2 November, 2006
Back from Sardinia. I had an awful time, thanks for asking; mixing a remote European locale with a working conference is a recipe for disaster. Neither get done well. The best parts were the constants at any conference: seeing old friends, making new ones, talks, intellectual ferment, etc. But oh, those details, they tried their damndest to get in the way. My legs are covered in so many mystery-insect bites from my hotel accomodations that it looks like I went camping in shorts and forgot the bug spray. This hotel was two city buses and a 10-minute walk from the conference’s location, so forget about the midday return to hotel room to dump the morning’s materials and pick up stuff for the afternoon, or grab the camera for a quick hour of touring. Maybe all this is quaint and charming when being a tourist but when trying to do actual work (conferences may be fun, but they definitely count as work) it’s pretty goddamn irritating. Lowlight: the Italian attitude towards schedules together with my non-mastery of the Italian bus system made me miss the keynote talk, in which I was referenced by name as a collaborator. Yeah, would have been nice to hear that. Other lowlight: Sardinia is famous for its beaches, and one of the most famous is almost right IN Cagliari, relatively near the conference center. Never even got close.
On the bright side, I missed no flights, lost no luggage, and was not mugged for my camera or new work laptop. I feared all of these due to the luck I’d had the week BEFORE the conference. My superstitiousness doesn’t extend much beyond “don’t discuss a no-hitter that’s in progress,” but I now believe that attending a conference without presenting is bad luck. Or maybe just THIS conference is bad luck. Last year I attended but did not present at this same conference, and had a cold so badly compounded by air travel that I think I permanently lost some hearing in my left ear, and was a miserable achy snotty mess when meeting all the field’s bigwigs. Luckily this year I got to re-make most of those impressions.
Oh, the picture. This is hand-pressed cheese from a dinner the conference held for us at a picturesque old villa outside the city. Of course the entire thing was at night, limiting the picturesqueness quite a bit. We were served traditional regional dishes: spit-roasted suckling pig, a lamb stew type thing, and veal in a rich sauce of some kind (I guess when impressing the guests the thing to do is serve them all the baby animals). It would have been a lovely evening had the return to the hotels not been utter chaos. Many people were on the next morning’s 7am flight, and were still on the bus when it finally dropped me off at 2am.
I gotta say, after flying Lufthansa and connecting through Germany in both directions, it’s perfectly clear who was the brains in the Axis powers and who was just along for the ride.