The Memoria Project's latest meeting was in Pisa on Monday and Tuesday this week, but I decided to go early, partly to save the project 250 pounds in airfare, and partly in order to discuss with the indispensable A. Zampolli the chance of getting more funds for the TEI from Brussells under a call for proposals due to expire on 15 March (gak).
I took a fly (as Alitalia likes to call them) from Gatwick at 0945 (which meant getting the 0558 train from Oxford) on Saturday, found the leaning tower still unfallen, and basking in spring sunshine, and Italy just as it should be. In the evening, after some prevarication, Zampolli and I managed to dine and dine well at the Trattoria opposite my hotel, but I was concentrating so much on the need to sort out the politics of the TEI proposal that I don't remember any thing except some truly unforgettable gnocchettini with cheese and basil sauce, and a piece of fish with rather more olives attached than I had bargained for.
Sunday I went to Florence, partly for touristic reasons, but mainly to persuade my old friend Dr A to write the BNC Handbook for me, which I duly did over an excellent lunch in an obscure, but very crowded fiaschetteria. This was the sort of Italian eating establishment I like -- hams hanging from the ceiling, elbow-to-elbow diners all shouting at the top of their voices, small children misbehaving with indulgent grandparents, plates of food and bottles of chianti flying everywhere. You eat what's on offer, and don't regret it. I had a thick vegetable soup, a plate of prosciutto, and what would have been a monstrously thick pork chop had it not been beef of a most succulent and delicious nature. To walk it off, Dr A and I staggered through the Boboli Gardens up to the Belvedere commanding magnificent views over the town, before calling at someone's house for tea and cake as the sun set, and we went our separate ways.
On Monday, the Memoria meeting proper took place: Catherine Toussaint from CAP who has taken charge of the project summarised what had happened at the Project Review meeting in Luxembourg last week (not a lot) and we discussed what exactly should go into Work package 4 (quite a bit). Lunch was unremarkable, but for dinner we went to my other favourite sort of Italian restaurant -- the kind where the proprietor welcomes you like a long lost relative and proceeds to foist exotic and unlikely dishes on you, saying "but you must taste this" and "what do you think of this?". Such establishments rarely have more than four customers at a time, and are buried in obscure side streets, but well worth the extra walk. I was seduced into trying the home-smoked tunnyfish, followed by just a little oyster-mushroom soup with crostini, followed by a main course composed mostly of small pieces of roast marinated goose, rounded off with a pudding of baked ricotta in lemon sauce, and an aromatic grappa. Exquisite is the word that springs to mind. Also, filling.
Day two of the meeting took place at the ILC in Pisa, and consisted largely of a demo of image processing software by Andrea Bozzi and friends. With the aid of a Quadra 7/50 and a box of transputers, they can figure out where the words in a line of digitized medieval manuscript begin and end and tie them up with a transcription of it. There was also some discussion of what exactly should be presented to the first meeting of the Special Interest group (to be constituted next week), and a very instructive discussion of what exactly Yannick Maignien meant in his description of the Memoria "maquette". Also some bleating from me about how exactly OUCS was supposed to carry out Work Package 3 in the absence of any input from the other partners. Lunch was a modest affair, (pasta in cream sauce, followed by salad and chips) and very late but none the worse for that. The rest of the afternoon I spent trying to connect to the BNC server, with modest sucess, eventually; also trying to extract a copy of the TEI conformant 30 million word corpus of modern Italian -- I nearly got it, but not quite, before returning this evening.