After umpteen hours of online training, breakout sessions and lectures, the new AE Fellows were ready for a break by Wednesday night. This came in the form of a wonderful reception at the California Academy of Science in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
The Academy includes a popular science museum with plenty of dinosaurs and dioramas along with aqauria, a Foucault pendulum and a simulated earthquake machine. Upon arrival in the main hall, the Fellows and invited guests from the Bay area scientific community were greeted by a huge T-rex in the lobby, along with music provided by a World Music ensemble of harp, bamboo flute and continuo.
The first event was a hilarious performance by Ernestine, aka Lily Tomlin, who after musing on the ways of the Internet, connected her switchboard by satellite to the office of Al Gore, Vice-President of the United States. Gore exchanged repartee with Ernestine and talked to the Fellows over a giant screen congratulating them on joining Access Excellence and saluting all of their hard work. After a few encouraging words from Ernestine, the crowd returned once again to the museum. By now flavorful foods from around the world were available at buffet tables along with a wide range of libations.
Then it was back to the auditorium to hear noted ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin (author of "Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice") describe his adventures in the Amazon rain forests. Plotkin has been studying the plants of the Amazon with the considerable assistance from the indigenous peoples whose trust he has gained over the past 20 years of research. In spite of the ever growing problem of deforestation and habitat loss, Plotkin remained upbeat as he detailed the search for medicinal plants and the long journey, physically and culturally, back to the laboratory where the plants are subsequently analyzed. He also emphasized the concept of reciprocity, whereby the visitors give something back to the locals. In the short term this can include basics such as water purification and Western medicines. Long-term, the plan is to guarantee the local people royalties from any drugs derived from the native plants. Plotkin reminded the teachers that ethnobotany was an easy sell in the science class room, noting:
"With naked people, poisonous plants and the rain forest, it's not hard to get the students attention."
Ernestine then returned for more hilarity, along with other favorite personality permutations such as Edith Ann, the Bag Lady and Sister Reverend Boogie. Lily Tomlin then spoke as herself, reminiscing about a favorite science teacher of hers (he ended every lecture with "Maybe") and finished by giving the teachers a collective hug and saying, "You guys are great!"
Al Gore's cartoon gallery
Lily Tomlin One-liners
More Photos from the Reception
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