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Back from Germany! (03 Feb 2007 at 00:26)
Hello everyone. I am writing this post 37,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean in an airplane. Last time that I was in this location the in-flight entertainment—which was a very slowly moving low resolution map that showed our progress and a few interesting and slowly changing facts about our autopilot altitude and velocity—indicated that the oudoor air temperature was a soul splintering -95° F. To imagine this temperature, first begin relaxing your mental self on the beach with basically no clothes on except for a mental bikini bottom or whatever you wear on the beach in your sexy mental self-image. Hey, toasty. Now go from 95° down to 0°F, which is 32 degrees below freezing. You aren't allowed to put any clothes on now in your imagination. That's cheating. At 32 degrees below freezing you can do stuff like pick up bananas that have fallen on the beach and hammer nails into blocks of wood with them. Quite a difference right? Now take that difference and repeat it: -95° is to 0°, naturally, what 0° is to 95° in terms of chilliness. I don't know what other kinds of things freeze enough to hammer nails into blocks of wood with at that kind of temperature, but I'm sure it includes ocean water, and anyway you've already hammered in all the nails with all the bananas, so there goes your nice imaginary tropical vacation. Plus you're nearly naked, heh heh!

Wow, gee, enough about that. This conference was good, I think, better than your average conference. I often hear from my academic advisors that the real action at a conference is not at the talks, but "in the corridors," which I think is true (at least it definitely is once you've established yourself as a researcher that people might kind of want to talk to). This meeting, which was not a publication venue so the focus was not really on talks, and also we were isolated in the middle of Nowhere, Saarland so there was basically nothing to do but go down to the wine cellar of the castle and drink and talk about various research ideas. Plus my whole entire stay including all my meals was only like €200. Danke Schön, German government!

I was happy about how receptive people were to the ideas in my thesis work. It's possible that we had almost everyone in the world who would be interested in the room, so maybe in an absolute sense that's indistinguishible from complete disinterest, but it was surely enough enthusiasm to populate a thesis defense oral. There also was a nice sense of coherence among the people doing research in this area: More groups than I thought are building "tierless" web programming languages that compile to JavaScript, and I think that they are grappling with some of the exact same issues I am, and that I have relevant and elegant type theoretic solutions to some of those problems. Hooray. I also gave a post-prandial reprise of my ICFP Programming Contest talk (by request).

Can you tell this flight is boring? I've now killed about 15 minutes out of 521.

There is literally only one thing to do in the Dagstuhl environs, which is to go to the ruins of the original Castle Dagstuhl from whatever hundred years ago. This activity takes about ten minutes. I even ran through essentially the entire town of Wadern to verify. So on Wednesday we took an excursion to Trier, the oldest city in Germany. It dates back to the year -20 or so. (If you like you can imagine how long that is by first getting naked on the beach, imagining how long ago the year 1010 was, etc.) There was a lot of cool stuff there, especially including the well preserved Roman architecture. Their ridiculously extravagant church also is where they keep Jesus's purported tunic. Carbon dating demonstrates the artifact was actually made around the same year that the chick that found it said she uncovered it (many hundred years ago) but still you'd think the thing was Ben Roethlisberger's jersey by the way they protect it: It's locked inside an air-conditioned glass case, which itself is sealed in a larger wooden box, that box inside a display case that is inside a small room that you can only just see into through a small metal gate all of which is at essentially the crux of the apse of the ridiculously extravagant church in the center of the city, and they've only taken it out 3 times in the entire 20th century. Well, whatever, I saw fake Jeeze Fleece in The Passion of the Christ so no big loss.

Trier is also home to Karl Marx's former house, which is now an eyeglass store. The store doesn't even take advantage of its previous owner's fame, by naming itself SocialEyes or something like that, it was just called "Martin Optik," I think. I was a little tempted to get the socialists to fix my snapped in half eyeglasses, but then maybe I wouldn't have been able to answer certain questions truthfully when returning through passport control in the US. But in Trier I also saw a store specializing in models, like model Flugzeugs und Bahns und dinosaurs, in which I finally found some superglue. This was a little tricky because even though I knew they'd have it, the bottle was labeled "Skin" not "Superglue" and the back label was covered up by the price tag, and then when I peeled it off it said "Cyana acryl." instead of "cyanoacrylate" but I was able to figure it out and buy it without the guy figuring out that I wasn't German even though he probably spoke English anyway. And then of course I've already broken them again on this plane trip.

Germans love board games. They are the kings of board games, and not stupid shit like Chutes und Ladders, simple but really deep board games especially of the strategic sort that computer scientists like. Let's say that naked Germans on a beach are to board games what naked Japanese on a beach are to video games. When I was there I spotted 6 Nimmt!, which is a game I've actually played at Schloß Spopix; in America it is imported as a game about hurricanes called Category 5 that, despite some fluff text, has nothing to do with hurricanes. (I didn't play because I don't actually think that game is that good, at least from the one time I played it, even though it's like a Spiel des Jahres winner I think.) I was hoping to spot a cool expansion pack or something for Settlers of Catan, which we have been playing a lot of recently, but no dice so to speak.

The thing that sucked about Trier was that when we got on the bus to go to the wine tasting/dinner that followed on our itinerary, the bus driver drove us all the way back to Dagstuhl and then was like oops, I forgot to bring you to the wine tasting place. So then we had to drive all the way back to Trier and we were really late and hangry and I didn't drink any wine anyway. But I guess that's not a thing about Trier, that's a thing about our bus driver. You suck, driver.

Oh, the last thing is probly not news to any of you blogosphere readers but I had a good chuckle at the news about how Boston thought that these lite-up ads for the upcoming Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie were bombs. I don't know why they think that a bomb would light up, or have cartoon characters on it. In particular this clueless local report is very funny to watch, especially the part where they use a water cannon on the device to "render it safe."

That is all! In 6 or 7 hours I will be back in Pittsburgh and more or less ready to see you folks again (unless you are one of the people who is visiting my web-site after meeting me at Dagstuhl, in which case the opposite) and for some Superbowling, at least after a nice night's rest!
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mike (h-72-244-70-87.phlapafg.dynamic.covad.net) – 02.03.07 02:15:05
LOLZ!
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Sophia (c-24-91-40-233.hsd1.ma.comcast.net) – 02.03.07 11:01:50
Many have told me that the real point of conferences is getting it on. Maybe the real truth is somewhere in between? (getting it on in the corridors)

and p.s. - Water puts out lights, everyone knows that!

p.p.s. - It's funny too cuz there have been these enormo light-up billboards of the mooninites throughout the city here for months now, too.
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Sophia (c-24-91-40-233.hsd1.ma.comcast.net) – 02.03.07 11:08:04
p.p.p.s. - Though I will also add, while a lot of folks laugh and say, "Why would a bomb ever have a cartoon on it?" I mean, I dunno, why not? According to folks laughing, that would do a good job of making a bomb look like not a bomb, right? It is a pretty weird-ass advertising scheme, isn't surprising that most folks didn't know what the fuck it was, attaching weird shit to major bridge beams, etc...

p.p.p.p.s. - That news broadcast was pretty funny.
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Tom 7 (h-72-244-70-87.phlapafg.dynamic.covad.net) – 02.03.07 14:24:40
Yeah, I mean, to be fair, I think it was right for them to check out the devices on the support beams of bridges... a suspicious place for an advertisement. But once they found out what it was, there was no need to go on a hunt for the other 15 or whatever.
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cdinwood (pool-151-201-23-71.pitt.east.verizon.net) – 02.03.07 16:25:56
Another! Exciting! Tidbit! about Trier was that it was this place that the Allies decided would be fun to bomb. After the Germans signed the treaty that said "Yos, we gives up." The people in Trier were pretty bitter about that for a while.
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Tom 7 (h-72-244-70-87.phlapafg.dynamic.covad.net) – 02.03.07 17:03:23
That's true, they even bombed cool ancient buildings.
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Graue (ip68-100-130-21.dc.dc.cox.net) – 02.03.07 20:13:46
Welcome back at America.

This was a funny post. When you said "32 degrees below zero", I think you meant "32 degrees below freezing". Even though I don't know you, I think I will make a habit of reading your blog. I hope you won't be put off by this.
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Tom 7 (h-72-244-70-87.phlapafg.dynamic.covad.net) – 02.03.07 21:35:31
Yes, I fixed it. Thank you. Yes, please read my blog. This increases my internet points.
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Moira (71.195.77.87) – 02.06.07 17:50:45
Welcome back, Tom. After reading your post, I feel strangely compelled to leave bananas on my back porch this week. Have a little construction work needs done.
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Tom 7 (h-68-166-207-150.phlapafg.dynamic.covad.net) – 02.07.07 09:09:30
Monkey Claus will thank you!
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f (ppp83-237-55-161.pppoe.mtu-net.ru) – 04.27.07 17:02:07
fff
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