Khaos

Archive for September, 2009

Strange Lesson

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

I have learnt many things since coming to Japan but I’m not always conscious of having learnt them.

During the summer I was taken on a boat trip on the Aegean sea.  It stopped a few times so that we could swim but the sea was cold and I found it more enjoyable to sit on the deck and read.  During one such stop there was suddenly a lot of commotion.  My little sister was screaming and running away from Mehmet, the captain.

Mehmet had gone diving and returned with an octopus.  He had put this on his head and was chasing the woman and children around the boat.  He came rushing up to me and waited for me to run away.  But sticking an octopus on your head is not going to scare me.  Even threatening to put in on my chest is not going to have much effect.  I have eaten small octopus whole, I have seen them on sushi, freeze dried as snacks, and had them cooked in batter.  A live one is not a frightening thing and certainly not one that’s safe enough for a person to carry about on their head.

Octopus on his Head

Mehmet and the Octopus

YAPC Speaker Feedback: Remote Controlled Volunteers

Monday, September 28th, 2009

This year I gave a talk called “Remote Controlled Volunteers” at both YAPC::EU and YAPC::NA.  Today I received official feedback from  YAPC::EU and two weeks ago I got the feedback from YAPC::NA.  This is the first time I have ever received formal feedback for speaking at a conference and I’m impressed that a volunteer is willing to put in this much effort for the speakers.

I was curious to see how similar the feedback for both conferences would be.  As I suspected the talk was better at the second conference.  (My average score out of 10 for overall presentation went from 8.80 to 9.23).  I didn’t do an exact count of the number of people at my talks but I think in both cases around 10% of the attendees have provided feedback.  This means that the results aren’t statistically significant.  They are interesting though and the written comments provide useful information on how to improve the talk.  Some of the comments also amused me, my favourite being:

speaker was confident and had no strange odors; laid bare the
problems with being a jerk in a volunteer community, which is
something people often need reminding of

I would love to receive the feedback sooner.  I tend to use a talk for one particular conference season.  This year that meant I was giving the talk at both YAPC::NA and YAPC::EUYAPC::NA took place on the 22nd – 24th June.  The surveys for YAPC::NA were kept open for responses until the 14th August by which stage YAPC::EU, which took place at the start of August, was already over.  I understand that people need to be given enough time to respond but I can’t imagine that much speaker feedback is given at that late stage.  I could be wrong but I know I would find it difficult to answer a survey on a talk more than a month after I had heard it.

Now that I have seen the feedback I’m going to make more of an effort to fill in speaker evaluation forms at next year’s YAPCs.  One other quick point about feedback.  After my talk in YAPC::NA, Miyagawa made a comment to me about my presentation materials.  He was very polite but basically he was telling me that I could do much better.  So it’s thanks to him and a crashed hard-drive (I lost the final version of the presentation) that my average score out of 10 for presentation materials went from 8.70 to 9.0!

Grand Sumo Tournament

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

On Saturday I went to watch Sumo.  This wasn’t on my list of things to do in Japan.  When I saw it on T.V. I found it really hard to watch the huge half-naked men slapping themselves and each other.  But Marty managed to get tickets and he wanted me to go with him.

Since moving to Japan I have started to pay attention to the flexibility of clothing.  When going out for dinner to a new restaurant I think of things like “how comfortable is it to kneel in this outfit”, or “are these socks O.K. if I have to take my shoes off”.  For watching Sumo the web was telling me that people wore “smart casual”.  In Japan this usually means some sort of skirt for woman.  Our tickets placed us in a “mass” seat.  This is quite a small area of the floor with four cushions to seat four people. I also knew that we would be there for at least four hours.  Looking through my wardrobe I managed to find a skirt that had lots of material that would make it easy to move around in.  I also decided to wear leggings underneath which made it very easy for me to sit either cross-legged or on my knees.

When we got there the seating area was a bit smaller than we were expecting but we managed to fit in and got fairly comfortable.  There was some sort of ceremony going on in the ring but I realised that not many people were paying attention. There was a stadium wide party going on with people chatting, eating, and drinking.  It reminded me of the parties that take place around cherry watching season or the large fireworks displays.  Thousands of people crammed together sitting on the ground enjoying themselves.

The top division goes on last with elaborate ceremonies.  By the time this started the arena was completely full and the audience was paying a lot more attention to the ring, yelling and chanting for their favourite Sumo stars.

Yokozuna Performing the Ring-Entering Ceremony

Yokozuna Performing the Ring-Entering Ceremony

I enjoyed the whole thing much more than I was expecting.  We were with people who were really into Sumo that explained the rules, traditions, and personalities.  Their enthusiasm was infectious and I found myself wanting the Rikishi they supported to win their bout.

Sumo Fight

Sumo Fight

I don’t see Sumo becoming my favourite sport but I do think I would go back and watch another tournament.

Limited Understanding

Friday, September 25th, 2009

It’s been a bad Japanese morning.  As I find it hard to understand people on the phone I try to avoid calls with strangers.  This morning, in my half awake state, I answered a call from a phone number I didn’t recognise.  From what little I could understand the caller had dialed the wrong number.  At one point during the short conversation the person I was speaking to said “Hai, wakarimashita” and I was so busy thinking that I was glad that at least one of us had understanding that I missed the rest of the sentence.

After I hang up I decided to comfort myself with reading some English.  But within 5 minutes of starting the intercom in the apartment sprung to life and an automated female voice started to speak.  I’m glad the building wasn’t burning down because the only word I caught of that announcement was “everyone”.

Visiting Tux

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Over the years we have had quite a few Open Source personalities come to stay with us.  But I wasn’t expecting a visit by a famous soft toy.

Someone came up with the idea, as a thank you to Linus Torvalds, that the Linux community should take a Tux (the Linux mascot) on a world tour.  The tour would start in France and end with Tux being given to Linus at his home in America.  Tux ended up staying with one of my friends in Tokyo who took it with him to the YAPC::Asia conference and also brought it to our apartment for dinner.

Tux, getting comfortable on the sofa

Tux, getting comfortable on the sofa

Bicycle Problems

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

I haven’t been out cycling since I got back to Japan.  Something happened to my bike whilst I was away.  It’s missing the caps and valves on both tires.  Hopefully I’ll get this fixed soon.  I miss cycling.  I’m also a bit surprised that someone deliberately damaged it.

Preparing for YAPC::Asia 2009

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

I realised this afternoon that this time next week YAPC::Asia will be under way.   Last year I was much more aware of the conference as I volunteered to help out.  This year I’m not planning to do anything other than attend.  The spare room is ready for the guests we know about and I do have another futon or so just in case some of the other foreign visitors decide they want to stay with us.  (With only a week to go it’s possible to imagine that everyone has sorted out things like accommodation but I know from experience that this isn’t always the case in the Perl community.)

Last year YAPC::Asia had more attendees than any other dedicated Perl conference.  With 524 people it was the biggest YAPC ever.  This year the numbers appear to be down (378 the last time I checked) but this may simply be because the other 100 or so who have registered their interest haven’t gotten round to paying for their tickets yet.

As always I’m looking forward to catching up with friends more than attending the actual talks.  But, since the hallway / bar track might be in Japanese, I’ll probably attend more technical talks at this conference than the number I attended at YAPC::EU and YAPC::NA combined.

Tired Days

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

I’ve been really tired the past few days.  I don’t seem to have very much energy.  I’m hoping it’s just a side-effect of the travel with some jet-lag thrown in and not my thyroid medication.