Aug. 24th, 2007

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The trick with facebook friends seems to be to look at their friends list and see if you know any.

So I'm looking at the friends list of someone who I meant through Dr Who fanfiction and who very kindly included a story of mine in a charity fanfiction anthology he edited.

There is the PhD student I left behind when I quit Nottingham...

Said PhD student equally surprised.
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Once a year the Platform Grant on which I am a co-investigator has an Advisory Panel Meeting in which we invite three of the great and the good to come and comment on our work for the year. This one was arranged at rather short notice and so I engaged in a rather rushed visit to Edinburgh today.

Everyone much excited about T-Becks. AB, my PhD supervisor, congratulated B. on his Today program appearance, in particular his failure to make outrageous claims and his ability to get his point across concisely.

It's always nice to get back to Edinburgh, much as I enjoy working at Liverpool, Edinburgh is deeply familiar; a group of people working on the same sort of problems I've been working on for the past 15 years so we understand each other easily without the need for justifications and explanations. Hopefully I'll get back to do a week's work sometime in the Autumn. I discussed a couple of specific ideas with people who were quite keen that I should turn up and we should tackle some of these. The meeting went pretty well, the advisory panel had very little comment (unlike last year when they had some concerns about the overall strategic direction of the group) although they remain concerned about the group's involvement with ITI Techmedia a "pseudo-venture capital" organisation run by Scottish Enterprise. Their concern mostly centres around the inevitable Intellectual Property tension between academics (who want to publish) and business (who want to keep secrets). There were already a few comedy moments caused by the collaboration - a demo that could be watched but not photographed (mobile phones forbidden) and talks which disolved into "we'd love to tell you more but we can't".

A good day, albeit one that could have occurred at a more convenient time.
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My journey to Edinburgh involved a change at York. York races must have been in full swing because the station was full of well-dressed people drinking Carling and, of course, hats. It was also full of security and the atmosphere reminded me of the odd occasions I've ended up at train stations before a football match. Everyone was being very good-humoured but the whole atmosphere was a little edgy.

Arriving in Edinburgh at half past ten at night I was then equally stuck by the number of people around, until, of course, I suddenly realised it was the middle of the festival. It just shows how long it is since I was an Edinburgh resident that I don't automatically associate August with streets full of revellers, most of whom want to give you a flyer for their show. The atomsphere was very different from that at York railway station, whether because of the lack of security or simply the fact that everyone is mildly stressed at railway stations whereas the festival goers were mostly still happily ambling from one venue or pub to another.

Last time I was in Edinburgh they put me up in an extremely nice (albeit extremely tartan) B&B with free wireless Internet this time, perhaps because of the late booking and the festival, I was in converted student halls run by Edinburgh conference service. No sign of Internet access, although the full Scottish breakfast had the advantage of being freshly cooked.

After the Advisory Panel meeting and a swift half in George Square which had been converted into some sort of beer festival/tent thing for the duration I got to walk back through the centre of Edinburgh. I saw: A man in a white skirt, white face and body make up and a white busbee with a red feather in his mouth (I should really have taken that flyer then there is a remote possibility I would have been able to tell you why); dozens of people in medieval costume; two men in suits and bowler hats (one standing on the other's shoulders); a young girl dressed to hand out flyers sprawled across the bonnet of a car with the driver watching, expression of horror on her face (impressed by the "driver"'s ability to remain perfectly still with mouth wide open but still not impressed enough to help myself to a flyer).

I've been away too long. Although Edinburgh likes to give the impression that it is an Escher painting there are actually points from which you can not go down in order to get up (such as the railway station). Over-eager to get down to station level I ended up in Cowgate and so had to ascend to the Royal Mile once more in order to descend to the station.

Observed that there is now an Internet cafe in what was once the entrance to the AI department where I did my PhD. The fire-damaged remains to the left of this have now been demolished but, 3? 4? years after the event nothing has yet arisen on the site. The new Informatics building on the nearby car park, though, is finally almost complete. I've always been a little suspicious about that fire. Informatics had longed for a new building on the car park for years, but had discovered it was not at the top of the queue for that particular prime piece of real estate...


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