I really like going to conferences. I like giant ones with thousands of scientists, and I like small specialized conferences on a focused topic. To be systematic about it, my conference likes and dislikes include:
LIKES (in no particular order)
1 - Watching my current and former students and postdocs give presentations. At the most recent conference I attended, 2 of my students gave truly outstanding talks. There are few academic experiences more exciting than this.
2 - Seeing lots of friends from the various stages of my academic career.
3 - Talking in person to colleagues I don't see very often.
4 - Giving talks about my research. I am particularly excited about one of my current research projects, and it was very fun to give a talk on this recently.
5 - Meeting new people and learning new things.
6 - Exploring other cities/regions.
DISLIKES (in no particular order)
1 - Having people assume that I am a student or that my research is someone else's project or idea. Now that I've been around and semi-visible for a while, the former seldom happens, but the latter still does. Example: At the most recent meeting, I had a conversation with 2 colleagues about the research project that was the subject of my talk. One of these men, whom I will call Y, has a tendency to work on the same thing I do, after I have already started a project [I have written about this before]. Today I got an email from the other man, saying he would like to learn more about the research that "you and Y" are doing. Correction: This is my research idea and my initial results. Y will no doubt work on this soon, if he isn't already working on it, but the chances of my working with him are less than zero.
2 - Going to professional/social functions dominated by senior men who only talk to each other.
3 - Encountering people who are unhappy because I rejected their paper(s) (in my role as an Editor of a journal).
At a recent conferece, I cashed in on a bet that a colleague and I made in 1996. We agreed that in 2006 at a major annual meeting, whoever lost the bet would take the other out for a very nice dinner. I totally won this bet, and I had a very fun evening collecting on it recently. The bet was that I would regret leaving University 1 for University 2. I do not regret this move. In fact, this colleague, who has himself left University 1 now, conceded defeat long ago, maybe even in 1998, but we agreed to keep to the original agreement about the collection date.
6 years ago