at a conference: Learning Analytics and Knowledge. This was the first conference at which I gave a presentation, and it went pretty well. It was difficult to tell how I was doing as I was giving the presentation – there’s not much audience reaction to a research presentation for the most part, it turns out. However, I put my twitter handle at the top of the first slide of my presentation, and I got some nice comments. I also had a number of people talk to me afterwards about various issues surrounding the topic of elementary school short answer assessment, which was a good sign.
Besides presenting, I had a number of interesting experiences in Indianapolis. While I was at the conference, a keynote speaker showed off the “Fish-ix” tutor, finally linking the two very different disciplines of science education and talking fish. Outside the conference, I got to enjoy the attractions of Indianapolis. I got locked out of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument and was warned not to enter the Indiana State Museum with the explanation that in the 45 minutes before closing I would not be able to get my money’s worth.
Outside the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument I went to a soda shop that collects sodas from around the world. This excited me because I had heard of a drink called “Leninade.”
When I asked the cashier, she said “sure, we have Lennonade,” and showed me this bottle.
“No, no no,” I said, “I’m looking for Vladimir Leninade.”
“Oh, we don’t have that, the cashier said,” but we do have a long line of other dictatorades. She pointed me to the cooler where they kept a variety of interesting sodas.
This was no substitute for Leninade, so I decided not to get a soda at all. I kept looking around at the different kinds, though, and my eyes landed on the unusual flavors section.
This was where my troubles began. You see that “Sweet Corn” soda there? The cashier insisted that everyone who tried it loved it so much they came back again and again for it. I enjoyed the story, but was not yet moved to try the soda myself.
As we were returning to the register, I asked the cashier to recommend Leninade to whoever stocked the shelves. She told me, “you can ask him yourself if you want,” and gestured behind me to a man in a gray-and-black beard. “Hi, I’m the manager,” he said. I asked him about Leninade and he brought me to his “long line of dictatorades.” At this point I figured he wasn’t going to get the message, so I asked him about the strange flavors.
Without missing a beat, the manager began singing the praises of the sweet corn soda. “This soda is extremely popular because it tastes exactly like sweet corn.” That swayed me. I purchased the soda, popped off the cap on a wall-mounted bottle-opener, and took a swig. Fortunately, I managed not to spit it up immediately. To this day I cannot describe what it was I was drinking or the exact nature of my revulsion towards it, but I do know that the look on my face was enough to horrify the manager.
The manager apologized profusely and insisted that I take another soda of my choice free of charge. At first I refused his offer, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer, so rather than try another strange flavor I got a sarsparilla, which was nice. It tasted like an alternative cola recipe.