ICFP, Day 1

I’m not quite sure if I’m jet-lagged or not: I woke up this morning at about 4:30 feeling quite refreshed. While I quite like getting up early, 4:30 is definitely a bit earlier than I had intended, but hey, I felt perfectly OK, so I thought I might as well just run with it. There’s nothing quite like being productive for a few hours before the day starts!

Right now, I’m really quite happy that I got a Powerbook rather than a PC laptop, the motivating reasons being the iSight and iChat AV. It’s amazing how much seeing a face adds to the conversation: Michelle and I were talking face-to-face for half an hour this morning, and just left the video feed going for over 2 hours when we were both doing our own work. This is what’s possible when you have high-speed, unlimited-bandwidth Internet connectivity! While there are still moments where a PC laptop would be really handy (such as doing Symbian mobile phone development work on the road), right now, an iSight and iChat AV are really a totally killer reason for buying a Mac.

I caught up on email and hacked around with some Haskell stuff (the “Typing Haskell in Haskell” module, if you’re a Haskeller) after chatting with Michelle, before meeting up with Manuel and Gabi for breakfast at the Atrium Breakfast Buffet, on the bottom floor of the Cliff Lodge. This place continues to impress me: just check out the view from the Atrium to see what I mean. How often do you get to have breakfast with that kind of a view? And the breakfast buffet was good, too: I had lots of bacon, 2 sausages, scrambled eggs, watermelon, grapes, pancakes with maple syrup (yep, pancakes on buffet, freaking awesome), and to top that all off, about 10 pieces of salmon. I was full after that. I mean, really full. As in, I was walking around exclaiming “man, I’m full”. That kind of full. I think I might just have to do this breakfast buffet thing again tomorrow: for $13, I’m fairly certain it beats room service, and I don’t think there are too many other breakfast places around.

The conference itself started at 9: I won’t bore non-programmers with the details here; if you’re interested, see the ICFP archive for my notes about the actual talks. The succinct summary, though, is that they were very good, and the invited talk by John Launchbury on industrial use of functional programming was excellent. After the morning talks, we headed out to lunch at Snowbird Central, which is a five minute walk away from the Cliff Lodge. Lunch was buffet-style standard conference food: not too bad nor not too good. That’s OK, I’ll just have ultra-yummy breakfasts at the Atrium instead :-). The talks after lunch were OK: I think I nodded off a few times in the talk straight after lunch, but my excuse for that is that it was straight after lunch :). (I’m glad that our talk isn’t straight after lunch!)

I skipped out on the last two talks in the afternoon since I glanced at the abstracts for them, and either had absolutely no idea what on earth they were talking about, or just plain not interested. (Sorry, backtracking theory just doesn’t turn me on that much!) After the session concluded, we did the geek-circling thing and chatted to each other for a while, and decided to meet at the Keyhole Junction restaurant for dinner that night, where Manuel, Gabi, Leon and I ate at the night before. I wasn’t complaining in the least since my steak burger was pretty good, but we ended up going to the Aerie Bar for food since the Keyhole was absolutely packed.

Food at the Aerie was pretty average: I had a caesar salad with some slightly-too-hard croutons, but I did have a pretty decent American wheat beer named Pyramid Kezef … Kezefasomething. Andy Moran (who works at Galois Connections) gave me a quick rundown on American beers: in a nutshell, all the big commercial beers (e.g. Bud, Miller) suck hard, and there are lots of smaller breweries around which try to imitate the big breweries; they also suck. However, there are plenty of microbreweries around (mostly in the north west of the US, apparently) which do produce some very good beer. I guess an analogy with Australian beers would be Fosters and VB (the big breweries) vs Coopers and James Squire (smaller breweries). Utah also has some interesting liquor laws: it seems that you cannot order alcohol at a restaurant unless you also order food to go with it, and they’re not legally allowed to give you the alcohol list unless you specifically request it.

Dinner was pretty good: I was chatting to Andy Moran and his fiancÈ, Don, and Simon Marlow for most of the night, mostly about non-geek stuff like Portland and how nice it is to have mountains as a backdrop for a city. The atmosphere was very relaxed and comfortable, and I think everyone headed to bed after that since they were all quite tired, myself included. So, end day 1 of ICFP. ‘twas good.

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