Saturday, July 18, 2009

More from Sevilla

I am sitting in the air-conditioned hotel lobby. I will shortly be calling a cab to go to the airport. Here are some more things to report from the last couple of days:

1. Today I walked through a rather large local park for a while. (I assume this is listed among the tourist attractions.) I encountered two museums on the other side, so I looked around in those for a while. One of them concerned archeology and the other concerned art and lifestyle. I took an awesome picture of a cat chilling in the shade outside the later (Saturday catblogging!), and that will almost certainly make my photoblog today. I have some great picture of buildings and scenery as well, but this particular picture is so damned cool that I don't care that it isn't particularly Sevillian. On the way back, I naturally got lost and even started walking in the exact wrong direction at some point---I was even on the exact right street, but my direction sense is so bad that I was 180 degrees off with my subsequent choice of direction---but I eventually figured it out, walked back, accidently found a cafe in the process, had coffee and read for a bit, and then made it back to the hotel. (The cafe had lots of chocolate drinks too, but it's bloody hot here so I wasn't in the mood for a hot chocolate, and I figured trying to ice the drink would screw up the consistency.)

2. Several people asked me for directions (in Spanish, of course). They didn't realize how doomed they were. Naturally, I responded that I didn't know and was not from here.

3. Outside the conference room there is a fire extinguisher with the label "UNIX". ("This is a UNIX system. I know how to use this.") I will post this in a directory with other Seville pictures so that you can see some things aside from what I put in the photoblog. Stay tuned...

4. On a few occasions, I did some translating for other conference attendees when they were asked questions in Spanish that baffled them.

5. Several of the streets had a walk signal that consisted of a green animation of a person walking. In such cases, the animation would start to walk much faster just before changing to red. (There was no yellow signal.)

6. Wednesday night's social event was a boat trip on a local river. I have already posted one picture from that, and I will post a few more.

7. Thursday night's second social event was the banquet. Almost none of us got enough sleep that night, which made giving my talk on Friday morning a bit harder than it otherwise would have been. It also lowered attendance somewhat.

8. Just before the banquet, we had a tour of the Alcázar of Sevilla. There were a lot of us, so we split into two---not each person; half of us went with one tour guide and half went with the other. We had a choice of a tour in Spanish or one in English, and naturally I chose the former. I would have never lived it down if I hadn't and I wanted to test myself anyway. I had to concentrate much more than I would have with the other choice, but I understood almost every word that was spoken. The hardest parts were when it was a label that I couldn't apply without context (such as in a couple of cases indicating what material something was made of) or when it was a word that was different in Spanish Spanish than in South American Spanish. (The Spanish I know is partly generic Spanish and partly South American Spanish.)

9. The conference ended yesterday with a psychoceramics talk in which the speaker attempted to develop his own version of electromagnetism. I looked at his website, and he's actually written a lot of serious papers in top physics and applied math journals, so I guess he just jumped the shark at some point (or, if you prefer, contracted Josephson Disease). I hope this never happens to me.

10. Dinners in Spain are bloody late. Granted, this has a lot to do with having siestas when the sun is at its peak and being out late at night instead. Our conference dinner on Thursday started at 9:40 and I got back to the hotel at 12:30, and I was one of the first ones to leave.

11. I left for Thursday's events at 7:30 pm. When I came back at 12:30 am, there were 30 work e-mails waiting for me. Sheesh. Some of my collaborators work very hard. Naturally, I went through these before crashing, though my page proofs will have to wait until my return to Oxford. (Actually, because I am setting up my new computer tomorrow, I will probably start on them on Monday.)

12. After the conference ended on Friday evening, we probably had over ten people from the conference in the hotel lobby doing work or other stuff of various forms on their computers at around 8:30 pm. What a bunch of nerds! :)

13. I think I might have been the only American at this conference. There were people from US universities.

14. I seem to have procured a visit to Singapore on someone else's dime. This goes along with the trip on someone else's dime to Belgium that I procured at the last conference and the invitation to Germany I already had. (Actually, I also have been invited to stay with a friend when I visit Berlin, though she's usually located in Oxford, so that one will require some coordination.) Anyway, it looks like I have some good opportunities in the near future to add to the countries I've visited. I will be in Poland next month, and of the others I expect to knock off Belgium first.

15. One of the conference attendees was someone I had met in grad school (and whose wife was a fellow CAMster). I had heard of him but didn't remember him at first. As is usually the case, he knew exactly who I was immediately. Another attendee had been a grad student at Georgia Tech when I was a postdoc there. Conferences are always good for encountering people one hasn't seen in a while.

16. There were more demands from my professional colleagues for pictures of me in my Oxford cap and gown. I am going to be an Examiner this Friday, so that's the next time I am wearing that stuff. One of my friends has offered to help with the picture, though I need to check whether the timing this Friday will be workable. I'll let you know if such a picture becomes available that quickly.

17. And on the third day of the conference, we were interrupted by ninjas. Sadly, they were way too fast, so I couldn't get a picture of them. I wish I had had my camera out. They took advantage of the fact that we were having our coffee break so that the girl who was filming them could catch them running out from behind the posters. Interestingly, most of my colleagues didn't seem to notice. I should have gotten my camera out as soon as I saw the girl preparing her camcorder---I hadn't notice the "ninjas" going to hide amongst us. Ah well, they were ninjas, so I guess that gives me a decent excuse for not being fast enough to take a picture of them.

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