31 July, 2009

To Singapore

Filed under: Student life,Travels by Joel @ 6:03 pm, 31 July 2009.

I’ve neglected this blog for quite a while, but as one does on long flights, I might as well say hello. Yes, I’m flying again, for the third international trip this year. This is in great violation of an ideal I’d conjured up a few years ago: that international travel should be minimal and efficient.

On that scale, perhaps it’s not as terrible as Athens in April (it’s a shorter flight — the shortest I’ve made out from Australia — for a slightly longer stay), but it is another quick-and-dirty conference trip. I’m out of Sydney for 10 days, for the Conference of the Association for Computational Linguistics. (The astute will note this is similar to the last conference title, but lacking “European Chapter of the”.)

While slightly up on the flight efficiency, there is less reason for me to attend, as I’m not presenting any papers, just supporting my co-authors who are. I have my name on two papers in the ACL Workshop on Collaboratively Constructed Semantic Resources, which, for the jargon-uninitiated, basically means “research using wikis to help computers understand language”.

But I do hope to see and taste a bit of the city too. Singapore’s taste sensation is sorely limited by my choice of diet. Fortunately, there are many vegetarian restaurants which should suffice, and a Jewish community centre not far from my hostel or the conference site. At 42km long by 23km deep, about half of which is built up, most places I might want to go aren’t exceedingly far (thanks to Fisher Library‘s Lonely Planet collection for providing geography tidbits).

Sadly, I’ve booked my return flight for the morning of the 9th of August, not realising it is Singapore National Day, one of the highlights of the calendar. If only I’d arranged to stay a few more hours… (and maybe it still can be arranged? is it worth it?)

As a perk on the side, I had not realised that I would also be travelling further west in Australia than I’ve ever been. On the flight, I happened to want to know the time, and turned on the only reliable channel on the barely-renovated 1980s inflight entertainment system of Singapore Air’s Boeing 737-400, which pinned its pixelated aeroplane icon at Uluru. This surprised me, as I’ve previously only travelled northward to Asia. So I’ve finally been to Central Australia (not that I could see it from row G). Next time I should make a stop-off.

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