After being teased by colleagues about spending my sabbatical at hometurf (though I don’t see nothing wrong with Warwick) I decided to escapethe exam boards week by coming to Japan, to attend WoLLIC.It was a great conference, with a variety of talks in very differentsubjects, as the name of the workshop itself implies.A good way tofinish a sabbatical. However, the breadth of topics gave the speakerssome concern, and several of them said they had to rewrite their talksthe same morning and, in essence, dumb down their talks, as much of theaudience did not have the specialized background needed to understandtheir technical contributions – which had to be quite specialized to getthe paper accepted in the first place. This set me wondering about thereason for workshops and conferences in the first place: they seem tohave become less and less of places to discuss ideas and collaborate andmore of avenues to get a publication, and that all important acceptancerate. Not just at WoLLIC, but in most conferences the “five minutes forquestions” becoming an excruciating time for both speakers and sessionchairs as no questions are forthcoming, as most of the audience is thereto present their own talk but rarely to really learn from the others.And of course, now with wireless in most lecture rooms, it is all tooeasy to space-out completely during talks.I have taken the opportunity to also visit colleagues at the TokyoInstitute of Technology and then to travel a bit. Most impressed withKamakura and Nikko. Great to see a bit of Japanese life. One thing whichreally strikes me is that very, very rarely do you see (or hear) peoplespeaking in public on their mobile phones, though they are often typingon them. There seems to be a big tabu about disturbing others. It’s beenbliss, and I haven’t had to use my mp3 player even once to cover thesound of others yapping away. No one seems to eat or drink on thestreets, even though every corner has a drinks vending machine. Very fewtrash cans on the streets, but very clean streets – I guess no onegenerates trash while walking around.Those who know me will be wondering how I am managing as a vegetarian.Japanese veggie food is fantastic, shame it’s so hard to find! Sobetween macrobiotic places such as Kushi Garden, the slightly kookyLoving Hut, Hiroba, and the Aveda Pure Cafe, and looking out for Monks’Feasts near Buddhist temples, it’s been quite good.