July 7th, 2004

krazy koati

Doctor Monk unpacks his trunk tonight

I thought it was worth taking time to compare the several furry conventions I've been to (CFEast 2, the Albany Anthrocons, and the first Albanyless Anthrocon) to mathematics conventions like the one I was at last month. Superficially they're very similar -- bunches of mostly white guys travelling great distances to hang out together -- but there are perfectly arbitrary differences. Do not confuse the two!

A vendor's room consisting mostly of inch-thick A5-sized magazines densely written with a handful of black and white illustrations inside but an abstract wavy surface on the cover is diagnostic of being at a mathematics convention. People with stringy fuzzy tails clipped to their pants are more common at a furry convention.

Plenary speech titled ``When are there Infinitely Many Irreducible Elements in a Principal Ideal Domain?'': mathematics. Session titled ``Why are Transformation Stories so Unspeakably Horribly Written?'': furry. Vicious shouting match inspired by Usenet: furry. Vicious shouting match inspired by Kolmogorov-Arnold-Moser theory: mathematics.

Being at a hotel or a convention center is common to mathematics and to furry conventions. Being on a college campus is marginally more likely for a mathematics convention, although a few jokers like Genericon -- not explicitly furry, but it creeps in by the anime-and-gamers route -- will sneak in that way. At a furry convention there is, any day and any time, somebody playing Animalymics somewhere. At a mathematics convention there's a better chance of people sneaking out to watch a ball game; at the furry convention they sneak out to watch the team mascots.

Both kinds of conventions will have free snack tables, though mathematics conventions tend to have more grownup people doing the buying, and often with other people's money, so you don't get the furry convention ``Big Phil's Bulk Purchase House Brand Jumbo Bag of Flavorless Nachos'' and instead get odd triangle sandwiches of uncertain but curried tuna-like filling. Last month's had a strange choice for the spring water dispenser; they added enough lemons in it that it was bitter and pulpy and had seeds, but not enough lemons that it was, you know, lemonade. Dilute lemonade is not a successful drink option, but they had it every day, suggesting there are Californians who think it's a good idea.

Internet rooms I'm surprised to say seem to be similarly frustrating at both. I suspect there just isn't generally enough time to make things seamless, although it's more surprising that conventions on college campuses have weird Internet room staffing problems (``You can check your e-mail on those Windows machines.'' ``Can't I just have an ethernet port to plug my laptop in?'' ``But ... you can check your e-mail on those Windows machines.'' ``Yes, but I want to check it on my laptop.'' ``But ... the Windows machines ... '').

And then somebody like this guy will happen along just to confuse the issue.

Trivia: In the mid-1870s around 150,000,000 train journeys were made annually within London. Source: London, A History, Francis Sheppard.

Currently Reading: Louis Pasteur, Patrice Debré.