Heading Out

Seeking the winds that help to sail on Shakespeare's tide.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Yesterday's news

Well isn't this the occasional reward of academe? Here I sit, on the banks of the Rhine, satisfactorily stoked with good food and wine, and with an extra hour before registration in the morning. I would sigh with delight, but all is not completely well in Wonderland.

This conference normally draws over 200 folk. This year we are at less than 80. Yikes ! Significant numbers from well-established places with neat work are not here. What is going on ? We were down a couple of years ago by a few because of 9/11 but nothing like this. And we are giving a greater percentage of the papers than we have done in the last 20 years. This may have been a bit of a self-fulfilling problem since they raised the registration a bit and this may have pushed over a limit, but still !!

Did the pre-Conference tour today, I would have given it a miss, since there was virtually nothing I had not seen before, but for us - dare I say senior - folk, there is a certain obligation to see and be seen. Having said which, we were wandering around town looking for a good restaurant (since what we found last night wasn't) when we bumped into Star, who had been somewhere else today. (Star is five years younger, as I learned tonight, and the leading light in the over-riding area that includes my work, in the Southern Hemisphere). So we went out together - good place (San Salvador in Mainz). His bombshell - they had just fired a tenured faculty due to financial exigency. And the guy they fired is a friend of ours, but one we normally only correspond with a couple of times a year. And then we discussed the problem that the relative proportions of students in most Western countries that are moving into the more practically applied scientific disciplines is dropping, the starting salaries in these industries is thus going up, and the number of students therefore going on to graduate school is becoming significantly less, making the pool for future faculty almost non-existant. In his case they had a senior position sit open for over five years, without qualified applicant. Which of course is not why we are here.

I wish I worked in glass, one of the grad students here brought one of her pieces and talked about it and what they are now doing both as art forms and technical advances. Her paper is tomorrow. She is the only person anywhere doing anything like this and . . . . I wish I could justify a post-doc. but then I probably couldn't afford her anyway. The reception being as lousy as it is I am sat by the door with the laptop in the closet barely able to get a signal, and in contrast to most places am paying $15 for two hours.. . . that are now almost up and so since it is late here in the East.

Goodnight y'all.


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