A trip to the heartland

Oct 22-24, 2004

random trip report

I travel to Champaign-Urbana (or vice-versa) to give a talk at an event put on by the ACM student chapter there. I arrive about 8 PM Friday. Mike (a very nice young man, involved in a satellite-building project) picks me up at the airport.

First think I do, of course, is seek out the local climbing gym, Vertical Plains. It closes at 10. I look at some maps on the web and set out. It's a pleasant night, but the town is sprawling and pedestrian-unfriendly (why do Americans react to unlimited land in this way?). I walk several miles, reality doesn't match mental image, and I give up.

Next day, I hear a good talk on Cilk. My talk is OK but too rambling. After dinner I look for local entertainment on the web; alternatives are King Lear and a volleyball match. I opt for the latter. Again, I set out with a vague mental map, and get lost. The campus is vast. Instead of a student union it has a strip mall of sorts. I hear faint crowd noise and follow it, ending up at the football stadium. I go in - a high school marching band competition is in progress. I watch one entry - extremely impressive, Japanese-inspired: the music has Taiko-drumming and Japanese classical components, and there are 20 or so dancers who use long bamboo poles, and then flags, as props. The whole thing very artfully done; I'm impressed.

Then the U. of I. marching band comes on and does a medley of patriotic songs, which kind of breaks the spell. I leave in the middle.

By this point my sandals have raised blisters, and I walk barefoot, which strikes passersby as hilarious. I eventually find the volleyball game, but A) it's in progress and B) it's women, so it's not worth the $5 to me and I keep on moving. I return to my Hampton-Inn room and watch the first World Series game.

Next day I attend another talk, in which every slide has a patent name and number at the bottom. I am skeptical about the content. I catch Mike's eye and we leave quietly.