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And thus, my first truly international conference is over. It’s always good to know that at the highest level, on the world stage, academics are still cliquey, bitchy and snippy with each other, one’s own boss being in fine, fine form. To illustrate, here is an excerpt of the report I made to my collaborators not in attendance (I’ve always enjoyed that word, ‘collaborators’; it sounds marginally nefarious). Names and places have been changed to cover my lemon:

“I’ll begin with useful news and via a sliding scale end with political thoughts (i.e. bull dust followed by outright slander).
Firstly, I think our talks went rather well, and were rather well received. We have some interesting experimentalist leads to follow up on, the most intriguing being that Person A of Institute 1 has [data] that he can’t explain. You see, [insert subtle hint that what is seen matches what my work predicts]. Person B of Institute 2 specifically mentioned in his slides that he wanted us to do neutrons off of, erm, something. I can’t recall what, but his talk will be on the internet soon. Furthermore, I saw Ken strong-arming someone from Institute 3 into something, but I’m sure he can add more details. A trip to Tokyo might be nice.

[the static of boring technical details]

We did again meet up with Person C from Institute 4, but she spoke more to Ken than myself. Maybe this connection can still bear fruit? Apart from that, Institute 4 was really quite under-represented. […] Also under-represented was Institute 5, with no Persons E or F, though Person G was good value. Into the dirt now, it strikes me that Person H has a nasty chip on his shoulder. Speaking of such things, Institute 6 were there in force and I really did feel an icy wind from their theoretical corner. Person I was reserved in conduct, though that might just be his manner, but Person J was not backwards in being forwards in assaulting our treatment of Coulomb, until one of his colleagues put him in his box. It seems his conjecture was based on the idea we are doing [something other than what we are doing]. Hostile (and I hazard to add, in some ways, foolish) little man. However, Person K may be a good name to store away somewhere: a pleasant and seemingly good experimentalist from Institute 6.
The open discussion section was derailed by the fact that Person L does not know what a [specific and basic concept] is.
Final thought: Person M is probably to be avoided.”

This is because Person M is clearly insane. Also, Person H kept bumping into me in the days after the conference and making passive-aggressive snips. Person H, mind you, is a full professor, as is Person J. I endeavoured to take the high road. Stupid high road. Sick of the high road.

At an academic conference, it is customary (in addition to being childish) to have an excursion day. From the options available to me, I took the Lord of the Rings tour. Not exceptionally cultured, or ‘Xtreme’, I know, but this is my goddamn journal and I don’t need to justify a thing… I mean… hello. While I have now seen The Remarkables, the mountains that were stretched and skewed and colorised to stand in for almost every mountain range in the films, including Mordor; and seen the mountain where the battle with the wargs occurred; and the river where the king statue hoobajoobs were pasted in; and stood at the river bend where magic horse river did its thing, it was a little bit on the side of meh, not as tactile as I might have liked. More rewarding was walking along the lake’s edge from the Queenstown botanic gardens to Frankton.

The quest for post-docs has yielded some fruit, though not as much as I had hoped. I was all but offered a place split between Sydney and Wellington, but I feel I have to decline. The reward for the sacrifices, both financial and personal, that this academic path has already dearly exacted was always to be a life experience somewhere alien and preferably with the opportunity of new language skills.

I’m currently in Auckland, which despite being a dramatic detour was the cheapest itinerary I could get. I only had a few hours here today, but these were quite sufficient. Auckland is just another New World city from what I have observed: no particular soul. Thus I went to the gallery, and found that it, like seemingly all galleries the world over, is undergoing major renovations. They did have a small and for the most part quality exhibition on, but this only filled an hour. One piece caught my eye for its technical competence, but upon reading the blurb (for which I know there is a better word) I discovered it was a ‘found’ piece that the ‘artist’ had added to. It was then quite clear which elements were the additions: the parts of low technical competence with the trendy but cheap and weakly articulated political thrust.

Thus, I am sitting in the departure lounge of Auckland International idly considering driving a pen into my forearm repetitively to alleviate the soul-crushing tedium. For the funsies. I might have grown accustomed, and indeed comfortable with backpackers’ hostels of late, but I shall never, never, get used to sitting in airports for hours. And now this diversion is over because I can’t think of anything else from this trip to complain about. Not that Mother would want to read, anyways.

This lunar cycle

April 2015
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