The life of an academic is not always an easy one, but it definitely has it's perks. For me, conferences and workshops are some of these. Granted, they can be crap and scary but that depends very much on the people in attendance. I t also depends on the location of the venue. Things seem to work best when all delegates stay in the same hotel or B&B, etc. I guess it's the whole concept of work hard together and play hard together.
I'm currently at the 2nd Synthesis Imaging in Radio Astronomy Workshop partly funded by the SKA Africa project. It's based in Saldanha on the West Coast of South Africa if you're rusty on your geography. It's beautiful. Plus the workshop has about 50 participants, including all students, lecturers and facilitators. That's a good size; not to big nor too small. I've been to one of these before, about a year ago, in Australia. If I compare the two, if it wasn't for Jono, the Aussie one would be trailing quite far behind. That's not to say I didn't enjoy last year's trip – I did, this experience is just more so. My reasons?
- I know more people here. I didn't
expect to, but turns out I studied with quite a few of the students
back in my UCT days. So it's good to see them and socialise again.
- I am chummy with some of the main
organisers. We've worked together and partied together and that makes
me feel very at ease around them.
- As for the people here who I don't know
well or whom I have never met before, it's been good. There are some
highly entertaining and interesting people in this world. That's the
same at as the Aussie one. The Aussie school had a one-up on this one
though... I've yet to meet my Jono-equivalent here. I don't think
there is one.
- I'm in a position of chilledness what
with being a facilitator and all – not a student and not giving a
talk means my only stress is the tutoring during practical sessions
and so far those have gone well. I was nervous at first, wondering if
I had enough knowledge to be of use, particularly when I compare my
expertise with those of all the other facilitators who are all
postdocs – had some serious inferiority concerns. Turns out it's
ok. So far.
- The venue is decent – overlooks
Saldanha Bay and on sunny days the water is a magnificent blue,
seagulls calling in the skies and bobbing along the break line.
- And finally, I am learning more at this one that at the Aussie one, but I think that's because I have the general background now so when they speak about the higher-tech stuff it hits the top of my forehead rather than shooting straight over me, metres above.
The only bad thing is the lack of decent internet. We're nerds. We need almost continuous connection. Surviving though.
The main thing to mention though has yet to be mentioned:
academics + booze = interesting times
To be continued....