Conference Without Traveling

Today I’m attending the CFI conference here in Seoul. It’s very convenient to be able to attend a conference without traveling anywhere, well, commute via subway. On a normal year, I spend about 7 days worth of time on airplanes, not including the time it takes to get to the airport or times between connecting flights. Putting that into perspective, 7 days equals 168 hours and taking the standard Finnish workday of 7 hours 15 minutes, that means that I spend about 3 weeks of a normal person’s working time just on airplanes, getting to the place where I actually work, whether it’s a conference or a meeting. Obviously, I can theoretically work on the plane, but since the university makes us fly in cattle class, this is somewhat of a dream. This is what my “office” looks like during flights: (bonus points for figuring out the airline; should be easy for anyone who travels enough)

Sardine can

Sure, with that amount of flying, I do have a few funny-colored pieces of plastic in my wallet which occasionally, but very occasionally, result in an upgrade. So far my long-term average seems to be about 1 upgrade per year.

Where was I? Ah, going to a conference in Seoul, which today included taking the bus and subway, dropping off the Little One at the In-Laws on the way. Yes, it was pretty much on the way from our home to the conference site. The In-Laws live quite near to us, only 1 stop on the subway, plus a bus on our end and some walking on their end. Lucky for me, the worst of the rush hour had already passed, so negotiating public transport with a 2-year-old was pretty easy. The area where they live is still made up of small houses, like the picture below shows.

Small street

Nearby there are some bigger streets, taking me to the Isu subway station for an easy trip to the Hak-dong station and onwards on foot to the Imperial Palace hotel where the CFI conference is taking place.

Big street

There’s a whole week of Internet-related things going on and since I was here, it was very easy to participate.

Conference

Of course our university international payment department had, yet again, made a mess with paying my registration fee. Why didn’t I use a credit card? Well, Korean online credit card payment processing systems are not able to handle foreign cards (more on that later) so the options are either a bank transfer or paying cash on-site. I figured the former would be easier, since the second option would entail me racking up ATM charges for withdrawals and messing with receipts, with the ever-so-slight possibility of a receipt going missing and making a mess of the reimbursement. This made me sway towards the first option, even though I know that the university’s payment department bats at well below 0.500 in getting wire transfers right. I’m not just talking about international payments, they once made a mess of a domestic payment in Finland. Seriously, I’m not kidding with the “below 0.500”, since in the 5 years I’ve been here, they’ve messed up more than half of the payments and usually in different ways every time. At least this time I do have a confirmation that the payment has been made last Thursday, but obviously it doesn’t show up here yet. Hopefully this gets sorted out so that I can get lunch here.

As I wrote, one of the main benefits of attending a conference in your own city is not having to travel long distances. However, this still leaves traveling from your home to the conference site, which can also take some time. I learned this the hard way during the Sigcomm conference in the summer. There I also had the added difficulty of being a part of the organizing team, meaning that I had to be there pretty early every day and with a 1 hour commute each way, sleep was sort of an unknown concept. I don’t expect this week to be as bad, since the commute is (a bit) shorter and I don’t have to be there early.

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