San Francisco, 8.11.2011
OK, tradition must be preserved, you don't have to read, but I have to write.
Here we are in Sunny San Francisco, as usual at this time of the year, among the thousands of other migratory birds of the species nerdus geophysicus in all their drab plumage ( blue-ribboned white tags hanging around their necks, the leaders having the right to coloured stripes designating higher rank) and appendages (computer bags and poster tubes - at least these are sometimes bright yellow, but mostly black). They are to be met – at danger to life and limb – in large flocks, hurrying along Fourth street, covered coffee cups in hand, in the direction of the Convention Centre , huge swarms at each road-crossing necessitating the intervention of traffic agents at certain times of day. No policeman would dare issue a ticket for jay-walking to any individual in this mob. Feeding times are typified by long, noisy lines at each trough, but these mostly move fast as no-one dares hold up the schedule of the hungry attendees balancing corporal with intellectual nourishment.
At latest count, this year there are 21000 participants in this conference (counting staff and exhibitors, presumably, but still). The logistics are enormous, but seem hardly to jog the routine of this vibrant city.
And in less than a week the birds will be gone, flown back to their various cities, having met and embraced dear friends and colleagues and fertilized one another's minds and imaginations with ideas for the next meeting a year hence…
The weather is fine but seriously chilly, so fast walking is the order of the day, which it would have been anyway, given schedules and distances. We are lucky to be lodged in a hotel very close and on the direct route to all the centres of activity – Convention hall, ceremonies, restaurants, shopping and some of the musea. We can drop off our impedimenta on the way to dinner, rest or change clothes if indicated.
So far Arkee has been busy, we have had two dinners with friends and Yosefa has been to two musea with a spouse with whom I have hit it off very well. We went to the Asian museum to an exhibition of the Maharajahs of India and how they lived – not a word of how they might have oppressed their people in the process of getting rich and awarding themselves luxurious habitations, dress, jewels, carriages and other appurtenances. They were presented as benign, all-knowing rulers, the closest thing to gods, who distributed charity according to the needs of their subjects.
One day Arkee put up his poster and stood by it, he got good and also critical feedback and met quite a few friends. Today he is free and we finally got to walk (after the first morning rush on the pavement past our hotel was over) - which we needed to do. There is no fitness room in the hotel, along with a few other deficiencies, and the one across the street at the Marriott would have cost us $9 each per session. It is difficult to keep fit on our food consumption under local conditions.
After that we had planned to go the Jewish museum and see an exhibition on Houdini (yes, he was Jewish) but they are not only closed on Wednesdays, but Thursday mornings as well. So we went toy shopping and after a light lunch – to a presentation on climate change by Richard Alley which is going to be a PBS television programme next April. The presentation was an urgent call for help and publicity by concerned scientists whose advocacy is sorely needed on the subject. Themes were on renewable energies being used in various locations around the world and convincing evidence of global warming from ice-core analysis, presented in easy-to-understand graphic and pictorial short films which we hope will have good effect. We were very impressed with the presenters, I even asked for an autograph.
Tomorrow I hope we will finally get to the Jewish museum, there are two more we are saving to see with Maya. We will move to San Mateo and Arkee's family in the evening.