Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton
pne

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There and back again, part 4

Friday/Saturday, 25/26 July

This morning, I packed all my things since I'd be checking out that day.

Previously, there had always been two small towels next to the sink; however, on Thursday, they had taken both of them away and hadn't left new ones. I had asked for towels and got two large ones.

This turned out to be rather handy since I could take a shower and dry myself off with these towels; the ones I had had before would have been too small and the one I had brought along (which I had used the other days) I would have had to put into the suitcase still damp.

After I was packed, showered, and dressed, I went down and checked out. Well, since I had payed in advance, I basically simply said I was leaving and the chap behind the counter said that that was fine; there was nothing more I needed to do.

I left for the bus stop but didn't feel like waiting for the bus for longer than a minute or so; since it wasn't due for another eight minutes I decided to walk to the metro station, trailing my suitcase.

I was able to leave my suitcase in a little room used by the conference organisers during the day, which was fortunate.

This day was dominated by Parrot talks—at least, the talks I went to. One interesting point was when Léon Brocard talked about Little Languages in Parrot and I asked whether MMIX had been implemented in Parrot. He said that there was no such project except for the one I had implicitly started by mentioning it ;) It shouldn't be that hard, since it's basically assembler-to-assembler transcoding.

Marty Pauley gave an amusing talk on Perl6 ideas stolen from Japanese, though he said the real title of the talk was 混合語 kongōgo [which EDICT defines as "(n) (linguistic) blending or contamination, new language created by blending two or more existing languages"].

The talk started off by noting what a coincidence it was that Larry Wall had started learning Japanese at around the time that Perl6 was conceived, and noting some features (such as topicalisation and brevity) that, he said, derive from Japanese. He claimed that many Perl developers were secretly learning Japanese.

He also presented a couple of tongue twisters, including the classic 李も桃も桃の内 sumomo mo momo mo momo no uchi "plums and peaches are both in the peach family" and 庭には二羽鶏がいます niwa ni wa niwa niwatori ga imasu "In the garden, there are two chickens" (which I volunteered to read out loud, thus exposing my should-be-secret knowledge of Japanese :p).

However, he had an interesting twist on the second one, which I hadn't come across before: 庭に鰐は二羽鶏を食べた niwa ni wani wa niwa niwatori wo tabeta "In the garden, a crocodile ate two chickens" (though I prefer 庭に鰐は鶏を食べた niwa ni wani wa niwatori wo tabeta "In the garden, a crocodile ate chickens" for approximating the first one more closely).

Lunchtime was shortened to only 50 minutes (from 75) in order to leave more time for lightning talks and the auction, so I had my lunch in the little green square opposite the the CNAM—as did a number of others.

During the second coffee break of the day, there were little groups discussing various country-specific Perl werkshops: Dutch speakers were to meet in the O'Reilly room, German speakers in the Fotango room, and Scandinavians in the ActiveState room.

The previous occupants of the Fotango room didn't finish in time, so the German speakers ended up meeting in the hallway outside the room. There were quite a number of us, perhaps 20 or so; certainly more than Jürgen Christoffel had expected—he said he had reckoned with maybe half a dozen.

He spoke about the German Perl Workshop, which has been going since 1999 (one year before the first YAPC::Europe!) and which can always need help, either by attending, speaking, organising, or simply making its existence known.

While waiting for the impromptu meeting to begin, I talked with a young lady I had noticed a couple of times during the conference. It turned out that she (Catrin Jaross) was from Hamburg, too (though she had never been to a Hamburg.pm meeting). We got to talking a bit and it was rather enjoyable.

She said that her situation was, in a way, the opposite of mine: I do mostly C but would prefer doing Perl; she does mostly Perl but wouldn't mind doing a bit of C :). She works for mobile.de, the company which (apparently) employs the most Perl users in Hamburg. She suggested we keep in touch afterwards, which sounded good to me.

Lightning talks after coffee break were a mixed bag, but mostly good. What I didn't quite understand, however, was why everyone felt the need to use their own laptop for slides: this took away from their speaking time since they had to set it up, connect it to the projector, sometimes even plug in a power cable (in one case, even boot the operating system!)—all that kind of doesn't have a place in the five-minute lightning-talk format. Still, it mostly worked out in the end, even if one or two talks had to be switched because one presenter wasn't quite prepared yet.

Two memorable talks were by someone from Israel.pm who considered who the biggest Perl mongers group was according to various criteria including list membership, number of messages sent, and amount of alcohol consumed (London.pm, unsurprisingly, came out on top), and by Philippe "BooK" Bruhat.

Philippe said in his talk abstract that he would talk about Perl Mongers in France, in French. He had a kind of simple slideshow written in Perl that displayed text and went from one "page" to another according to a timer.

At first, he said what it said on the screen, but then it came to the point where he wanted to address the French. The computer kept displaying text, only now it was for the benefit of non-French speakers. Unfortunately, it was so entertaining that people kept laughing, preventing poor Philippe from either keeping his train of thought or even being heard ;).

For example, it started off with "But... BUT... he's talking in French! I'm only a poor computer, but I'll try to keep you entertained while he's talking to the frogs. Have you heard the one where a priest and a rabbit walked into a bar? Wait, that's probably not appropriate" etc. etc. At one point, there was also a French joke, which went something like this: "Quel est le prénom de l'étoile polaire? — Éléonore", which caused the French speakers in the audience to burst out laughing.

At any rate, poor Philippe finally concluded and said he'd talk to the French speakers afterwards and simple let the rest of his "slides" display for the benefit and amusement of his audience.

At the end of the day was the (by now probably infamous) auction. This included live IRC being projected onto a screen behind Greg McCarroll, the auctioneer, with more or less appropriate coments (often less).

The physical items tended to be OK—mostly books, which generally ended up sold in classical auction style if there were only one or two, or in "Dutch auction" style (counting down from a fixed price, people raise their hands when it's low enough for them and they get it at that price, continue until no more items are left) if there were more than three.

A couple of things looked really nice, especially a set of pocket reference guides for (IIRC) emacs, Perl, HTTP, HTML, and XML. Unfortunately, the price for that quickly climbed to €60, which was more than I was prepared to spend. I ended up with one book: Perl and XML for €35. A bit more than I had planned on spending, but I'm told it's a good book and it may come in handy in the near future. It also gave me something to read on the way back home.

There were also stranger things such as a pink parrot twisted out of balloons by Piers Cawley, the chance to have an obfuscation (that had been commissioned by davorg two years ago) run or not, a set of underwear from mjd, and Elaine Ashton's bra (black, Victoria's Secret).

The strangest of all, without doubt, was the right to choose which language would be used on the front page of the London.pm and Paris.pm web sites.

This started of as being between English and French, but as the bids got around €80, Mary Pauley jumped in with Japanese. This sounded crazy, but he got about €180 in total pledges until someone pledged €200 for Esperanto.

Then things turned really goofy. The Japanese people couldn't keep up, but several of them (including myself) switched over to the Esperanto camp sooner or later and the race was on between English and Esperanto.

The bids climbed slowly higher and higher; sometimes a language would lead only by one euro until someone else decided to squander some money, I mean donate it to the Perl Foundation, in the name of sanity or insanity.

We knew it was insane when people had pledged a total of €1000 for both English and Esperanto. A thousand euros to decide the official language of two web sites!

The bidding finally closed at €1351 for English and €1372 for Esperanto (which won). So the two web sites are going to be in Esperanto now.

I'm not quite sure how long for (terms mentioned included six months, until the end of the year, a year, and until next YAPC), but I think for that price, a year might be appropriate. Bizarre.

We had to leave fairly quickly since the auction went overtime and didn't finish until 18:45 (rather than 18:00) and the building was to close at 19:00 (just before the end, Pete "sheriff" Sergeant got sold to Ann Barcomb as a "towel boy" for €5… I'm sure there's a story there somewhere but I don't know what it is).

Since it was drizzling outside and wearing sandals, I didn't feel like hanging around talking to people and so I left fairly quickly. I felt weird just leaving, but then I've always felt that when leaving YAPCs for some reason.

I decided to take the bus, rather than the metro, to Gare du Nord so that I wouldn't have to carry my suitcase up and down the stairs. That worked fairly well, except that I had to wait a quarter of an hour for the bus. (But at least there was a little indicator at the bus stop with an LCD showing how long before the bus arrives.)

I ended up at Gare du Nord about an hour and a half early, so I sat down against a railing to wait.

I saw there were two girls next to me; after a while I noticed they were speaking German, and struck up a conversation with the one nearest to me to pass the time.

Apparently, the two of them were also going back to Hamburg; they had spent the preceding two-and-a-half weeks cycling through France looking at interesting architecture for the other girl's History of Art degree, spending the night in tents on campsites.

At one point, the other girl left to have a look around the train station and try to find out whether there were any news about the train (since the notice board said that, in general, platform numbers aren't displayed until 15 minutes before a train leaves). When she came back and started talking to the first girl (and later, the girl I had been talking with started reading a magazine), I started reading a bit from Perl and XML.

Then, at least, the other girl came back from another scouting expedition with the news that our train was standing on platform 7, and we all got ready to go to the train. I talked to the girl a bit more and found out her name was Kathrin and she originally came from Dresden.

The two girls had seats while I was in a carriage with couchettes, so we said goodbye at the side of the train when I had reached my carriage. Kathrin said we'd probably see one another again in Hamburg, but that didn't happen because I got out in Harburg already and they, presumably, in the central station.

In the compartment on the way back were a Danish couple, a German lady, and a young girl called Nadja who was 16. The lady had been spending her holidays in St-Malo, while Nadja had worked for three weeks with a youth team on a building site near Paris reconstructing an old church, or something like that.

I offered to trade bunks with the lady since she was sleeping at the top and I at the bottom. She accepted, and we were both happy—I because I could use the top shelf to put some of my stuff within easy reach, and she because she didn't have to worry about hitting the ceiling during the night (as she had, often, in the place where she had spent her holidays) or about climbing the ladder.

There was something unusual just after we left the station: an announcement that, due to electrical problems, the air conditioning in carriage 121 could not safely be switched on and that those passengers were to be distributed over the remaining couchette carriages 120–123.

This meant that passengers were asked not to leave their compartments until the steward had come and collected the ticket and ascertained which bunks were in use. The announcement said that passengers who left, for example to go to the dining car, risked having their berths re-assigned.

There was one bunk in our compartment which was free, but the steward said that it would be filled by a passenger getting in in Brussels. In order to minimise the disturbance she would cause, I made the bed for her so that she could simply get in, since we wouldn't be getting to Brussels until shortly before midnight.

She did come in (and it was a lady, though I don't know why I guessed that) but she got out in Bremen before most of us were really awake.

In the morning, we were 40 minutes late leaving Bremen and there were announcements informing passengers of their new connections. I was glad that Hamburg was my final destination and that I could simply get off at Harburg and take the bus, which goes every 10 minutes or so on Saturday mornings.

And now I'm home.

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