Solipsism and Me

Idle reports from an idle fellow

The thing of this gig is

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Setting up a workshop is much the same wherever you go. You just need to find the right person to plead with, or be exceptionally polite to, in order to get access to the right set of computers. Then you need to check that they have actually installed the software you asked them to install when planning the workshop (which, if you asked the wrong person, they won’t have); then check that the software can actually be installed and does behave as expected on the machines you’re going to use (which in my case it didn’t). Then there are minor things like getting handouts printed and duplicated, and meeting up with your fellow presenters when their mobile is switched off, and yours is lost somewhere in Frankfurt. So I missed the opening session of the conference but made friends with the lady who runs the Tsentra Informatsionii Tekhnologii instead. An hour or so later, I had seen Oxygen installed on a room full of computers, detected and removed a rogue byte-order-mark from one my Pushkin demo file, printed out and sent for copying two sets of handouts, and located Tanya waiting patiently for me at the back of the conference hall.

Over coffee, Tanya showed me a bunch of typos and other corrections that she’d found in the Russian version of the handouts, and I persuaded her that we didn’t have time to correct them before starting the now urgent business of copying stuff onto the participants’ gift usb keys (kindly provided by INTUTE UK to whom be praise). We sat there in the student canteen copying sticks for the next 30 minutes; students in implausibly short skirts wandered distractingly by. Then we lunched far too briefly at an interesting Uzbek restaurant further down the hill, and made it back in good time to Do The Gig – two lectures, each in English and Russian, followed by a Kofye Braik
(lemon tea in a plastic cup), and a 90 minute practical, at the end of which all two dozen students had successfully produced a well formed XML document. Phew. (did I say how hot it is in Kazan?)

Later that evening, I am invited to traditional Russian dinner upstairs in a Tatar restaurant: plates of salad, cold meat, etc. With copious amounts of wine, orange juice, and vodka. During this first course, people stood up one by one to make a polite self-introduction, usually followed by a formal toast and a bit of badinage, as far as I can judge (my neighbour was too busy enjoying to do more than give me brief explanations “he is from Perm” “they suggest we take conference to Lake Baikal” etc.) Enthused by vodka, I duly did my best, explaining that I came from a small University town west of the Urals and suffered from a distressing lack of geographical knowledge which I was excessively grateful for this opportunity to rectify. (Which is true: I have now met several people from places I never knew existed.) Everyone trouped out of the restaurant for a cigarette break between courses, even those who were not smoking, which gave me the chance to have my photo taken with people from Perm, and to chat with people from the Russian National Corpus in Moscow. I drank far too much vodka too.


Written by Lou

August 27, 2008 at 14:14

Posted in Uncategorized

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