Thursday (the 5th) started with breakfast, although we were a bit more picky about the sorts of ducks paddling around in the pond, bunny_hugger even telling the less-interesting ducks that we had seen many like them back home and they should shoo off so the more exotic ones could paddle around us. Also I tried a soft-boiled egg for the first time in ages and found that I was able to deal with the ``getting the shell off'' problem better than I used to.
bunny_hugger was to present her paper, and to also lead a session --- mostly making sure people started and ended on time --- and I did want to see her at work, so, I went with her to the campus. From the outside I thought the campus looked like many built in the United States in the late 60s and early 70s, with enormous expanses of cement patios and tiny planters were green was allowed to intrude. I had no idea what the insides of buildings looked like. We spent nearly the whole day in one building, although it might have been three or four, because of the weird footprint and the elevated corridors and the several distinct towers to upper-level rooms and the strange, Transformers-like names of different rooms: Theatron. Ruppert Gamma. Studieplek, hidden behind labyrinths of half-flight stairwells and mirror-lined doors and doglegs hiding tinier stairwells. It's a staggering building, the sort of Brutalist structure that grabs you, sits on your head, and makes you beg for mercy and then you notice there's a skateboarding-style half-pipe in the hallway outside the theater because ... wait, what? We got lost several times, and directions only partly helped.
Since I lacked a college or university to sponsor my attendance I was buying my own way in, and doing so on the spot, which went about like at-the-door attendance purchases at furry conventions might (we had tried to buy the day pass on Tuesday, just before the welcome reception, but they would have none of it on the grounds it was too near 7 pm, when the reception was to start), although when it came to actually paying ... They had the normal little credit card swiping reader like you'd see in the United States, although they're designed for RFID-type microchipped cards, and they had a paper cross tucked in the magnetic swipe slot that warned, no swiping. The woman taking my information didn't know what to do with a non-chip-card like mine, so, she took the do-not-swipe paper out and swiped my card, which ... didn't work. So she took my card's information down and promised to get it charged later on, so we wouldn't miss any more of the day. (Later I would find they charged me twice for my day pass, although they canceled one of those charges out.)
The conference was, I was pleased to find, familiar in tone and structure to mathematics professional conferences I've attended. I may be quite ignorant of the backgrounds of what people were talking about, but, I could still appreciate the flow of things. And if not, I could get distracted by noting things like how the blackboard in the session room bunny_hugger used (for the session she lead --- which got started on time, and got all the new speakers started on time, and only ran a few minutes long for the very last speaker, which is about as impressive as you might think --- and for the one in which she read her paper) was divided down the middle with ``PRO'' on one side and ``CON'' on the other, and apparently unused after that point. Or just how frightfully big Ruppert Gamma, the room she used (for both sessions) was. It kept having row and column of desks, reaching out apparently without bounds. I actually counted and checked and found it has about three hundred desks there. This isn't a lecture hall-style room with the tiered, stadium-style seating. This was a plain old classroom, just extended in length and width to a ridiculous extent. On one side of the floor-to-ceiling glass windows outside was a rooftop garden; on another, the sharp drop down several storeys to the road.
On the paper towel dispenser in one of the bathrooms was a sticker, ``ECU '92 (Heart) You''. I have no explanation for this.
I thought bunny_hugger's presentation neatly reasoned and presented with a good example. The audience, I thought, was interested as well and responded with I'm-interested-in-that style questions. I can't speak for how she thought the responses were.
Since this was a conference on how humans and animals interact and what the guidelines for moral interactions ought to be, several of the presentations got to be focused on the many ways that people are absolutely horrible to animals, and the ways that people use animals to make other people miserable. One that also made me realize I'd read about that in history books was about the mass slaughter of pigs in Cairo a couple years back (response to the swine flu outbreak, in one view, or persecuting the Christian sect who mostly owned the pigs and now haven't got anything --- and who now have to pay for streets to be cleaned by machine rather than by the pigs who ate up all the organic residue instead), and realize that's the same sort of thing which happened in cities like New York in the 1840s when livestock was finally forced off the streets. There's not really any part of this that isn't sad.
The plenary sessions provided amusements small --- I noticed that there was graffiti written on the backs of chairs, except for the first few rows of seats in the front of the room, and wondered about that, also, Dutch graffiti is drastically neater than United States, Singaporean, or British graffiti, with much more uniform character heights and greater control of the line; or that while we saw quite a few people with laptops open and pretending at least to take notes they all appeared to be people with MacBooks, until bunny_hugger found one lone Lenovo user in the mix --- and large. Here I mean the questioners who had ideological differences with the speaker, or the philosophy behind the speaker, or the philosophy behind the conference organizers. The type case for this might be the guy who said he had a three part question, and identified his points with ``first'' and ``second'' and ``third'' and then ``second'' again --- I think his third point might have had sub-points, thus the duplicate second --- before finally winding up in a maze of syntax bad enough that the only response was, ``do you have a question?'' If he did, we never found out what it was. I think he drew a little applause from his compatriots.
The conference provided lunch and a couple of snacks and we'd certainly hope so for what a one-day pass cost, but we were left on our own for dinner. Here we did get to the pizza place which had been closed, and got good-sized slices that seemed to be vegetarian. We also went to a convenience store opposite that which turned out to be much nearer a supermarket, with the idea we'd get exotic local candy bars and stuff to snack on later. The candy bars weren't anything too exceptional, but we found some things we could pack in our bags and which would be useful. I got a bag of cheese snacks that we didn't get to that night, or the next, or the night after; for a while they threatened to come back to the United States with us.
Trivia: At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics the Press Center had eight IBM computers to receive and display results from the game sites. Source: Encyclopedia of the Modern Olympic Movement, Editors John E Findling, Kimberly D Pelle.
Currently Reading: Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio, Jeffrey Kluger.
PS: Reading the Comics, July 28, 2012, continuing the roundup of comic strips that mention things I'm interested in.