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I should be sleeping, but my day was so amazing that I have to tell the story, or at least bits of it.

First of all, I’m in Hawai’i. It’s beautiful and special and more awesome than I can describe. The feral cats really infuriate me, but I won’t go off on that rant.

Really crappy iPhone pic of a Yellow-billed Cardinal bathing in a resort hotel fountain.

Really crappy iPhone pic of a Yellow-billed Cardinal bathing in a resort hotel fountain. He was so frisky and comically soaked!

I got up before my alarm went off and took a bird walk during which I saw African Silverbills, Yellow-fronted Canaries, Saffron Finches, Wandering Tattlers, Yellow-billed Cardinals, and other exotic species. Some of these birds originate in Africa, India, South America, and Asia, and are exceptionally pretty, so it’s especially exciting.

I went to conference sessions and had intellectually stimulating conversations all morning – which sparked ideas for pulling a new paper out of my dissertation (bonus!) that I can submit to this conference next year (double plus bonus!) and started great discussions, plus new friendships.

I ate lunch with the morning session presenters; we talked all the way through the meal and the keynote speaker. I sat in the sun for at least two hours and succeeded in getting sunburned. The sting on my skin makes me happy because it’s so cold and gray at home; I need to store up enough sunshine to get me through the next 4 months!

I went to an afternoon session on biomedical informatics, partly out of curiosity, but also because the dean of Flyover State School was chairing the session. Afterwards, we sat down, munched popcorn, and discussed options. The short story is, they’d love to have me and could immediately offer a 1-year gig until a planned faculty position opens up for Fall 2015, at which point the job would be all but guaranteed. It’s not the top-ranked research university I’ve been groomed for, but a much more sane and sensible environment where I could have a reasonable work/life balance and sustainable career, rather than stressing myself to the point of burnout within 5 years. It was a very encouraging discussion.

After that, I called Mr. Chickadee and talked for 45 minutes – I was too excited to go back to attending paper sessions! While we talked, I watched fish leaping in the lagoon – leaping a foot or so out of the water, like spawning salmon in TV documentaries, except it wasn’t a salmon and it wasn’t spawning. Fascinating!

I spent a little down time by myself before the Pau Hana (cocktail hour) and went from there to the Women’s Networking Reception, which was good fun (plus two free drinks, which is worth $22.50 at resort prices…) The gay guys crashed the women’s reception — plus a few straight ones too — which was fine by all the ladies. Some of my conferences are 90% men, which makes you feel marginalized no matter how bold you are, so these women’s networking events are a really nice touch.

Among the brave fellas was one of my favorite conference pals. We talked and talked and talked and eventually wandered to dinner. I had Singapore noodles, which I basically can’t get at home because there’s no such thing as good Chinese food in upstate New York, so that made me very happy. It was just so much fun to catch up, and also great positive reinforcement to hear my colleague say that I have great stories from my research.

I’m in a daze; my head is spinning. After spending part of my day negotiating a potential mentor for a “backup” postdoc I don’t really want and sketching out a job application I probably won’t send, a dean I really like said he’d go way out of his way to make me a job.

I don’t want to jump the gun, since I have an upcoming campus visit (uber-intense 2-day on-site interview) and yesterday’s phone interview went very well. But my gut says second-tier Flyover State School may be the best choice, even before fully considering the alternatives: the environment is much lower stress, the dean and his management philosophy are exceptionally well aligned with my thinking, and I really want to be done with this excruciating “what’s next?” uncertainty.

But there are still two more days of the conference at this incredibly lush resort, after which I have a few days to myself to drink fresh Kona coffee, hike through rainforests and lava flows, visit live volcanoes, and chase down more exotic birds.