July 14, 2012

Back in the USSA

My return to the USA after four weeks in Europe is to remarkably pleasant weather, which bodes fair for OSCON next week. It is something of a blow to be back in harness, but made more bearable by the thought of seeing so many friends again at OSCON, and so many more at DjangoCon—in Washington, DC for the first time this year. So at least I am working towards sympathetic ends.

During the trip I spent a week on vacation in a small town in Southern Spain. After an intensive week of packing and wrapping in London I then flew to Florence for EuroPython. I was charmed by EuroPython, and delighted (having been unable to attend last year) by Florence.

This was my first visit to Florence. Arriving from London's City airport wasn't terribly pleasant, as the city's fairly small airport is under renovation and the line for the passport check didn't even enter the terminal building for about thirty minutes. Fortunately I had not checked any baggage, so I was soon in a taxi once I left the terminal building. [Since I don't want to end on a sour note I will mention now that the outbound experience was also troubled by long albeit air conditioned lines, apparently due to computer systems issues; I wrote this down to teething troubles].

A €20 fixed cab fare took me to the Grand Hotel Mediterraneo, where the conference was already heating up—literally: the temperature was around 35°C (100°F) on that first day, and the weather was baking all week. The Italian organizers had worked hard to ensure a smooth flow to the conference, although the two-floor nature of the event inevitably meant that the staircase traffic was heavy at times. The air conditioning found it hard to keep up when rooms were full, and I sympathise with the venue—it is difficult to deal with such extreme temperatures.

My delayed arrival meant that I had missed Guido's “Not the State of Python” talk, at which I later heard he claimed he had used the same slides as a previous presentation but said completely different things. The BDFL was certainly relaxed and entertaining as he later answered questions from the community relayed by Harald Armin Massa. When accosted later in person he appeared to be in fine form, and although he is traveling a little less (the lucky man) he was due to go on to Zurich on business after the conference.

The program, primarily in English with one Italian track, was at all times worthwhile and often entertaining and stimulating. It was a pleasure to spend time with acquaintances old and new, and find out some of the amazing things that the Python community has been up to. The lightning talks were again chaired by Harald Armin Massa, now billing himself as “Lightning Talk Man” and I should have liked to see more than I did.

The Python Software Foundation was among the conference's sponsors, and ran a stand with the PSF's new conference kit on display for the first time. I spent some time on there with Marc-André Lemburg, Pat Campbell (the PSF's administrator) and Ewa Jodlowska (its Conference Coordinator), Quite a few people expressed an interest in the new associate member scheme,  and we had new stickers to pass out to those who signed up. The ever-popular Python stickers also disappeared fast, and we handled inquiries about advertising in the new Python brochure whose production Marc-André has been leading.

This was a very special conference for me in many ways, as I ease back into community member status. I was able to spend some relatively relaxed time with old friends whom I rarely see. The food in Florentine restaurants is excellent, and each night was a different feast. At least one Italian admired my restraint in leaving a part of my secondi, the entrée dish. Little did he know that I was already at bursting point. Beware, portions tend to be generous, and the food so good that it is an effort to stop eating. After that, I approached conference meals with rather less gusto.

Henrique Bastos face
Henrique Bastos from Brazil
Over the weekend I was joined by a friend from the UK and with Henrique Bastos and his wife we took the open-topped bus tour of the city. A walk through the Boboli Gardens to the old town, across the Ponte Vecchio and past the Uffizi Palace saw us ensconced in a typical Florentine café/bar with a bunch of young guys who were happy to advise on food and drink. A taxi back to the hotel seemed advisable after a most diverting (though somewhat tiring) day.

On the Sunday, before returning to the UK we took the open-topped bus out of town and winding through the hills to Fiesole, a place to which I shall return to enjoy at greater leisure in future, I hope.
Fiesole, Florence, from above [courtesy of Google Maps]
Oh, and during it all people from (I'm guessing) over twenty nations got together and shared a huge amount of knowledge about Python, thereby helping to grow the Python community and bond it together through the forge of shared experience. What could be better than that?

Bravo to the organizing team for keeping everything running so smoothly. Those guys will be a hard act to follow, but fortunately nobody is going to have to try just yet. Yes, EuroPython will run in Florence for an unprecedented third year. My advice would be to book early.

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