Next Conference: San Francisco
Our big academic conference in December was in San Francisco last year. It was exciting. No one wanted to go out to restaurants — or, at least, not like I thought they ought to. The city is hilly. I went to Alcatraz for the first time in my life along with a few other people.
The flight in was pretty nice. Over Lake Tahoe, we saw a couple of KC-10s engaged in a refueling maneuver, which just seemed like two really big planes flying too close to each other. Here’s a photo.
If you look hard enough (you probably need to click on the photo to get an expanded view), you can see the boom connecting the two. Also, the airport in the foreground is Truckee and the ski resort you can see there is Northstar. I’d like to ski Northstar some time, but I don’t see how/when it’s going to happen.
Flying into the city, there were no clouds, which I found weird. Also, we flew in from the north, then circled around the south, so we got some views of the bay that I’d never seen from the air before (that I recall).
I dunno. The conference was at the Marriott Marquis, which was fine except that it was under construction and all the conference rooms were underground, which made it really easy to wander back upstairs and away from the conference.
Also, here’s what it looks like when you’re on the boat approaching Alcatraz.
While pretty cramped, it otherwise seemed like it’d be a nice place to be in prison. Really nice views of the city, plus fresh breezes off the water. A little windy.
And then I took no photos of the conference itself.
- The breakfasts at the hotel weren’t great, but they did exist.
- It’s predictable but interesting how the specific location of the conference determines who does and doesn’t attend.
- There are way too many Germans that attend these conferences regardless of location. It’s unnerving.
- My room was fine.
And then I went home. Except that the morning of my flight I got a text from Alaska Airlines saying that my flight would be leaving from San Jose instead of from San Francisco. So I got to SFO three hours before my flight was supposed to leave and Alaska paid for an Uber to take me to SJC. And then I went home.
Another Conference, Another Continent: 2.5 Days in Seoul
TBH, it was actually 73 hours. Just that it takes about three hours to get from the plane to town, then about two hours from town to the airport plus two more hours of “get there early” time (necessary at ICN). Anyway, about 2.5 days of functional time there, plus sleeping. Seoul!
It was supposed to be 3.5 days, but Delta did this:
- Was flying from SLC, connecting in SEA onto Korean. Had a two-hour layover in SEA scheduled.
- Plane loads normally in SLC. Then the pilot comes on and says that due to Seattle weather, we’re going to be delayed an hour. I figure: this should still work out.
- 45 minutes later, pilot comes on again and says that, due to Seattle weather, we’re going to be delayed yet another hour. I figure: I better do something. So, while sitting in my seat on the Delta flight still…
- I call up Korean Air and let them know what’s going on. They transfer me three times to different people and I’m on hold. There are options still to fly via LAX or LAS and be only six hours delayed.
- While on hold, the pilot comes back on and says he’s convinced ATC that his plane can deal with weather, so we’re going to depart, merely an hour late.
- I hang up the phone.
- Pilot drives the plane onto the runway.
- Then parks the plane, comes onto the PA and announces: well, we’re going to be sitting here for another hour after all.
- Flight gets to SEA two hours late.
- I run to the Korean Air gate. The plane is there still, but they don’t care and won’t let me on.
- Delayed 24 hours as a result after I turned down Delta’s eventual offer to re-route me thru Atlanta via a red-eye that would have resulted in only a 23.5-hour delay.
And then I have to stand in line for an hour to get Delta to talk to me about re-booking, then it takes 45 minutes of the Delta rep being on the phone with another Delta rep to get me re-booked. Then I go to baggage claim to get my bags since I’m going to be overnighting and, just two hours after that, my bags appear.
At any rate, despite SLC being my “home airport”, I’m accumulating all my miles on Alaska these days. We’ll give them the next couple opportunities to be awful, meanwhile Delta can go back on the pile with United and American.
Korean Air was pretty great once on-board, though. Their economy-class seats have the same amount of room as every other airline’s economy-plus seats, the food was pretty good, and since Americans believe North Korea’s about to attack something, the flight wasn’t full and I had empty seats next to me both directions.
^^ Dinner on KAL, the American option.
My hotel room came with a bidet. Most of the buttons seemed to do the same thing.
One of the better parts of the trip was having my good friend Inchan show me around some places and give me a “real Korean (tourist) experience”. For instance, here’s the palace that we didn’t get to until it was closed.
Then this is me getting an envelope of water at the Korean empire museum.
Inchan also made it a mission of his to show me where to eat. We didn’t eat dog. I was worried I might acquire a taste for it, which might really sour things for me back home with the corgi. Anyway. This was a back-alley barbecue place that was pretty fantastic.
My buddy, Dave Eargle, whom I cunningly tricked into attending the PhD program at Pitt, and I went to the DMZ for about half a day. He worries that I don’t show pictures of other people on my blog, so: here you go, Dave! This is him waiting on the train to Pyongyang (which never did come 🙁 ).
And then this is what mid-December in a large, Korean mall looks like. Long, dark coats are really the thing this year in Korea apparently. (Last year, sorry.)
Finally, this is what my airplane looked like before I got on it. After? No idea.
- A lot of Korean people there.
- Everything in Seoul is a one-hour bus ride away.
- Except some things are a two-hour bus ride.
- When I went out to the palace with Inchan, I was the only non-Korean on the subway.
- Compared to my memories of Japan and Hong Kong, (South) Korea seems much, much more western.
- Where by “western”, I mean American. It just didn’t seem that foreign, which made it an oddly easy place to be visiting.
- Also, the hotel was surprisingly cheap — nice place, across the street from the conference center for $100/night.
- There is nowhere — nowhere — to buy snack-type food in the Seoul airport. This was a terrible realization when it happened.
- My favorite thing Koreans do is make an “ohhh” sound and nod their heads whenever someone tells them something stupid. The guy on the flight home was telling the flight attendant “I’m supposed to be at the front of the plane”, to which the flight attendant responded “ohhh” while nodding. It’s apparently the Korean version of the “bless your heart” put-down.
And when I got home, I still had the bronchitis I’d left with. But no jet lag either direction. Weird.
Scenes from a Conference in Philly
They’re actually just scenes from Philly, not from the conference. I barely went to the conference. Well: I went to two sessions, which technically is the same number I attended at ICIS. But anyway: Philly is a large city with good restaurants and an urban rail/subway situation that functions reasonably well, aside from the one insane person per car rule, which — I mean, it seems like there might be some upside to the train system isolating its liabilities better.
My hotel was very close to the convention center and next door to a court building. Interesting people were hanging out nearby (not pictured).
- Was neat to see Orrin Cooper again. This (INFORMS is the name of the conference) was his main conference for the year.
- Again, good restaurants.
- Some very strong hipster ‘hoods.
- Taking the train from the airport to downtown: very convenient and faster/cheaper than a cab (except that they only run every half-hour).
- A lot of homeless. A LOT of homeless.
- Very impressive city hall.
- Did not find Paddy’s Pub. I suspect it is not real :(.
Conferences in Exotic Locales: Auckland
Conferences in exotic locales are pretty similar to those in normal locales, just a lot more expensive and time-consuming to reach. And less well-attended.
Here are some photos of Auckland. I was there for a non-exotic conference last December.
Mostly, though, it looked like this:
But standing maybe half the time. Usually with a lot more people around.
Milan: City of Conferences and of One Large Cathedral
My impressions of Milan, having spent a week or so there for a conference and stuff:
- Everything looks like it’s from the 70’s.
- Sidewalks are narrow and not flat; people walk on them slower than they need to anyway.
- They have a lot of Italian-brand cars.
- People seem to be dressed up a lot of the time.
- They actually speak Italian there.
- “Grazie” means thank you, “prego” you’re welcome and some forms of “please, and “ciento venti” means give me my room key (apparently). I learned three words of Italian and one of them was a number.
- Pizza is the only food they have.
- Well, pasta, I guess. Mostly pizza. I saw a döner place somewhere, but there were only Turks inside. Not the mechanical kind. Or maybe so — it’s hard to know.
Here are some pictures of places and things.
Good enough. Milan’s not a very scenic town and with the conference and the latent interview stress I didn’t have time to explore anywhere outside of the city. I kind of liked it, though. People were friendly and helpful, it felt safe, and it probably would have been interesting if I’d meant to be there for anything other than a conference (e.g., if I’d read *anything* about the place before going).
Better than Rome.
PS, Also: “prosciutto cotto” = ham (or some sort of very ham-like pork product).