Life with Me: 1992

There seems to be a point of view prevalent amongst the other inhabitants of Burnard Towers to the effect that I am never there, but spend all my time gadding around foreign locations and not always remembering to bring daughters nice presents back from them to boot. In order to lay at least some of these indecent speculations to bed once for all, this year I have taken the trouble of checking back through the disorganized mass of scribbles and ticket stubs and expense claims to come up with the following AUTHORITATIVE LIST of my foreign engagements during 1992.

JANUARY 3-10th. To Chicago for a few days editorial work and thence to Las Cruces for a three day workshop at the University of New Mexico's famed Center for Research in Linguistics run by Yorick Wilks.

22-30th: To Pisa for a pair of workshops, this time at the even more famed (and culinarily far superior) Inst. di Linguistica Compazionale; the first one had large numbers of large cheeses, and the second a smaller number of grease monkeys. Michael and I had to work at both.

FEBRUARY I stayed in Oxford, apart from a couple of day trips to London

MARCH 1 -3 : to New Brunswick, home of Johnson & Johnson, for a TEI Steering Committee Meeting. I stayed at the Hyatt and the meeting was in Rutgers University, but in three days you don't see much of either.

Rest of month and all of APRIL I stayed in Oxford (though, admittedly, somewhat pre-occupied by the ALLCACH 92 conference which I had got lumbered with the organization of. It was in Christ Church and there were about 250 attendees to worry about.)

MAY 25th: To Chicago for another TEI Steering Committee meeting, followed by a three day TEI Workshop. I stayed with Michael, which meant a lot of suburban commuting from Oak Park.

In JUNE I note a couple of domestic engagements: only one (in Lancaster) involving an over night stay, this time in a really posh British hotel. And I did my share of baby sitting while Lilette wound up to her degree ceremony.

JULY 11th: Another weekend in the wilds of New Jersey: this time I think we stayed in a Best Western hotel nowhere in particular called Scotch Plains, and met at Susan Hockey's house. It's hard to tell.

24th: To Nantes for COLING 92. I taught a half day workshop on TEI matters, the reward for which was four days in a nice hotel, lots of sunshine and no obligation to go to any boring sessions about computational linguistics. And I went to the seaside. This one was definitely more pleasure than business.

AUGUST 28th: To Bologna for the Association for History and Computing's annual conference, for which my friend Digger and I had a paper, most of which we prepared at Guy's mountain retreat in Vergato, in the intervals of helping Guy fight forest fires. And we didn't stay in Bologna very long, it must be admitted. Too hot. Then on to Pisa and to Paris for a couple of day's consultation each with various corpus builders. Hey, this is what the TEI is paying me for, right?

SEPTEMBER 18-20: To Bergen for the only real TEI workgroup meeting of the year. A real pleasure to spend two days at the Wittgenstein Archive arguing about how to encode manuscripts with assorted manuscript encoders. And only one afternoon sight-seeing (I saw Grieg's grave and learned he was Scots. Did you know that?)

OCTOBER 15-16 : Two days in Bonn at another corpus workshop. This was politically a good idea, but intellectually fairly pointless since my knowledge of German has not advanced much beyond the 'can i have a cup of coffee' stage. I spent a lot of time whispering to the helpful lady next to me.

21-24: To Bologna again, definitely for holiday purposes, paid for by my giving a childs' introduction to things electronic at a conference organized by something called the Association for Italian Teachers of English, in Parma, where I met a different bunch of people and eat very well indeed. Guy and I took a leisurely route back, involving a visit to a very strange place called Sabionetta.

NOVEMBER 27-9: The third transatlantic weekend necessitated by a TEI Steering Committee Meeting; this time we stayed in a Best Western hotel in Bernardsville New Jersey and met in Don Walker's house, but only the names seemed to be different. I had a nice day before the meeting wandering around Manhattan with Joe Raben however.

DECEMBER 7-9 As a birthday treat, I took Lilette to Paris with me. Then I went to a two day workshop on HyTime (a new ISO standard forthe encoding of time based hypermedia, since you ask).

I think this summary proves conclusively that there have been as many as six weeks at a time when I have not stirred from Oxford. And no month in which I have been away for more than two weeks. So I am sure you will agree that rumours of my non-existence are seriously over-stated. Moreover, I have learned a great deal from all this foreign travel, if only where to eat well in several European cities (and that it is simply not possible to eat well in any American city). And I can now announce my OFFICIAL HONOURS LIST for 1992 as follows:

  1. Best Transatlantic Carrier: Air India. The food is interesting and the movies are amazing. Runner up: Virgin Atlantic (movies also pretty good, but food less impressive)
  2. Most Memorable Lunch: Osteria 36, Parma. (four hours of unalloyed pleasure and five courses)
  3. Most Ridiculous Venue: La Cantina, Old Las Cruces (a lovingly restored 19th c. bordello now masquerading as a Mexican restaurant)
  4. Most Bizarre Historical Sight: the town of Sabionetta, where nothing much has happened since the 15th century
  5. Most Impressive Railway Station: the Musee d'Orsay, Paris (runner up: Hoboken Rail/Ferry Terminal, terminus of the the first electric railway in the US ran, driven by Edison himself, and from which there is a magnificent view of Manhattan)
  6. Best Musical Debut: a difficult choice, what with Sarah's performances at the Dome and the Old Fire Station, but I think on balance the opportunities for low comedy offered by her role as the Mad Hatter in Alice ...