December may be my favourite month, but in recent years it has not been a good month health wise. The change in seasons causes problems for my thyroid disease and I still struggle with pace. I know that I need to slow down but I resent it. It’s strange how lying on the sofa reading a novel seems like such a luxury until it’s all you have the energy to do. I did manage to do a few things today but I’m finding it hard to concentrate. I hope tomorrow is a better day.. . .
It’s December and I finally get to play Christmas carols and songs. Not that anyone stops me playing them sooner, but it’s part of my traditional build-up to Christmas to start now. December is still my favourite month though living in Japan has changed how we celebrate Christmas. Marty will have to work on Christmas day but I will cook a turkey dinner on the Saturday after Christmas and we are going to stay with friends on Christmas Eve.
I’m going to spend part of the evening writing cards while trying not to drive Marty too mad as I sing along to carols.
. . .
I was useless at blogging while I was in Europe. I had so many people that I wanted to catch up with that I didn’t have much time to spend on my computer. I’ve been home for a week but I still haven’t managed to get into a routine, which was not helped by spending all of Tuesday at the clinic having a comprehensive health check. It was an odd experience. I had more tests carried out in one day that I’ve had done in the past five years. Some of them were horribly invasive and others much stranger than I was expecting. No-one warned me that during a barium x-ray I would end up on a table hanging on by my hands so that I wouldn’t fall on my head! The table kept tilting me into odd positions and it wasn’t easy holding on with an arm that had been subjected to multiple blood tests earlier in the afternoon. I also wasn’t expecting the ultra-sound to be painful but it seems that to find my kidneys and liver you have to push really hard. It will be interesting to see the test results though I’ll have to wait for a about a month for those.
I’m hoping that things get back to whatever normal is in the next week but I suppose with the holidays coming up it’s not that likely.. . .
There is a slogan at YAPC::Asia – “YAPC ain’t over until you blog about it” – and I have been meaning to blog about the conference since it ended on the 21st September. I rarely have time to blog at a conference as I prefer to spend my time talking to people or listening to the talks. I didn’t even bother to bring a laptop with me on the second day as having a computer is distracting. I do spend less time talking at YAPC::Asia as my Japanese still isn’t great and it can be hard for me to communicate with the majority of the attendees. I did talk to a few people, but it was only a few compared with YAPC::NA where I spent most of the day speaking with people.
The main language of the conference is Japanese and this year there were only four talks given in English. My Japanese does continue to improve but I still found it difficult to understand the Japanese talks I did go to hear and it was tiring because of the amount of concentration required. I am slowly getting better at this.
YAPC::Asia was yet again a very well organised conference. I read on lestrrat’s blog that they had problems with registration on the opening evening but when I arrived on Friday morning this was running well. I was later than I wanted to be, so the registration lines were short, but I was still on time to hear the opening keynote given by Ricardo Signes, who is the current Perl 5 Pumpking. All the videos have been uploaded so you can watch Ricardo’s talk.
The conference moved to a different part of the city again this year. It took me a while to get there but the Japanese train system is a wonderful thing and I decided that I would spend an hour or so getting to the venue rather than staying at a hotel in the area. I really liked the venue. All the talks were given on the same floor of the building, so the rooms were easy to find. The main lecture hall was beautiful and had great acoustics. There were some issues as the rooms were a little on the small side. At times there was standing room only but it is always very difficult to work out which of your streams will have the most popular talk in any given time slot and for the most part this worked well. The smaller rooms had desks and each desk had power built in. Although I think that laptops are over used at conferences it was great that people could have power without the ridiculous strings of power blocks that are usually strewn all over the floors at conference venues.
The wifi was excellent and was run by a team of 12 people. I’m always astounded by the number of people involved in a Japanese YAPC. We tend to use much smaller groups of volunteers at the European and American conference. But then YAPC::Asia is by far the biggest YAPC in the world, with other 1000 attendees this year, and it does appear to run like clock-work. I think that this year as well as the network team there were about 30 other volunteers involved.
The venue also contained food – as there was a convenience store, a coffee shop, and an English pub in the building – and was very close to the train station and lots of local restaurants. I do prefer conference venues that are close to food. It sounds really obvious but there have been quite a few times that I have ended up at a conference venue feeling hungry with no easy way to get food without having a car.
There were a couple of things that I liked that I think would be useful to have at the other YAPC conferences. There was an official photographer at the event and it does mean that they end up with a set of good pictures of the speakers and the event. I know that I would have found it useful for marketing purposes to have similar pictures taken at YAPC::NA. The other thing that I liked was that the wifi information was posted in many places around the venue making it incredibly easy to find. This was posted on the back of some of the chair and I think that it would be useful at other conference to post the wifi information like this and maybe also the schedule for the room.
I am never that keen on conference swag, probably because it just gives me more things to carry and I already try to carry too much stuff with me. But I do think that the phone stand we were given will come in useful at some point.
I was sad to hear that the main organisers of the conference – @lestrrat and @941 – will no longer be running this conference. They have been running the largest YAPC in the world for quite a few years now and we will miss them as they have done a fantastic job. Hopefully a new team will come forward to continue their legacy.. . .
It’s 7:19am on a Sunday. Why am I awake? I’ve been awake for over an hour and I’ve cleaned the kitchen. Cleaning and Sunday mornings do not go together. I cannot stress how much I hate jet lag. Yesterday I was woken up when a friend rang at 11:42am. I can’t decide which is worse but neither are right. It wouldn’t be so bad if I actually felt normal when I woke up. But my brain has been foggy for days and I find it hard to be productive if I end up being awake at 3am as happened on Thursday morning.
The cause of the jet lag was a two week trip to America. Autumn is a great time to visit New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. It was much warmer than I expected but the good weather did mean that I was able to spend quite a bit of time outside. I can see why it’s called “Fall” in America as there were fallen leaves everywhere. To me they were beautiful but since I saw people using leaf blowers to blow these off their lawns I assume that there are some problems caused by the great number of trees in the region.
It was my first visit to Philadelphia and I was surprised by how much I liked the city. I was only there for a couple of days, so didn’t get to see that much of it, but I liked how the city felt. I had been staying in China Town in Manhattan and that was chaotic and smelly so I think I enjoyed the contrast in Philadelphia where the city felt fresher than Manhattan. Of course Manhattan feels different depending on the part you stay in but I can see why someone described Philadelphia to me as Manhattan-lite.
For the first time I travelled in America by train and bus. The train wasn’t that unlike travelling by train in Japan. It wasn’t as clean, and I was a little unnerved by how little information you could get until 15 minutes before the train left, but it was much more pleasant than flying between New York and Philadelphia. And unlike a plane you get to see the countryside as you are travelling. I also enjoyed travelling by megabus. The trip from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh took nearly 7 hours but the bus was comfortable, had a bathroom and wifi on board, and made a stop at a rest stop half way through. It also only cost $30 for the one-way trip. It wasn’t without difficulty as it was hard to find the bus stop in Philadelphia. There was construction going on outside the Philadelphia train station so it may be easier to find the bus stop when this is finished.
I got to spend a couple of days in Laurel Highlands in the Allegheny Mountains. It was a great area to hike in and I was fortunate to be there when it was clear and sunny.
I spent a few days in Pittsburgh with friends. I’ve been to the city many times and I always enjoy going back. My friends do like me to experience new things when I visit and this time I got to see a giant rubber duck on the Allegheny River. I think it’s leaving the city soon and I’m sure they will miss it as it’s surprising how happy watching a 40 foot rubber duck can make you feel.
I am going to be travelling again in just over a week and I’m not looking forward to adjusting to GMT but I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends.. . .
I have arrived back from America. I’m jet lagged and my todo list is horrifying. I really want to find time to write about YAPC::Asia, the Pittsburgh Perl Workshop, and the Perl community events that I attended but I need to tackle my email first. I have been working on Perl Foundation (TPF) email related things for about 7 hours so far today and I still have 65 messages that need a response and 110 messages that I need to follow up on. I have blog posts to write for TPF but there is something wrong with the blog and I will have to wait until that gets fixed. I don’t want to think about the new email that I need to write in case my brain turns completely to mush.
At least today has been productive even if email is never-ending.. . .
I have a love / hate relationship with public speaking. I often think that it’s a great idea to speak at conferences but as the events approach my fear of public speaking kicks in, I feel overwhelmed, and can’t understand why I ever thought that speaking was a good idea. My stage fright begins weeks before the event and it makes it very hard for me to rehearse my talks or to even think about them in advance. As I am aware I have this problem I usually complete all the required work on putting together a presentation months before the events start. But I’ve messed up.
I’ve been trying to write a talk proposal for the Pittsburgh Perl Workshop for days now, but since the event takes place in about two weeks I feel anxious about a talk I haven’t written and that hasn’t even been accepted for the workshop! I know I can get past these feelings but it’s difficult and I can surprise myself with the lengths I will go to avoid working on the talk, lengths that include writing blog posts instead of writing talks.. . .
Next week I will be attending YAPC::Asia in Tokyo. It’s going to be the biggest YAPC that’s ever been held with 1000 people attending. When I tried to buy a ticket in August it was already sold out so I’ve bought a ticket off a friend so I can attend! The conference is mostly going to be in Japanese but there will be a few talks in English and I’m looking forward to hearing Rik’s keynote. My Japanese has improved in the past year but I will still find it difficult to understand the talks and it’s tiring concentrating on Japanese so I won’t be able to listen to a whole days worth of talks in the language.
I’ll be travelling to America towards the end of September and I’m hoping to catch up with Perl Mongers in New York, Philadelphia, and Atlantic City. I am also hoping to speak at the Pittsburgh Perl Workshop so it would be useful if I actually managed to write a talk proposal for this…
In November I will be in Europe where I should manage to catch up with my friends at Birmingham.pm. I’m not going to make it to the London Perl Workshop though as I had to fly back to Japan before that as I have a Japanese exam on the 1st December.. . .
I noticed an odd thing today – no one was smiling. I’m used to people smiling in greeting but today everyone looked miserable. And then I realised so did I. Every time I step outside I have to brace myself for the wall of heat. I carry water, a parasol, a fan, and a cloth everywhere I go. I have to wipe sweat off my face when I get onto the train and I spend most of my time outside feeling sticky and disgusting. I’m wilting in the heat and so is everyone else I meet.
Of course it’s been like this for months so what changed today? I blame it on the silly notion that autumn starts in September in Tokyo. My teacher has been talking about this in school for the past week, I’m seeing ads for autumn food and drink, and I get asked what I’m going to do now that summer is over. All this talk of autumn brings thoughts of cooler days but the weather at the minute is exactly the same as the weather last week. I have been told many times that Japan has four seasons, I’ve even had to read an essay on this, and I get asked if there are four seasons in my country. It seems that seasons are a thing to be proud of and here they long for them to last a perfect three months. I imagine that in some parts of the country they do but having lived in Tokyo for nearly 7 years now I know that my concept of autumn isn’t really going to start here until around November. At that point it will be cooler and the leaves in Tokyo will start to change to a bright yellow or red. Last year the peak autumn leaf viewing time in Tokyo was the first week of December, which I have been told is winter.
I want the weather to dictate the seasons and not the calendar.. . .
For the first time since I started attending YAPC::EU in 2001 I’m going to miss the yearly conference. I’ve been watching the tweets and status updates of people arriving in Kyiv with mixed feelings. It’s expensive getting from Japan to Europe. I’ve been lucky that in previous years there have been family events in Europe around the same time as the conference making it easier to justify the expense. But Ukraine is quite far from my family and not convenient to get to from Tokyo.
I’ve been living in Tokyo for nearly 7 years now and whilst I really enjoy YAPC::Asia it doesn’t feel like my home conference to me. I imagine that’s because I see YAPC::EU as an opportunity to catch up with friends. One of my friends called it “the family reunion” aspect of YAPC, which is incredibly important to the people who attend these conferences regularly. This year I’ll read about the conference from a distance and miss my friends.. . .