fivemack: (Default)
I discovered today that I need to represent the company I work for at a conference in Grenoble in two week's time.

Writing a half-hour presentation about fitting molecular models into X-ray-derived difference density will be a bit of work, but at least getting to Grenoble ought not to be a problem; it's famously a TGV destination, I have all of Sunday to get there (conference starts at 8pm Sunday; this being France it starts with an enormous buffet meal), and all of Wednesday afternoon to get back (conference ends noon Wednesday).

The latest Paris-London Eurostar with seats leaves before the latest Grenoble-Paris train with seats gets to Paris. Easyjet in theory flies to Grenoble, but all its flights are sold out. Easyjet's one daily flight from Lyon leaves too early. BA has (expensive) flights at good times, but there's no train from Grenoble on the Wednesday afternoon to get to Lyon in time to catch the BA flight, even though the Lyon TGV station and airport are conveniently colocated.

I have ended up by throwing up my hands and asking the travel-agent who sorted out my trip to Turkey what she can do.

PS: Miraculous and entirely unexpected resolution by [livejournal.com profile] vicarage
fivemack: (Default)
Going to Brussels from Cambridge by bus and plane, rather than by train, for the sake of a small monetary saving was completely daft; Brussels airport is well outside the city, and it took 9:15->6pm to get there and 10:30->5pm to get back. If I'm going to travel nine hours, I at least want to be the other side of the Alps or the Atlantic; if I'd taken the train, I'd have had time to see more of Brussels than the Grand Place and the tram route to the university where the conference was held.

FOSDEM 2006 was a gathering of free-software developers plus enormous numbers of hangers-on, in which number I count myself. Google was there, in small force handing out migraine-inducing polychrome flashing badges, but no other interesting-sounding employers; besides, I have a job now which I didn't when I planned my trip.

There were some interesting talks: Jon Haslam from Sun showing off DTrace, a not-very-free-software tool which lets you do amazing inspection of the details of running systems to watch the weird interactions and ask very directly where all your performance is going, an interesting-looking Gnome video editor. Jeff Waugh from Canonical talked about what Ubuntu was trying to do, but in absurdly broad terms, and taking the relevance of Free Software to the convention-of-human-rights Freedoms as read. The Grand Place in Brussels has some spectacular fret-work in stone. I was a bit surprised to realise that, in this country where everyone would understand you in either French or German, I gravitated to German.

But there was a general feeling that this was an excuse for a huge number of geeks to go and drink beer in Brussels. Brussels beer is undoubtedly good; I got through a fair amount of the temptingly cherry-flavoured Kriek. But there was an immense feeling of undirectedness; there's that traditional maxim that a nerd is a geek with a purpose, and there were many fewer nerds there than I'd have hoped for. Throughout the conference, I had St Peter's admonition to Tomlinson in my ears:

"By the worth of the body that once ye had,
give answer -- what ha' ye done?"

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