Friday, December 3, 2010

The Eternal SiSiSi

Greetings from Rome, where the second TOBI workshop just ended. The workshop was generally successful, although bad weather and other factors caused all kinds of travel problems for many attendees. I was no exception; took me 14 hours to get from Graz to Rome, and the arrival time of my luggage remains unknown.

Rome is quite charming nonetheless. Our local hosts did a great job organizing, and were characteristically effusive and enthusiastic. I noticed that the locals seem unable to say yes once. Instead, just as Spaniards tend to say "vale" three times instead of once, Italians usually say "si" three or more times. Hence I redub the Eternal City: The Eternal SiSiSi.

And I bet it will catch on! Someday. If the city really is eternal, then I have lots of time.

The eternality of the city is best reflected in this conversation, which I had while sharing a taxi from the hotel to the conference site:

Me: "And so the hybrid BCI approach we are doing now is different from the - hey, look, Roman ruins!" (Everyone stops and stares.)
Colleague: "Yes. Um. Right. Uh. Where were we? Oh yes, hybrid BCIs. So - look, more ruins!" (everyone stares.)

After a few iterations of this, we kind of habituated, and even kept on topic for a little while.

Colleague: "But how can you resolve the - ah, more ruins up there, we must ignore them - how can you resolve the increased illiteracy risk?"
Me: "Well, it can reduce illiteracy if - wow, those ruins are huge! Anyway, so, um. You know, that looks a lot like the Coliseum."
Taxi driver: "That is the Coliseum." (everyone stops and stares.)

Long delay. Quite a shock to see one of the great edificies of world history, just, well, there, on the side of the road, coincidentally along our taxi ride. I guess I assumed it would be elevated, cloudborne, gleaming, surrounded by gold and the finest possible staff in resplendent raiment.

Me: "Dudes, why don't we enjoy the ride through Rome, and discuss work later?"
No objection.
"Sir, can you tell us about these new ruins up here?"
Taxi driver: "Si, si, si."

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