Saturday, August 16, 2008

Watch me walk as I think

Attended Blogcamp Kerala. Met a lot of a fascinating people. Did an abridged version of the wrist talk, as well as a live demo of Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Came back with a caricature of myself giving a talk.

People were taking picture of me like I was a tourist attraction. 100 guys, 3 girls and one Guillaume, and everyone is interested in the Guillaume (and the Guillaume is interested in the 3 girls.)

Spoke of the kinship between Kerala and Québec during the panel on politics. Trivandrum hosts one general strike a week. Members of the opposition party start the strike by threatening to throw stones at buses that dare bring people to work. Then the ruling partly declares a strike to complain about the opposition lunching too many strikes. Québec, on the other hand, boasts the first unionized McDonald's and the first unionized Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart responded to the unionization by closing the store and the employees sued, since it's illegal in Québec to close a store in retribution. During my talk I made a bold prediction -- that the employees would win. When I arrived home, I found out that they did win -- they won yesterday. (When we play the prediction game on December 31, can I get points for that?)

By order of the Ministry of Tourism of Kerala, the conference had to be held on a houseboat, and so it was. We drifted down enlarged Venice canals in what is essentially an enlarged gondola with a roof. I am quite glad that I came across this relatively mundane occasion to ride the houseboats. Traditionally, you have to get married.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Three days after the LHC's first beam, I started teaching

I started teaching on Monday, and I love it. Love it! Love it! Love it! Academic presentations are like theater. They are clockwork assemblages of tightly wound sentences, each one carefully chosen for maximum information delivery. Then the talk is rehearsed until sunset on Venus (58 days), and delivered as a spectacle. Teaching, on the other hand, is like improvisation. You start with an outline of the main points, then you play it off the audience and, if you manage to raise some interaction, you play along with them. I never had so much fun on the job since 1999 -- wait, since 2000 -- wait... well, since a long time.

I am settling into a routine, and it is quite a pleasant one. I train with a 15-year-old roller-skate athlete after work, where I make a big show off my graphing lap-timer in DrScheme. I meet with Kitty in the evening and we pun each other to death over chocolate cake. Then I share traditional South-Indian dinner with Shailaja, Venkatesh, and their daughters Kini and Mandriva, which usually ends with Venkatesh and I debating on the best way to verify the soundness of the firewall with Alloy while Kini dances Bollywood around everyone.

This routine is about to get extended. I visited Kovallam this weekend. There, I played beach-soccer with six refugees from Tibet who are also members of Kerala's team at the nationals. That was a remarkable event on its own. But the high of the day was the discovery of a honest-to-goodness espresso. Which, of course, means I will go back. I don't remember how I passed my Advanced Complexity Theory course anymore. I seem to have left my proof-making-ability somewhere. So, with the help of Venkatesh, I am trying to get better at mathematics. Finding a source of good coffee was my first step towards better math. (cf. Paul Erdos).