Thursday, July 09, 2009

Venice Roundup

Here is a belated roundup of some of my misadventures in Venice. I had been looking forward to the conference, but sadly it didn't work out very well. Here are some highlights and 'highlights':

1. One thing that partly amused me and partly made me uncomfortable because of my proximity were the geriatric boat lesbians on my boat ride to the area of Venice where my hotel was. It was of course nice that they were crazy about each other, but in general I prefer not to be so near anybody who can't take their hands off each other, especially when I get slightly bumped in the process. I guess Venice really can be quite romantic for some people, though the city didn't strike me as overly romantic when taken as a whole.

2. On the first night of the conference, I was going to join a bunch of fellow NetSci attendees at a private tour of a the San Marco Cathedral that the conference organizers had arranged. Sadly, I missed several obvious signs when walking there and ended up at the other side of the city instead. Who knew that the city had more than one giant domed building? So I paid 10 pounds for the privilege of getting hopelessly lost and stressed out in a hot, humid place. Thankfully, knowing Spanish eases communication with the locals quite substantially, and I took advantage of that when I finally realized how hopelessly lost I was and tried to get directions to get back to the hotel. (Venice is a really easy city in which to get lost, which bodes poorly for people like me who have a horrible sense of direction. As it turns out, one of my problems was that the direction that I thought was east turned out to be south.) I ended up having gelato for dinner and being depressed for a while, although the three hours of novel reading I did that night eventually got me out of it. My inability to find the cathedral also provides an excellent illustration of the difference between the concepts 'All Roads lead to San Marco' (which is what fellow conference attendees insisted when I explained to them that I got lost) and 'a set of measure 1 of roads, in the limit as the number of roads tends to infinity' leads to San Marco---namely, I managed to find some roads that would have measure 0 in such a limit. :( Also, Venice has the shortest mean free walking path of any city I have ever been in.

3. Our conference dinner was on the third night of the conference. I was not very impressed. Also, I ended up sitting on my own for quite a while and talked to almost nobody for 3.5 hours during the event, so my mad social skillz really helped me out as well.

4. The lead organizer of the conference technically still owes me gelato. I needed to pay an extra fee to my bank in order to be able to wire money to register for the conference. (Such a transfer was the only payment mechanism.) He promised to buy me gelato and even brought it up again during the event, but I guess this will have to happen at a future conference.

5. We had our group dinner the night after the conference dinner. Four out of the six Oxford people attended. We had a much lower showing at this conference than we did in Norwich for NetSci 2008.

6. I walked around Venice with one of the Oxford grad students on Saturday before I headed off. There were a couple of neat stores, such as one with some fancy chess sets. We also saw some of the art exhibitions.

7. I seriously considered buying a funky jester hat---if for no other reason than to wear it at High Table at some point---but I didn't end up getting one. I'll try to pick one up the next time I'm in Venice.

8. I dropped my laptop onto a quite solid, 200-year-old marble surface. This provides an excellent example of an exogenous shock, as my computer was functioning quite effectively before I did this but not afterwards. My new laptop is on its way... (Also, this was the straw that broke the camel's back. I already wasn't very happy because of a couple of the items above, but then after this I basically really just wanted to go home.)

9. I gave my talk in a church. It was really pretty inside, but I felt the need to be somewhat blasphemous.

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