I had the honour of being invited to give a keynote talk at the recent
RuPy 2009 conference in Poznan, Poland (November 7 & 8). RuPy covers
both Ruby and Python, among other languages and technologies. RuPy is
billed as the "Strongly Dynamic Conference"; "dynamic" is the common
When I was invited, back in August, I asked what they would like me to
speak about. I offered to speak about Docutils or my Polyform Puzzler project, about general or specific Python
topics, or some kind of "community-oriented talk", maybe about PyCon and/or the Python Software Foundation. Jakub Nowak, the RuPy organizer who
invited me, suggested that they create an opinion poll, and see what
the attendees wanted to hear. I agreed, and "community-oriented
Fast forward a few months, and it was time to go. This was only my
second time in Europe, and my first opportunity to visit Poland (and
Germany, but that was only transiting through the Frankfurt airport).
I arrived on Thursday (Nov. 5) around noon. I was disappointed that I
didn't get a stamp in my passport to prove that I had visited Poland.
But now that Poland is part of the European Union, it seems that
flights coming from other EU countries don't need to pass through
border controls. That's great for efficiency.
After checking into my hotel I took a walk toward the center of town,
the old market square a few kilometers away. It reminded me of when I
first arrived in Japan, and found myself completely illiterate — a
humbling feeling. But the Polish language has enough in common with
English and French — a Latin-based alphabet (but with some different
pronunciations and additions that look like accented letters but
aren't) and many loan words with Latin or Greek roots — that I was
able to puzzle out many signs and words. But certainly not all.
It's been said that while North America has geography, Europe has history.
Poznan has lots of history. Walking around the city, many of the buildings
are really old, and the history is palpable. Even the oldest parts of Canada
have nothing on this place.
Unfortunately, I caught a virus either on the way to Poland or in
Poznan itself. Not feeling
too well, I returned to the hotel early.
On Friday morning, Jakub Nowak, one of the main conference organizers,
met me at my hotel along with Kristian Rother and his girlfriend Lena,
and they showed me around a bit. On the way to visiting the Poznan
Cathedral I saw some beautiful parts of Poznan, rode a couple of
trams, and had a good time. Kristian and Lena had to leave before
lunch. Jakub and I had some lunch in a food court of a very new and
upscale downtown shopping mall. It was the only place he could think
of where I could get Polish food — the kind everybody normally eats at
home (e.g., good sasuage).
After helping me check in to my second hotel (there wasn't room there
for my first night), Jakub had to go, to prepare for the
conference beginning the next day. I spent the afternoon and evening
finishing up my talk slides and script.
Following their mission, the RuPy organizers invited a lot of
speakers from foreign lands. There were speakers from the US,
Britain, France, Spain, and the Ukraine. I think I was the only
On both days of the conference, a bus met the speakers at our hotel.
Adam Parchimowicz, a conference organizer, made sure we were all there
on the Saturday morning.
On the way into town from the airport, I had seen lots of nice looking
houses. But near the conference venue (Adam Mickiewicz University
Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science, north of town) there
were what looked like remnants of the Soviet era: monolithic concrete
apartment blocks with their addresses painted in huge letters on the
side. Depressing. I wouldn't want to live in a building with a huge
"12" on the side.
The university campus was beautiful, modern buildings surrounded by
birch forest, lots of open spaces. The conference building was well
appointed, lunch was good, and wifi worked pretty well. There was a
good selection of talks.
Both evenings, after the conference, many of the speakers and
attendees got together for socializing — a "G33k party" on Saturday
night and informally on Sunday. Being ill, I couldn't go — not that
I'm much of a party-goer anyway. I prefer one-on-one conversations in
a quiet atmosphere.