I spent the last weekend at LCC4 (the fourth Language Creation Conference) in Groningen in the Netherlands.
Executive summary: I had a great time and I’m very glad I went!
Having decided to take the bus from Groningen to Bremen on the way back (since the train connection was disrupted due to construction), I decided to take the bus on the way there as well. Which was just as well: it saved me one connection and I got a mode of transport that was explicitly suited to long-distance passengers with suitcases (as opposed to the two-storey trains which I found were in use between Bremen and Leer, for example). Also, I found out where the busses stop, so I didn’t have to hunt around for the way back.
The bus trip was uneventful and the bus was punctual. Upon enquiring, I heard that most busses are on time, especially on the way back: since long-distance busses can carry people within Germany only under certain circumstances, the stops in Germany are nearly all only for getting off, which is faster than getting on.
I got to the hotel and checked in; they already had a room ready for me, fortunately. They could even fulfil my request to get a room on the quiet side (not the one facing the highway, which I had read a couple of complaints about on various hotel evaluation sites), yay.
I met Chrys Jordan there, who had the room next to mine; since he was helping to set up the conference room, I went with him to the venue. (Only a couple of minutes’ walk, since the designated hotel, where quite a few of the participants stayed and for which the LCS had obtained a really good deal, was literally right around the block; yay!)
Nobody was there yet, and I had plans anyway, so I left, while Chrys hung around and waited for Christophe. I headed on into town to see where the restaurant was where those who wanted to would meet on Friday evening, to make sure I could find it. Thanks to Google Maps and Google Street View, that was not a big problem.
I had a brief look at the big marketplace and then headed back.
I popped into the venue, where people were now busy setting up tables, and said hello to the people who were already there, including Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets (who had organised the conference) and David J. Peterson and Sylvia Sotomayor of the LCS. We also tried out the DVD of Leo to make sure it would work on the A/V equipment there, which it did.
After all the tables were set up and they were confident that the equipment was working (they had some problems with the audio and video streaming at first), they closed up and I went back to the hotel.
In the evening, I took the bus to the restaurant. I was cutting it a bit fine (the bus was to arrive at 19:56; the dinner was to start at 20:00) but I figured since I knew the way, I could make it. The bus was late, however, which made me a bit nervous. But I got there at about 20:05, and was still in time: people were still trickling in, one of the two tables was still empty, and food had not yet been served. Outside the restaurant, I met Lykara Ryder and Tam Blaxter (who, coincidentally it seems, were staying at the same bed-and-breakfast near the venue; the Stadspark, if I recall correctly), and I went inside and upstairs with them.
In the restaurant, I had the first mind-blowing experience of the conference: waxing enthusiastic at length about language, and having people understand what I was talking about and having them be interested in the same things I was! (When I told Stella about this afterwards, she said something along the lines of, “See, I had been telling you that there are other weirdoes like you out there!” :D)
Or, as Arnt Richard Johansen so eloquently wrote (in message 2a.) [is there a better URL for the message? The conlang.info archives seem to be out of date and the Brown ones I’m not sure whether the URLs are permalinks or session-specific]:
I've come back from my marvellous adventure in Groningen quite excited and energized. LCC4 was a stimulating, fascinating, gezellig, very |ole-|ǿkø experience. As much as I embrace the wonders of the Internet and modern technology, there really is something to be said for meeting like-minded people in person. Not only because of the “wow, there actually are other people like me” aspect, but also because you have the pleasure of discussing fairly arcane aspects of our craft without having to introduce them to the fundamentals first.
To those of you who were there, thank you so much! Special thanks go to Christophe Grandsire-Kovoets for organizing the practical parts so well (having the hotel 5 min away from conference centre made for a relaxing experience), and to the Americans for putting up with the long flight and the jet lag just so *I* didn't have to. :-)
To those of you who were not there, I hope to see you some other time. Yes, it's fun to follow the live video stream, or watch the recorded talks, that's what I did during and after LCC3. But if you ask me, you missed out on the best parts of the conference: what happened between the talks, during lunch, and at the restaurants & pub. If you get the chance to visit an LCC, don't hesitate, SIGN UP!
which I heartly second essentially in its entirety. Really, if you’re interested in conlanging and you have the opportunity, do attend an LCC. It’s really worth it.
On Saturday and Sunday, there were, of course, several talks, some with interesting food for thought and most of them interesting. I had feared, beforehand, that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy many of the talks but I ended up liking nearly all of them!
I also found the IRC backchannel interesting. I had not originally brought my laptop over but remedied that fairly soon. (Though I’m not that good at multi-tasking; occasionally, reading and/or writing caused me to miss some of the actual talk, so it was a mixed blessing.)
Lunch was provided by the venue, and it was a yummy buffet both days. They even had special gluten-free food both days for a coeliac participant, which I found great.
On Saturday evening after the first day of talks, people went over to the hotel to chat a bit. However, I found it difficult to hear even the people on the other side of the table from me, much less anyone further away, so I went up to my room. (Acoustics of the room? I had less trouble in the restaurant on Friday evening.)
I found out the next morning that the group had only stayed there for about half an hour anyway, then they went into town to eat and drink something, and I heard they had played Kaleissin’s IPA game (which I had seen a couple of the cards for earlier). I regretted having missed that; perhaps I should have stayed after all.
One of the most hilarious parts of the conference was the unveiling of the conlang translation relay (for those who haven’t heard of those, it’s a bit like a game of “Broken Telephone”/“Stille Post”). David announced beforehand that anyone after the first couple of participants would likely be rather surprised by the original text he would show, since the text had changed quite a bit in the course of the relay. And indeed, there was an amusing series of alterations as people struggled to understand other people’s conlangs and make sense of the text they received and to encode it in their own language. A couple of changes reversed themselves spontaneously, which was also amusing, and the fact that some of the participants fitted the text to a conculture-appropriate form (e.g. eight-syllable lines in four-line stanzas or a special “myth”-type way of telling a story) provided some interesting input, too. Wat heb we lacht!
On Sunday, after the conference was over, I had originally planned to sit around in the hotel until the bus left, then grab a quick snack at the train station, but when I found a group of people heading to town for food, I decided to join them, and was glad I did. Proper food in a nice Chinese–Indonesian restaurant called “Ou Hai” with a group of people was much more fun than a kroket from a vending machine by oneself! And my “bami goreng special of the house” was also great.
A slightly amusing incident: the waitress we had first appeared to speak English, German, and Dutch, but later on, another waitress came who didn’t speak English, and had difficulty when we asked her whether a bowl of rice wasn’t missing. Njenfalgar tried to translate the request into Dutch, but she seemed to have difficulty with his Dutch, too—oops! Guess she wasn’t used to Belgian accents :) (With no diphthongs, for example.) But we got the point across in the end (and found out that of the two bowls of rice on the table, the bigger one was intended for two people, so everything was all right after all).
Jan Strasser and I ended up taking the same bus and train home, since he was headed for Hamburg, too; that provided another interesting conversation and made a long journey (including a layover of about an hour in Bremen) much more interesting. So the trip ended as it had begun: with an interesting conversation about languages with someone who shared my interest. Yay!