General update

Well, I’m sitting here listening to the CDs I bought in Kosovo (I’m sure all IPR were respected despite the fact that they cost a euro and a half each, though I didn’t interrogate the nice man in the shop who spoke German with such a very strong Swiss accent on this point), and trying as so often to persuade U to fall asleep on my lap.

Yesterday’s conference was a bit gruelling. As sometimes happens, I was supposed to both chair the session and make a presentation; to make matters more complex, the conference was being run through Serbian, Albanian and English with simultaneous translation via headphones, and also incidentally being broadcast live on TV. Also of course I hadn’t written my own presentation yet. So I asked the bright British diplomat on the panel to speak first, as I’d scanned his notes over dinner the previous night and knew what he was going to say, and then the former Central European foreign minister, who had already told me exactly what he was going to say already, since that would give me time to get my own notes together. Then I was able to listen more fully to the Serbian human rights activist (who spoke in Serbian) and the Kosovo journalist-turned-politician (who spoke in Albanian) and pull together a half-decent presentation myself on comparative situations outside Kosovo – not just the relatively local examples of Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina but also the cases of my birthplace and my current place of residence. I threw in a story about the Åland islands which sadly appeared to leave most of the audience cold (though at least my friends laughed – those who hadn’t heard it before).

So that was OK, and then came what Basil Fawlty would have called “the tricky bit”: moderating a discussion in three languages of which I only speak one. I only had to cut two people off because they were going on too long, one tedious individual who fancied himself an expert on constitutional law, and another who I actually felt really sorry for, an ethnic Turk from one of the small towns of Kosovo who complained that he and his people were getting screwed from all sides, Serbs, Albanians and international community, and he wasn’t even allowed to have his surname – Şahil – spelt properly on his identity card. I’m not at all unfamiliar with the problems of having your surname spelt correctly, and told him so afterwards (again in German, which is the unacknowledged second language of everyone in Kosovo), though I didn’t do so during the open session of the conference as I was afraid it would sound patronising.

Then a rapid dash to Pristina airport, in the company of Dr A, who has attended all three conferences I was at on this trip – Paris on Friday before last, Berlin on Saturday before last, and Kosovo yesterday and the day before. Dr A actually lives in Munich but commutes to Berlin, which must be a pain. We flew together to Budapest. I had the window seat and was thinking to myself that the sun was not where I expected, and there was a very large city much bigger than any city I knew to be north of Kosovo under the plane, when the truth hit me and I said to Dr A, “Are we flying over Skopje???” He confirmed that because of Serbia’s reluctance to recognise anything in Kosovo, flights north out of Pristina actually fly south, over Macedonia, and then turn round and head north over Bulgaria and Rumania, thus adding an extra half hour to the journey time.

So made it home in reasonably good order, and since then have been desultorily updating lj, cooking, playing with children, chat with neighbours (both J and his son have a leg in plaster at the moment) got out of house for a little shopping, read much but not yet all of River of Gods by Ian McDonald. But back to work tomorrow.

One thought on “General update

  1. Yes, I pondered that argument, but I think it must be discarded. Red Plenty contains no counterfactual developments in economics (or in any science); indeed, Spufford footnotes meticulously to show just how historically accurate he is being. It is fiction about scientists, if economists are scientists, rather than science fiction – rather like, say, David Langford’s The Leaky Establishment. So I can see that it is a suitable topic for discussion at sf cons, and obviously of interest to sf fans, but that doesn’t make it a work of or about sf in itself.

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