Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Conference and sarees

Conferences are fun ..

Dirty jeans, conference foods, late-night chats (face-to-face kinds), skipping boring presentations to wander off the venue exploring new places - I just love all these, let alone the always-and-only physics side of a conference.

A couple of days ago, SB (not the usual SB, for he re-abbreviated himself to SJB, giving considerable importance on J and using the new name in printing. This SB is my junior - a nice chap) was expressing his despair for not being able to attend an upcoming conference. I consoled him with some seniorly advice alright, but yes! He IS going to miss all the fun.

I planned to attend this programme since the moment I heard about it for the first time (February of this year to be particular, at Allahabad. Unlike me, I remember because the possibility of a trip to Cherrapunji along with the conference dawned at me at that very instant). I needed a team. I called up RDG from Allahabad and created excitation. I stirred up RS, PKM, SG and SGe as well. Thus I had formed my crew (Or, as Sheldon would have said, "I formed my crew thusly") - SGe could not join us at the end..pity!

Oh I tried to convince SJB also and failed. He has an immense inertia, and just at this point I remember that good old line from our physics schoolbooks, "mass is a measure of inertia".

So I attended this conference last month on my way back from the much awaited Shillong-Cherrapunji trip, a wonderful trip with luscious green landscapes (now I know why they call Shillong the Scotland of the East), roaring waterfalls and a five hundred rupees fine for photographing them (I am saving the story for another entry). They (read 'local organisers') accommodated us (read 'some of us', for they did not accommodate, recognise or certify those who only participated and did not present anything) at two beautiful places by the river, about twenty kilometre from the conference site. Yours truly and PKM adjusted in two joined beds along with a third guy (PKM did not present anything and like many others, got kicked out of the accommodation list by a mail saying 'please ignore my earlier mails' just a week before the conference when we were all about to pack our backpacks) while RDG, RS and SG had to climb five stories downstairs (unless the lift worked), climb uphill for five minutes (five was the key number - we were a team of five as well) and then again five stories up to reach their sanctum. I closed the door behind them at about 9:30PM only to open it again after fifteen minutes or so at the loud knock by a devastated-looking SG.

Yours Truly (alarmed): What the hell happened to you?

SG (panting frantically):k-keys .. I forgot the keys ..

And the conference began thusly.

The real show was staged next morning when RDG and Co. woke up in their refuge atop the hill and found themselves in isolation - no water, no electricity, no cell phone network and nobody to report to. Lift wasn't working (electrical gadgets don't work without electricity - simple) and help was temporarily and spatially separated by a climb five stories downstairs, five minutes downhill (may be less as it was downhill this time) and lastly five stories up. Classic, eh? Hence they turned up at breakfast with sweaty faces and sickened expressions only to be greeted by the innovative breakfast-menu: chowmin with channa. Sorry girls, couldn't warn you about that. We had no network as well.

You gotta admit - they showed real novelty in choosing the breakfast menu. Chowmin with channa, pasta with channa .. how many people start their day with this? Thank I don't know who, they arranged bread, banana and egg as well, saving our lives.

The most no-fun (or fun?) part was the trip to local market with RDG and Co. to buy things. They picked up sarees, mekhlas and things I don't know what they call them for hours, completely ignoring yours truly and PKM who hovered outside the shops, bored to hell. At one point, I could not help asking, "what is the standard algorithm for choosing sarees?"
RS (since she was done shopping and the others were still in the game, burying their noses under the pile of sarees): Why, that's easy!
Yours truly: Tell me!
RS: You gotta consider three things. Colour, pattern and size of the discrete patterns.
Yours truly: In what order?
RS: No order. Only the decisions on all these three parameters must unanimously be yes on his/her part who is choosing the saree. Say I come across a saree which has beautiful patterns sewed on the foreground, has a nice colour combination but does not have the right pattern-size, that is, I am not okay with the size. Then I can discard it at choose a new one.
Yours truly (like he understood every word): Hmm..

Subjective choices are always tough. It would have been far better if I could just input some parameters about a saree and my code would have given me a binary decision - yes or no.

I must admit, conferences are much less fun if the site has saree-shops around.